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Politics isn't for everyone

Angelo Lamberto '14, Field Director at Burlington County Republican Committee - September 21, 2016

Politics isn’t for everyone. It’s a dog eat dog world, it can be cut throat and you need to develop thick skin yesterday. It’s an unhealthy parasite that sucks you in, and holds you for too long. There is also an appalling stigma attached to those who not only love politics, but work in the field. Long hours, low pay, and sometimes quick turnover are just some of the negatives. I hope I haven’t lost any of you, yet. Trust me, it gets better! 

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me—I absolutely love working in politics. Even considering the downside, there are countless other upsides to act as a counterweight. Over the past five years, I have spent time volunteering, interning, and working on campaigns, and in government. I have learned more than I could in any other job about topics that range far outside the scope of politics.

Fortunately, I have had amazing opportunity to surround myself with individuals who have pushed me to succeed in every way. Working in politics is a challenge; it forces you to the top of your game, and expects nothing less. These people saw something in me, before I saw it in myself and allowed me to grow and learn through campaigning. There are too many people to thank, and even more to emulate, but the men and women with whom I work day in and day out are some of the best in the State of New Jersey. If ever there is such a thing as a perfect place to get my start in politics, it is Burlington County, NJ.

One lesson I've learned: Campaigning is completely different than what you learn in the classroom. So much of what I do for a campaign is on the job training—and, with little time to learn, you need to be quick. On many occasions, I had to evaluate a problem and figure out how solve it. In politics, the expectation is to get the job done and not fail. Campaigns are hectic, chaotic, and at most times, stressful—but it can be equally one of the most rewarding experiences.

This past year, I traveled around the country—New Hampshire to Nebraska and down to Maryland. I've seen politics in different forms—from door knocking to fundraising to designing walk pieces. I planned and ran successful events and met multiple Presidential candidates. I had a chance to test my skills and learn new ones, pushing beyond my limitations. These experiences may end abruptly and not always happily and as I stated, in politics, there can be a quick turnover. I was hired for a job in Nebraska which was eliminated and left me stuck 18 hours away from home, trying to figure out my next move. Thankfully, I have a great family and mentors who helped me find my way to Annapolis, Maryland to continue chasing my dream.

Life changes daily, meaning that someone who wants to work in politics needs to be adaptive. Sometimes I spend the day inside the office doing work, but most days, I am out running our door-to-door efforts. I get the opportunity to walk with the candidates and assist in finding volunteers to drive them. My day usually starts at the office around 9 a.m. where I prepare my material for that day. Then I head out with my interns for a few hours of door knocking, one of the most crucial parts of a campaign. Without a good team behind him or her, a candidate will struggle to succeed. Once I get through the district or districts on my list for that day, I head back to Headquarters to prep for the next day and Super Saturday. Most nights we hold phone banks—continuing the efforts from the day—which brings in different volunteers and interns. Pizza and beer are copious with candor, filling the room with discussions on diverse topics. My night ends anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. My hours are long, the pay isn’t the best, but I love what I do and with whom I work.

The best advice I can give anyone interested in politics is never give up on your dream. It will be a tough and grueling road, the turns will be sharp, and sometimes, it will be too foggy to see where you are going. Keep your head swiveling and absorb as much information as you can. Never take anything for granted, and know this—you will start with grunt work. It certainly won’t be fun or glamorous, but it will provide the best chance to prove what value you bring to the team. Be prepared for that, because if you are not willing to do the worst of the job, you will not be given the honor of doing the best of it, which in the end is what we all strive to do.