When I got my first real job working as a Field Organizer on a political campaign, I had an image of myself in a pencil skirt and a smile the size of Texas. It was election night, and the candidate I was working for had won! I was shaking hands. I was victorious.

The reality? I was eating a raw hot dog in front of a computer in my office, making sure the hair I hadn’t washed in a week and a half didn’t obscure my view of the election results. Working on a campaign was simply the hardest thing I have done in my life, but it was also one of the best things.

The top 4 lessons campaign work taught me about politics, work, and life:

  1. Putting yourself in new situations helps you to face your weaknesses: You can usually make choices to minimize, hide or avoid dealing with your weaknesses, but campaigns magnify them. I learned that I hate rejection. Constantly asking people to volunteer and getting rejected was HARD. Being forced to face this made me figure out how to deal with it, and I am grateful for that.
  2. There is no replacement for hard work: Taking shortcuts rarely pays off, and nothing will make you stand out more than showing your motivation to get your tasks and projects done, even when that means being the last one to leave the office. And you don’t even have to brag about it, people will notice. Campaign work takes up almost every moment of your waking life, but making those few extra walk sheets instead of going out for lunch will get you ahead and make your dedication stand out.
  3. Have a plan: Scaffolding a project is integral for success. Knowing what you’re working towards keeps you focused and motivated. Reviewing goals constantly kept me from quitting. Although election night wasn’t exactly what I imagined, it was just as magical. The candidate I was working for won and envisioning it helped make that happen.
  4. The power of “the ask”: It is surprising what can be done simply with an ask. By election night, our office was overflowing with volunteers, donated food, and victory. None of it would have happened if our campaign team didn’t ask. People like helping people, and it is surprising who will say yes to what.

Overall, campaigns are a lot like life – except with more people threatening to burn your office down. Trying something different, whether it is taking a new job or trying something different in your current position, can really pay off in a big way.

What are some life lessons you have learned from previous or current jobs?