Here's some good news: the experts want you to get out of the classroom! Case in point: "Every theory of learning that I have ever read always comes to the same conclusion: the best way to learn is by doing," says Henry Plotkin, executive director of the New Jersey State Employment & Training Commission. "Imagine trying to learn how to use a computer or drive a car by reading a book. You couldn't do it. Read, learn AND do through apprenticeships and hands-on experience."
Internships are among the best tools for exploration—and many different types are available if you take the time to look—both in high school and in college when you may be more focused on following a certain career track. In the summer of 2007, 10 college students were given the opportunity to not only work on targeted state-legislative races but also learn the skills needed to one day be successful political campaign managers.
The Margin of Victory Campaign Internship, a Trenton-based summer internship, placed 10 students on highly targeted legislative races throughout the state to give them hands-on campaign experience. In addition to working on the campaigns, the interns met once a week in a classroom setting in which political consultant Rachel Napear taught them the necessary skills and knowledge they will need to one day be campaign managers. They also had guest instructors and elected officials, like Newark Mayor Cory Booker, as guest speakers.
Throughout the classroom sessions students learned the campaign basics including press, fundraising, polling, messaging and how to run successful field activities such as Get Out the Vote. "The best part of this internship is that you aren't just learning abstract principles," says Ashley Fornaro, 21, a graduate of Freehold Township High School and a recent graduate of Monmouth University. "You could walk away from this internship and know how to run a campaign from start to finish." Margin of Victory teaches students skills that they can use not only in campaigns but also in whatever field they choose.
"There's a lot that I've learned that can be taken with me, whether or not I stay in politics," says Richard Stockton College student Todd Alexis, 21 and a 2004 graduate of Middle Township High School. "You learn so much from your time spent on campaigns, not just about politics, but also about work ethics, business skills and yourself." 10 Qualities of a Good Campaign Manager: