A Call To Action To The Political Sector: Let’s Work To Retain Campaign Staff of Color This Cycle

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Image: CNN, Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images

It happens every cycle — election day hits and everything that comes after election day is truly the worst because there is no energy left after laying it all out on the field. Managers are trying to find all of the minivans they rented, organizers are ditching their last “shift” to clean their field offices, and teams will host a day or two of workshops, create a Google listserv, and there you have it — go forth, thanks for saving Democracy, “good luck, hope you find a job!”

We know we are a week away from election night of arguably the biggest election of our lives. We wanted to post this Medium post as a call to action to all campaign employees & employers: we must have each other’s back after election day. And because Inclusv is a community of professionals who identify as BIPOC in politics, we also want to say we need to especially look out for staff of color during this time.

Why? It’s not just a talking point. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by this pandemic & the economic crisis we find ourselves in. It’s reality, and people of color are not immune to these impacts just because they work on campaigns. That means during this period of time when everyone will be hustling to find their next gig and debating if they should move to DC, many white staff will be accessing Zoom coffees with potential leads because of stronger networks, while some of our teammates of color will be disproportionately walking back into households suffering from multiple jobs lost, family members or friends lost, and other economic stressors like showing up to provide child/adult care while siblings get out there keeping this country going as essential workers.

We can’t treat this post-Election Day period the same. We can do better. We have to look out for one another. And we must in order to retain the talent of color who took the courageous leap in the middle of a Pandemic to try to rescue America from its downward spiral. They are heroes.

Every cycle talented people of color experience the unemployment period with tremendous stress and self-doubt and these challenges will be more acutely felt in this environment. This unemployment period oftentimes comes right after staff of color may have been working within a campaign structure or program that didn’t fully get them or their people and they may wonder, is this sector really for me? Am I really good enough to make it? We at Inclusv know the answer to be that the sector is not built for us, but it needs us. We’re necessary.

At Inclusv we intimately know this self-doubt is real because we are a Black & Latinx owned company that has experienced this ourselves in our own lives and in mentoring hundreds of young organizers of color over the years after campaign season.

We cannot let our industry’s collective bad habits of not taking care of our people result in a failure to retain the thousands of people of color who developed amazing campaign skills over the last year. We need them. They’re needed in the halls of Congress, in labor unions, running issue advocacy campaigns, managing state leg races, working in the White House, and running paid media programs at digital firms to name a few.

We can do better if we all believe it’s our responsibility. Here are 7 easy calls to action to all employers & full-time employed folks in the political sector:

  1. Take the Zoom Coffee: We know we know, there are only so many hours in a day these stressful weeks. We’ve struggled/are struggling with this too. We say this humbly, empathetically acknowledging each of our unique stressors. But try to say yes to the coffees for 2020 campaign employees, or engage with the person via email, or get one of your existing mid-level mentees to take the coffee for you. If you’re high in demand for professional guidance, here’s a time management option we use: put monthly office hours on your calendar and move multiple people into one coaching session. Make people feel cared for even if you don’t have the answers, or the gig, or the 1:1 time. Text them opportunities that come across your inbox. If/when you say no to these requests because of capacity the person on the other side may feel inadequate, so please think about ways e-mail correspondence can communicate support even if you can’t show up.
  2. Volunteer to Edit Someone’s Resume: Inclusv runs a resume bank and jobs board and as such we’ve seen thousands and thousands of resumes and the sad truth is SO many people undersell their tremendous experience on their resumes! Help staff learn how to tell the best version of their campaign experience for the job they want & edit for typos! You’d be surprised how much this is needed industry-wide.
  3. If You’re Hiring — Get Back To People Over The Holidays: Part of the challenge during this time is that typically staff will land their next gigs in the new year around February/March because employers during this period begin to slow down over the holidays. Think about how your communications to applicants can set up expectations around your hiring process so you’re not leaving folks wondering if/when you’ll ever get back to them. We know from personal experience this unknown can make it hard to enjoy the holidays. Is that how we want staff who chose to fight for our country at this time to feel?
  4. If You Get Into the Admin — Pull Others In With You: I know this is wishful thinking a week out, but we’re going to say it anyway. It is likely that relationships this cycle in a digital format were just different for most campaign staff. This means that traditional internal mentoring opportunities within campaigns were probably harder to come by creating less senior “sponsors” of people of color, many of who likely experienced this as their first professional or campaign job who would otherwise professionally benefit greatly from more in-person interactions. So if you get in. Try to help get someone else in too.
  5. If you have resources, consider a December — March paid internship: For larger nonprofits and firms, think about how any extra resources you have could be thought of as “bridge employment” for campaign staff of color as they look for their permanent next job.
  6. Be kind & less competitive: DC gets gross when administrations change, people jockey for power, jobs, and access. Sometimes you end up applying for the same jobs your friends are. It gets weird. Shift from self to community around a shared goal of retaining as much talent of color as possible during this time in this industry.
  7. Promote Your Job Opportunities on Inclusv’s Opportunity List: Have a job and want to get it in front of thousands of people of color in politics? Promote on our jobs board! Yes, there is a small fee associated with this, which is why we put this last lol. E-mail partnerships@inclusv.com.

Inclusv was founded specifically out of the challenges campaign staff of color experienced in the 2012 Presidential cycle around talent sponsorship and retention. We have built systems and community because of our lived experiences navigating the same challenges that thousands of campaign staff are about to face and we’ve helped employers over many cycles move in a stronger direction. We are particularly proud of our work this year helping Biden for President become the most diverse (as it relates to overall percentage of people of color) Presidential campaign for a general election nominee in history and we want to make sure that talent keeps growing to change our industry and world. There are many other steps we all industry-wide could/should be taking now or in future cycles as it relates to talent development, growth, and retention, but we hope that this primer can help us all get in the mindset of being a collective team evaluating what our individual roles across the sector could be in helping to ensure that talent of color is retained for the fights ahead.

Lastly:

To employers who have cycle employees: if you are seeking an off-boarding program to support your teammates with end dates on their next steps — that is a service we provide. Reach out to partnerships@inclusv.com.

To campaign staff looking for your next gig: if you identify as a person of color join Inclusv to get The Inclusv Opportunity List every Thursday with new jobs & training opportunities. It’s free! www.Inclusv.com — and also check out our Post-Campaign Guide for staffers.

Together we can make this easier for everyone.

Alida Garcia & Malik Hubbard

Partners, Inclusv

Written by

The mission of Inclusv is to ensure staff of color are found at every professional level within the political sector.

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