Turn Your Campaign Skills into a New Job

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President Elect Barack Obama is set to take office in January, and already people across the nation are vying for positions within the administration.

The Web site, Change.Gov, which boasts job listings and a blog, amongst other things crashed recently, returning an error message to Web surfers days after the historic victory.

Before the election, young and old folks left jobs to work the campaign trail for both President Elect Obama and Senator John McCain. For some, the campaign trail may account for years of their lives, and for others it may be weeks. But for most of them, the question is the same, what next? For answers, MainStreet caught up with Ebonie Johnson Cooper, 25, to discuss life on the trail and what happens now that it’s all over.

What made you decide to leave your job to volunteer for the campaign?
I liked what I was doing but I felt like I wanted to do public service. I received an email to do Camp Obama, and the night before I left to go to the Democratic National Committee I decided to apply. It wasn’t until I reached Denver and went to a couple of events there that I knew that I was supposed to be a part of the Obama campaign. When I came home, life became about putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Were you able to leave your job for the campaign trail? If so, for how long and what were the rules?
I had the option to stay [with my old job], but I declined. Instead, I put in my official two week notice at BET International. I worked with my boss for three years, and he was fantastic. It was a difficult decision, but it was something I knew that I wanted to do because I was interested in doing different things. It was a bittersweet moment.

What was your role on the campaign trail?
I started with a two week training session in New York where they talk to you about getting together your story. They teach you about knocking on doors, making phone calls, and recruiting. It was a fast forward session on how to become a community organizer. I [held] a paid position in Ohio as Youth Vote Organizer. TIn this role, the campaign sent consultants to Universities in Ohio to get out the youth vote.

What did a typical day on the trail look like?
My days started at 9 or 10 a.m. On my first day, I had to go to Columbus, Ohio and I didn’t think I would make it. I was trained in Columbus, and I met a guy from San Francisco, before we headed off to Youngstown, Ohio. We arrived at 2 a.m. and the next day we headed to the campaign office at 9 a.m. We were sent Youngstown State University (http://www.ysu.edu/) where we started from scratch. We did not finish the day until around midnight or 1 a.m. Everyday was probably about a 14 to 15 hour day, and it included everything from building relationships on campus to recruiting students to be a part of our little army. We had a little more of a challenge because a lot of our students did not live on campus. We formed a Google [Stock Quote: GOOG] group and made a catchy phrase: Make Your First Time Special. We tried a little bit of everything to push students to vote.

What life and job skills did you pick up on the campaign trail?
The number one life skill I picked up is not taking life for granted. In addition, I learned patience and different perspectives. As a person of color that may take advantage of the lifestyle that I have, I’m a lot more understanding, and I think a lot more before I speak.

As far as business skills or job skills, I’m better at organizing, and [at] putting the pedal to the metal. I learned team building because it wasn’t just me working on a project. I was working with five or six people of various age groups and figuring out how to make a project work.

Where are you headed post election?
I have no idea. I have a couple of opportunities. I built great relationships at my last job. I have the option to do something within music, or applying for jobs with President-Elect Barack Obama. I would love to work with Michelle Obama. After the election, President-Elect Obama was on conference call and he talked to everyone that was a staff member, and said he would make sure we all had an opportunity in his administration. I am going to take him up on his offer.

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