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monsoon's avatar

Should I take a canvassing job in a big urban city?

Asked by monsoon (2510points) July 22nd, 2008

(Sorry to post two questions so close together, but). I’m applying for a job with a political organization that is based around the welfare of the homeless. I had originally thought that the position was based around interacting with and educating the homeless, but now know that it is a canvassing job for this political group. The pay is pretty good (I really, really need a higher paying job, and this one pays much more than my current one).

It’s just not what I was hoping for (I’m a Psycholoy major, poli-sci makes my brain itch – in a bad way), but it’s been impossible for me to find a new job (enter hundreds of resumes sent). Does anyone know what a canvassing job is like?

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8 Answers

Les's avatar

I think canvassing is simply dreadful. Think about being a telemarketer, but only you have to do it face to face with the people you are “calling”. Instead of having people angrily hang up on you, you will have people slamming doors in your face, etc. I think this type of job is only good for someone who truly believes in what he/she is peddling. It sounds like you’re not really that into pushing this political group. Although, if the pay is really good, you may be able to look past the bad parts of it. Personally, I would look for another job.

marinelife's avatar

A friend’s son did political action canvassing all through college to make money, but it worked for him because he was totally committed to his causes (he now works for an NGO at the UN), he had an unshakable ego and self-esteem, and he had the quality of pushiness that it requires.

Unless you have those things, this is a job that will chew you up and spit you out.

I am sorry your job search is going badly. This site lists a whole bunch of jobs that undergraduate psychology majors are prepared for (it’s from a university). Maybe it will give you some ideas for broadening your search,

Good luck.

emilyrose's avatar

I live in a big city with lots of canvassers and I cross the street when I see them. And they are often from groups I am a member of, I just can’t deal with having a conversation on the street when I know I’m not going to give any money. You only get paid well if you get a lot of people to donate. I don’t think it’s a good job and there is tons of turnover for a reason.

ezraglenn's avatar

A friend of mine is canvassing for Environment America this summer (we were actually talking about it last night) and according to her, while it isn’t the easiest job, it pays well and isn’t completely dreadful. I would recommend it in the short term, although according to her, there are people who make a career out of it and pull in thousands per day.

emilyrose's avatar

Thousands per day def sounds like an exaggeration!

occ's avatar

I ran a canvassing office in Philadelphia for a summer a while back, and had a really good experience. Canvassing is not for everyone, but I think it’s a great summer job for a college student – the pay is good, it’s social, you learn great skills and there is a high learning curve. You also get to work for a cause you believe in. And, you get to spend the whole summer outside and not behind a desk. There are also good opportunities for advancement – if you do well at your job, it’s common to get promoted to a field manager. I also think that the main skill I learned from canvassing – how to ask strangers for something in a compelling way – has been extremely useful in many aspects of my life.

The cons, as far as I can tell – the hours are long, it can be tiring, there is usually no health insurance, and there is no job stability (if you don’t meet your fundraising goals, they can let you go). However, I think it’s definitely worth trying it for a couple days to see what you think of it. Most canvassing jobs require your first day to be an unpaid observation day so that you can see what canvassing is like. I had staff members who worked for a week or so, decided it wasn’t for them, and moved on to other jobs – why not try it out and see what you think. If you are a psychology major, you may be interested by the psychological component to canvassing. The best canvassers are the ones who have the right mentality. It’s not about begging someone for money, it’s about giving them an opportunity to make an impact in a cause they believe in. You also get to learn to focus on the people who say yes, and not get upset when people say no.
Good luck!

p.s. it’s a common misconception that you will get “doors slammed in your face.” I canvassed for months and that doesn’t really happen– it’s extremely rare to get that kind of reaction. Most people are nicer than you think – even if they can’t contribute they are usually friendly.

monsoon's avatar

Thanks, I actually had the interview this morning and was invited back tomorrow for a day of observation (you called it, occ). I’m really excited, actually. For some reason being there listening to a guy who probably works a sixty hour week for around $25,000 a year talk about this cause made me a lot more intrigued.

I’ve never been able to get into animals or trees, but with psychology as the backdrop to my life, homelessness is a cause I think I could get behind. Either way, the days are flexible enough that I can try it out for a while (given I am hired) without jeopardizing my current two jobs. It’s just going to suck working three jobs for a little while.

So tomorrow will tell all.

The_unconservative_one's avatar

Canvassing is a terrible job. Unless you like being reviled and having doors slammed in your face, I wouldn’t recommend it.

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