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After the dance

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Dozens of community organizers had a lot to celebrate — but they also had good reason to be nervous. A little more than a week after these organizers had helped push Nevada solidly into the blue column with a victory for President Obama, two congressional seats and control of the state Assembly and Senate, they gathered in the cavernous meeting hall of the Culinary Union for some advice on how to turn their electoral experience into a new job.

Atlas Project and Democratic GAIN stepped in to help. Kevin O’Holleran, project director for the groups’ combined effort to find work for the thousands of campaign workers across the country, came armed with PowerPoint presentations on how to write a resume, prepare for an interview, network and other basic job-seeking skills.

Most of the men and women who attended were in their 20s. A couple of the men wore ties, but most were dressed in campus casual. Some brought their resumes. Most of the information they received was pretty basic how to avoid obvious mistakes on your resume, how to highlight your successes, how to network.

The most important thing the young people will bring to future employers is a huge success. Terms like “ground attack,” “game plan” and “field strategy” were used to describe an amazing effort to bring out voters for the Democratic Party. Instead of the conservative sweep that Republicans confidently predicted, President Obama easily won re-election, the Democrats added to their majority in the Senate and Republicans barely held onto a majority in the House.

The foot soldiers in that national campaign, who knocked on doors, made phone calls, held up signs for Obama at Romney rallies, and begged, bothered and cajoled voters to the polls, were young men and women like those who gathered at the Culinary meeting room.

“All of these folks in this room have worked hard to elect good people to office,” said O’Holleran, who himself is a veteran of several election cycles going back to the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry. “Now we’re going to help them over the weeks and months to find their next job.”

But more than that, the three dozen activists represent thousands of hours of training that progressive candidates and organizations need for the challenges ahead, he said. “We’ve invested tremendous resources into developing their skills. We want to keep them.”

Emily Persaud, 26, worked with the Mi Familia Vota organization in Nevada to register 19,000 new voters. While Mi Familia Vota is nonpartisan, observers have credited the organization’s registration and get-out-the-vote effort with a significant increase in Latino voters, which helped Obama win Nevada. The percentage of voters of Latino heritage went from 15 percent in 2008 to 19 percent this year.

Now Persaud, who was one of the better-dressed young activists in a sharp blue skirt and pearls, is looking for work.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.

Organizers such as Persaud may find themselves on an electoral roller coaster. They can work 80-hour weeks in the months before an election, only to find themselves with nothing to do after the votes are counted.

O’Holleran and colleagues, including Travis Brock of the Nevada Democratic Party, explained that there is life after elections. Organizers can apply for unemployment benefits for a period, and they can look for work with similarly inclined nonprofit groups.

Or they can hang on, because the good news for those who want to make politics a career is that there is always another election. Within a year, candidates for the congressional races of 2014 will be putting together their campaign staffs.