The key to success in the political realm for young conservatives requires being willing to overcome obstacles and find ways to be innovative and original, according to panelists who spoke Friday at Americans for Prosperity Foundation ’s Defending the American Dream Summit in Washington, D.C.

Finding work and making a difference in the world of politics can be tough, but panel members said it is not impossible with the right drive, determination and the proper strategy.

“The best way to achieve success is to carve out a niche and do something that needs to be done but doesn’t exist yet,” said panelist Erik Telford, vice president for strategic initiatives with the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. “Be the one who takes that on and leads the charge.

“It’s important to never let people tell you that you can’t do something, but if they do, use that as energy and a reason to prove them wrong.”

Telford has personal experience in that area, having played an integral role during his tenure at American for Prosperity in using the Internet and social media to grow the organization from 200,000 members to 1.7 million members. He also was responsible for creating the RightOnline Conference as the conservative alternative to the left’s Netroots Nation bloggers convention.

The other panelists shared lent similar advice.

Wesley Goodman, director of conservative coalitions and state outreach with the House Republican Study Committee, who played an important role in last year’s Cut, Cap and Balance debate, emphasized the importance of college students getting internships and being true to their principles should they decide to work in Washington or elsewhere in politics.

Internships are especially important because they offer an opportunity to get a foot in the door, according to Goodman.

“You learn two things,” Goodman said. “You learn about what you might want to do in life and sometimes you learn what you don’t want to do.

“I urge you if you are young and still in school and you are interested in doing something different, look at an internship,” Goodman continued. “For me, that was what cemented my love of politics.”

But most of all, Goodman emphasized the need to have core beliefs and to fight for them even in the face of long odds.

“A key part of how young people succeed is to find mentors who can help you along,” said News Editor Katie Pavlich, who has also become a bestselling author of a book on the Fast and Furious scandal at the age of 24. “There are a lot of people who can really give you a hand up, and they are not going to do things for you, but they can definitely give you an outlet and an opportunity for you to prove yourself and give you support in whatever you feel you want to do.”

While panelist Oliver Darcy, who works as a digital media editor with the Leadership Institute’s Campus initiative, emphasized the need for those currently in college to actively participate in conservative political activities on campus to stand out.