How to Run for City Council

March 21, 2013

Members of a city council have the power to make decisions that implement changes in their communities. However, getting elected to a city council can be difficult because many of them are run by old guards. Here are few steps people can follow to get themselves elected to city councils and make a contribution to their communities.

• Research elected positions that are going to be vacant in the next elections such as mayor, city trustee or councilperson.
• Determine which position to run for and where one stands a good chance of winning.
• Know other candidates, as you will be running against them and maybe serving with them.
• Get endorsements from influential figures and other reputable local people as early as possible.
• Do some homework. Research the history of the city, its demographics, action of predecessors and current events. Be prepared for formal and informal interviews.
• Attend school board meetings and other meetings that discuss issues affecting the council. Before establishing a campaign platform, get information about the council by reading local dailies and talking to locals. Find out the issues that concern individuals within the locality.
• People running for council seats should understand that their lives will be on the limelight and understand the ramifications of such situations. They should discuss their decisions with family members because their lives will also be radically altered.
• Practice public speaking. Practice speaking in front of large and potentially hostile crowds. Ensure the wardrobe and grooming habits fit the slate of a public officer. If possible, hire a voice coach and PR consultant because candidates may be required to speak in front of cameras. The image portrayed should show professional competence.
• Hold a fund raising event to raise money needed in the campaign.
• Develop a thick skin. However, be open to constructive criticism. Pride and arrogance aren’t the best things to take to a campaign.
• Candidates and their spouses should have a clean record personally, financially, professionally and legally. Get a professional handler to do vetting before opponents do it, and they will.
• Approach the possible electorate. Candidates have to sell themselves to a lot of people on how they will effect change. Consider how to stand out in a campaign and sell what one has that other candidates do not have.
• Ask some of the locals to volunteer their time on the campaign. Divide the city or state into precincts with captains for each. The block captains should coordinate door-to-door canvassing to ask for votes. Commit to campaigning in critical precincts.
• Create a platform and focus campaigns on one or two keys issues for voters to identify with the candidature. Promote the initiatives in all the campaigns.
• Create a campaign slogan. The slogan should be short, catchy and easy for people to remember. Advertise the slogan by printing it on campaign materials such as t-shirts brochures and bumper stickers. These items should be made available at the campaign headquarters or walk door-to-door and distribute them. Ask friends and family to distribute the campaign items in their workplaces and other locations.
• Submit a petition with the required number of signatures.
• Develop materials that will be handed out or distributed while canvassing for votes.
• Establish a web presence and use the platform to discuss issues particularly to younger constituents.
• Undertake campaigns door-to-door or in other locations with a lot of foot traffic.
• Create signs for supporters to stick on their windows and display on lawns.
• On the eve of election, rally volunteers to remind people to go out and vote on the Election Day.
• Engage the media. Call the media when there is a story to contribute on.
• Candidates should surround themselves with well-educated advisers with a good record of accomplishment. The advisers shouldn’t be connected to suspicious business activities.
• Do not run a one-issue campaign because this will eventually bore the electorate.
• Do not underestimate the effect of volunteers.

Once elected, be modest in celebration and take time to thank everyone who made the campaign a success. Congratulate opponents and reiterate the promises made during the campaign.

How to Start a Political Career

March 20, 2013

Being a politician has many benefits, which makes having a political career very tempting for many Americans. However, there are also numerous drawbacks to holding a political office. Despite the common beliefs that anyone can do a politician’s job well, it does take a certain type of person to achieve political success. Nonetheless, most failures are due to a lack of careful career planning prior to entering the political arena.

Basic Qualifications

The most basic qualifications that all politicians must have are strong determination and lots of inner strength. He or she must be tolerant, compassionate, committed and dedicated. The person must also have:

• Excellent communication skills – written, oral, and non verbal as well as good listening skills
• Good people and social skills – must be good at creating, maintaining and repairing interpersonal relationships, even with known enemies
• Good leadership skills
• Great fund-raising skills
• Excellent critical thinking skills – must be a good problem-solver and negotiator
• A willingness and ability to live an impeccable life, even prior to being elected
• A passion for politics and making changes
• The willingness and capability of making long-term commitments

How to Start

Once a person has determined he or she has what it takes to become a politician, the next step is to plan the entire political career. Although impossible to completely plan in exact detail, the individual must set some short, mid and long-term goals. If the person wishes to serve at the top, he or she will need to change jobs often, using each one as a stepping-stone towards the next level. In many instances, these stepping-stones will entail taking on volunteer and low-paying employment obligations. Following these steps may help make the career planning easier to do:

  1. Carefully evaluate the reasons for desiring a political career, being brutally honest while analyzing the responses. Ensure the expectations for employment in this field are realistic. Most essentially, be sure that the political process and the requirements and duties of each office and type of political job are comprehensively understood. Do a thorough investigation into the advantages and drawbacks of each path. Then select a political field that best suits the desired lifestyle.
  2. Next, make a list of the requirements for each position that is to be held. Remember to include the requirements for all the stepping-stone jobs as well as the ultimate position desired. Additionally, make up a budget, time schedule and contingency plan that will permit working on the goals immediately. Also, set realistic dates as deadlines for achieving each goal before proceeding to the next step.
  3. Select a political affiliation, if none already exists, even if you are too young to vote. Thorough comprehension of all available options is essential, since this will have to be a long-term commitment. It is vital that the person’s core belief system aligns well with the selected party’s standards. The individual should at least determine which issues he or she is most passionate about and then get involved with activities that resolve those issues. Join civic groups, attend city council meetings, attend political rallies, volunteer for community service, and build up a good reputation of being civic-minded. However, a political affiliation must be chosen before proceeding to the next step.
  4. Find a mentor by contacting local members of the selected political party. Start doing volunteer work for the party. Let others know that you hope to be a politician someday when asked what about your plans for the future. However, do not casually blurt this information out to a supervisor and be careful not to get too zealous while networking. The wrong type or amount of networking can easily kill a career and ruin a reputation. The objective is to become a valuable asset to the party by helping in as many ways as possible. Build a reputation that has your party turning to you whenever they need a task done.
  5. Acquire any necessary education, skills, qualifications and experience and then apply for a job or internship in the field best suited to your career path. Many government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of State, Congress and the Senate offer internships and training programs. The Internet, phone directories and public libraries make great tools for networking as well as for researching employment and educational opportunities.

Remember that it is not necessary to have all of the qualifications, skills, education, experience or resources from the very beginning. If carefully selected, each stepping-stone position should help to prepare you for the next job or training phase. Nevertheless, it is essential to re-evaluate the career plan and alter goals now and then. All people and circumstances change over time, and so do an individual’s lifestyle, goals and desires.

Understanding Campaign Polling

March 19, 2013

Polling is one of the most useful tools for politicians. When running a campaign, many politicians hire pollsters to work for the campaign. These campaign pollsters help the politicians measure the campaign’s effectiveness and what the candidate needs to focus on throughout the campaign. Campaign pollsters are most often associated with big statewide or national races, like a senator or a president. However, all elections can have campaign pollsters, even local town or city council races. If you are thinking about starting a political career, it is essential that you have a basic understanding of the world of political polling.

Like all pollsters, a campaign pollster measures a random population of voters with a set of questions. These questions are valuable to ascertain if particular methods on the campaign trail are working. The random sample is chosen within the particular geography chosen. So, for a presidential, governor, or senate race in a state, the whole state may be chosen with a particular random pool. National polling data, then, comes from a random pool of voters from across the country.

To get this population, the most common tool that pollsters use to find out what voters think of a candidate or policy is through direct calling. Random households are called often from a random phone number list from a particular region selected by computer. This is called random digit dialing.

The heads of the household or the registered voters in the household are asked several questions that the campaign pollsters establish. The questions need to be developed properly so an accurate answer may be found. Many questions are multiple choice with answers ranging from “completely agree” to “completely disagree”. Allowing for a wide-spectrum of answers allows respondents to be more truthful. For example, if a candidate’s likeability is an issue, answers like “very likeable/unlikeable”, “likeable/unlikeable”, or “somewhat likeable/unlikeable” helps respondents choose a better answer than “likeable” versus “unlikeable”. In that example, when all the data is collected, all the different answers with “likeable” may be added together, as well as all the different answers with “unlikeable”. This, then, provides the pollster a very accurate sample of likeable versus unlikeable traits compared to if respondents were just given two choices, likeable or unlikeable, in the question.

The results of those phone calls are then pooled and a statistical result is established. The statistics come from the results of the polling weighed against the census figures of the population. Results may be that more than 65% of respondents support the candidate on issue X while 25% of respondents over the age of 65 disagree on policy Y, which the candidate supports.

Many pollsters may want random data from a particular population. For example, if a campaign pollster wants to know how a candidate is doing with African Americans, women, or adults over the age of 65, the pollster will use a sample from the random calling that are self-identified as African American, women, or adults over the age of 65 households. This gives the pollster reputable polling sampling for how the candidate is performing with those set of voters.

Campaign polling results may be used in a number of ways. If the candidate’s policy recommendations or profile is asked to respondents, the result helps the campaign determine if clarification is needed or if the candidate is or is not winning over voters from their policy stances. On the other hand, many campaign pollsters test the waters of public discourse. Campaign pollsters may ask respondents how they feel about a particular issue. Depending on how the majority of the random sample answered, the candidate may decided to take on that issue on the campaign trail. This helps the candidate capitalize on what the public wants to talk about or what they find as favorable policy.

The best campaign polling is polling that is random with clear questions. The best questions with the most random pool can help a candidate’s election strategy and possibly win an election.

How to Start a Political Party

March 19, 2013

One of the inalienable rights enshrined by the Founding Fathers for all American citizens is the ability to participate in politics and the process of their own governance. Representation is designed to be equally proportional to the will of the voters. Unfortunately, the electoral machine has undergone a radical transformation that drastically errs towards oversimplification. The apparent lack of a personally meaningful choice during elections is one of the most common factors that dissuades individuals from casting their votes. There is no instantaneous remedy to the confines of a diametrically divided two party system; however, constituents do not have to resign themselves to governmental impotence. Instead, disenfranchised people in America can form their own political parties to advance the causes they feel are overlooked and ignored by the mainstream establishment. There may not be any better way to get involved in politics. It can be a lengthy bureaucratic procedure, but the chance to significantly alter the stagnant political atmosphere is worth all the investment. Anyone can cultivate a functional political brand if they use this step-by-step guide to navigate the elaborate election system.

Step One: Decide on a Cause and Establish Your Political Identity

The most important element of an auspicious political brand is a clear and personable purpose. Pinpointing specific political beliefs is key to crafting an appealing mission statement. Every political party has a philosophical foundation regarding its ideal view of the role government should play in the lives of its citizens. Once this agenda is devised it is necessary to create a name that is a summation of the fledgling party’s beliefs. This moniker should be thought-provoking but inoffensive.

Step Two: Organize Ranks and Register With the Secretary of State

Once a name is selected, the party can file for official status. A democratic election of party leaders should take place upon this filing to allow the structure of the organization to be properly disclosed. This is the first occasion in which to gather supporters and have a discussion to collectively choose devoted figureheads for your brand. Emphasize shared responsibilities and facilitate open communication. It is necessary to open a bank account in the party’s name and remember the financial activity will be monitored.

Step Three: Accumulate Party Members Through Grassroots Initiatives

Having a legitimately recognized political party is not enough to garner inclusion in an election; fundamentally, a political party must register a minimum plurality of one percent of all eligible voters to be considered viable by the state and added to the ballot. This can be accomplished through constant localized promotion. It is effective to advertise anywhere one travels. Shamelessness can be a virtue in amassing an operable community of supporters. The task of collecting enough constituents is arduous, but innovation at this stage will separate the winners from the losers. Witty slogans and catchy graphic designs are valuable assets, but nothing can take the place of a relatable manifesto.

Step Four: Formally Petition to Earn Participation in the Election

The mass pigeonholing of a wide majority of Americans into two parties poses a major hindrance to anyone’s capacity to receive the formal status of a political party, because the mandated numbers do not exist. It is nearly impossible procure the necessitated plurality because most individuals are already devoutly affiliated. Those who are unregistered oftentimes remain that way due to a persistent apathy. Luckily, there is a method to circumvent the registration requirement. The easiest way to get on the ballot is to collect signatures of support. You can be swiftly ushered into the nomination process if ten percent of the possible voters sign their names on your petition demarcating their approval. This roundabout system lets people support a party without having to personally subscribe with it. People are more willing to help a cause if they do not have to become obligated or committed to it. All signatures should be submitted in a timely manner, especially since every one needs to be verified. The Secretary of State will certify the inclusion of a new party once this step is completed.

Step Five: Raise a Significant Amount of Funds

An uprising political party that has fulfilled all the previous requirements is certified official at this juncture, but its development is still beginning. Without popular recognition a political party is a governmental faction in name only. Receiving legal validation is just the initiation for a budding interest group. Even though a party at this level now has permission to operate openly in the democratic process, it hardly has access to the means that their well-established opposition does. The only way to successfully gain influence is through the generation of exorbitant cash flow. Money is the sole predicative of American governmental behavior in modern times. This is why non-stop campaigning is crucial. Constant publicity is the only surefire way to gain political traction while simultaneously filling the organization’s coffers.

If you manage to accomplish all of these things, you will have successfully started a political party! While it may seem nearly impossible to accomplish this herculean task, don’t be discouraged. Only the citizens of this country, such as yourself, have the power to start a political party and shake up America’s balance of political power. I wish you look in this endeavor!

How to Run for School Board

March 13, 2013

Running for a school board seat is an excellent way to get involved in local politics. Education is always one of the biggest concerns and issues politicians concern themselves with, especially at the local level. A school board member has a significant amount of influence on the schooling of all children within the board’s jurisdiction. For this reason, becoming a member of a school board is a very appealing proposition for many people, especially parents.

Despite the importance and power of local school boards, elections tend to be lower profile for these seats than most other political offices, even other local offices like mayor. This means less campaigning, and much less pressure. If you are looking for a good intro office to start your political career in, a school board seat may be perfect for you. It also would be an excellent position for you to run for if you are very passionate about the education system. The position itself also tends to be a much lower workload than other political offices.

If you have made the decision to campaign for and try to obtain a school board seat in your community, here are the steps you will need to take to make it happen.

Become a Candidate

Every state and district has a different setup for their school board. Some have small boards, others have nine or more members. Some run elections yearly, while others do them as infrequently as every four years. So if you want to become a candidate for your local school board, you will first need to do your research and find out everything you can about the board. A lot of this information can sometimes be found online. If not, try going to the district office in your area.

Find out all you can about the election process for board members as well. You will likely have to do some paperwork, and comply with some general campaign rules. Again, this will vary depending on where you are located.

Once you’ve done the necessary research, file your candidacy paperwork. Do this as early as possible in order to establish yourself. At this point, you will be an official candidate for a seat in your school board in the upcoming election!


The campaigning process for a school board seat is normally short and simple. You likely won’t even need to really start campaigning until a few weeks before the election. But when you do start campaigning, be ready to put in lots of time and effort. Here are some of the best ways to campaign:

  • Signs: Putting up signs in lawns is one of the most cost effective ways to campaign for a local office of any sort, and this especially holds true with school board elections where name recognition can decide who gets a vote.
  • Talk to the Press: Often times local newspaper will interview all the candidates for local elections and write short bios on each of them before the election. Make sure to take advantage of those and show your best side. Try to find more press whenever you can as well.
  • Use the Internet: Setting up a website is at the very least cheap, and sometimes free, in today’s world. Use the power of the exponential growth of the internet to reach your target audience. You should also take advantage of social media sites like Facebook, which can help you reach voters in your region easily.

Hold Office

If you win the election, be ready for lots of meetings and hard work ahead of you. If you do a good job in office, and the people you represent see that, you are likely to have an easy time of being reelected for another term if you wish.

Best of luck in the endeavor you have ahead of you!

How to Volunteer for a Political Campaign

March 6, 2013

There are lots of reasons to volunteer for a political campaign. Whether you are wanting to boost your resume or make connections, doing so can be a great starting off point for many things. In fact, it is one of the first things I recommend you do if you want to get involved in the world of politics. It also can be a great way to diversify your experiences regardless of what your career is. Any kind of volunteer work you do is going to be a good thing in potential employer’s eyes.

And, of course, volunteering on a campaign staff is a fantastic way to meet new people. Whether it is just making a few new friends, or developing important professional relationships, this is one of the biggest benefits of this volunteer work.

So if you want to try this out this elections season, here is my guide on how to volunteer for a political campaign.

Identify and Research Candidates

Odds are pretty good that you already have an idea of who you want to volunteer for. If you don’t, do your research. Look for candidates running for different offices that have similar views on issues as you do. You don’t want to end up contributing to a campaign you don’t believe in. When you have a good list, make your decision based on where you think you can make the biggest impact, and which candidate you believe in the most.

Find A Local Campaign Office

Once you have a candidate in mind to volunteer for, find out where their local offices are. As election season nears, these will start to pop up all over the place, especially if you are in an urban area. The best way to find these in the modern world is the internet, as any campaign worth its salt has contact information for all local offices on their website.

Call Or Stop By

You can call the office, or simply stop by. Ask about what kind of situation they are in as far as volunteers go, and what work you could potentially do for them. Ask more questions than you think necessary and find out exactly what will be expected of you as a volunteer.

Don’t Freak Out About the Jobs

Let me level with you: political volunteer work isn’t always the most fun. Be ready to stuff lots of envelopes, staple together plenty of lawn signs, and knock on your fair share of doors. These tasks may seem trivial, but they are absolutely critical for political campaigns, and that is why you are volunteering.

Don’t get mad about not being able to do something that seems more important or fun to you. If the campaign you are working on is going to be successful, someone has to do the legwork. Pride yourself in your contribution, however small it may seem.

Work Hard

Regardless of what I said above, you should always work your hardest on the tasks assigned to you and the other volunteers of a campaign. Remember that you are partly there to help advance your career, whether political or not, so make a positive impression by working hard with a good attitude.

If you do all of the above things, you will no doubt have an enjoyable volunteer experience. Hopefully it will help you forge some new connections, whether they be personal or professional, and help give you the boost in our career you are looking for. Keep volunteering, and you may even end up with a legitimate job for a campaign at some point.

How to Work for a Political Campaign

February 27, 2013

Political campaigns are considered by many to be shady organizations, and many times rightly so. However, if you want to become involved in politics, working for a campaign is a fantastic opportunity. Doing so will give you experience, help build connections, and maybe be a great starting out point for an up and coming political career.

Keep in mind though that it isn’t all glory when working for a campaign. These jobs are often very strenuous, and require massive amounts of overtime work. In fact, 20 hour days are not unheard of when working for a campaign. Be prepared for long hours, high stress, and intense situations.

If you want to work for a political campaign, here are some things you can do to make it happen:

Join a Party

Joining a political party is a very important first step of this process. If you want to work for a political campaign, you need to make sure you are affiliated with a party which you can support. Find out which party’s ideologies align most closely to yours. You likely already have all of this figured out, but this is an important reminder for anyone who doesn’t.

Start out Volunteering

Most political campaigns pay only a few dedicated employees, the rest of their workforce is made up of volunteers. To get started at the ground level, you will need to do some volunteer work for a political campaign. Whether it is a national presidential campaign or a local one, any work you can do will help you later, even if you don’t get paid now. You will develop important connections by doing this, and hopefully make a little bit of a name for yourself.

Don’t Complain

When you are doing the lower level campaigning work, you likely won’t be doing anything fun. Stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors may not be your favorite thing in the world. However, try your hardest to avoid complaining about it in any way to anyone. You never know who will end up running for office one day, and if you want to get hired by someone who you volunteered with back in the day, you better hope they remember you as a hard worker.

Network Everywhere

This is one of the biggest keys to politics, and it is mentioned in almost every article on this site. Networking is extremely important, regardless of whether you are trying to simply work for a local campaign or run for a Senate seat. Use every opportunity possible to forge new connections, and strengthen existing ones. If you are volunteering, you will have tons of opportunities to make new connections with people who hold power within your party.

Do an Internship

Beyond just volunteering during campaign season, there are also lots of internships an aspiring political worker can take advantage of. For students especially, there are tons of internships that will connect you with people in high places, and give you college credit at the same time. All US Congress members run internship programs both in the offices in their state, as well as in Washington DC itself. Having one of these internships on your resume is a great way to show you know your way around the political system.

Climb the Ladder

If you’ve done some volunteering or maybe an internship, you are ready to begin climbing the ladder. Your experiences in one campaign will help you get a higher position in the next. The one key disadvantage to this career path is the gap in time between campaign seasons, but if you apply each year to campaigns and begin to build up a solid history of working them, you will no doubt have opportunities to work in the position you want for the campaign you want.

Job Getting Basics

Of course, there are lots of basic job getting skills that you should have a solid handle on when you are attempting to work a campaign. Resume writing, interviewing, self-promotion and more are hugely important, and your skills in each will likely determine the success of your employment quest. I highly recommend that you read Get a Job NOW, which is all about mastering these skills. It is a relatively short Kindle ebook that has tons of fantastic advice on the subject.

Qualifications to be a Politician

February 19, 2013

A career in politics appeals to many. However, politics is a unique path in many ways, especially when it comes to the actual qualifications that an aspiring politician needs to meet.

For most jobs, there is a basic list of requirements that all potential candidates need to meet in order to be considered for the position. These typically include things like education, work experience, and proficiency in technical skills.

Someone who wants to be a computer programmer, for instance, would get a degree in computer science, work internships in the field, and get certified in the various programming languages they want to work with. After accomplishing all of that, they would meet the minimum requirements for the job they are after and would apply for it.

Politics is a totally different ball game. Most political offices have little to no specific requirements to run. The most common requirements are age and residency. For instance, in order to become a senator in the United States Congress, you have to be at least 30 years of age, a US citizen for at least nine years, and be a resident of the state you are elected to represent. That means that virtually all American’s could run for that office, one of the highest and most powerful in the land. Many local offices have even less formal requirements.

While there isn’t a formal list of qualifications one must have to run for political office, there are some informal qualifications that set the standards for who will be successful in their bids for a political office. Here are some of the biggest informal requirements of a politician:

  • Excellent Public Speaker: Politicians do quite a bit of public speaking, both when running for an office, and when in office. Campaign speeches are of course a big part of the first. If you lack confidence in your public speaking ability, you may not even be able to get elected. And while in office, politicians will spend quite a bit of time reporting to their constituents and running large meetings. Public speaking ability is one of the most important things an aspiring politician needs to have.
  • Passionate About the Issues: Almost without exception, politicians in America have one thing in common: They are passionate about at least one major issue. Without a strong passion and drive to change the world around them, aspiring politicians would never have the motivation to go through the lengthy and complicated process of running for office. Be sure that you have at least one issue (and preferably more) that you are very passionate about before you think about running for office.
  • Successful in Other Areas: If you want to be successful in politics, you need to be able to sell yourself well. And it is awfully hard to sell yourself well as a political candidate if you don’t have some pretty major accomplishments in other fields. You’ll notice that all our past presidents, presidential candidates, and congressmen have been bestselling authors, successful businessmen, highly respected generals, or, in some cases, even movie stars. While being a lifelong politician may be what you want, it will be very hard to explain to voters what qualifies you if you don’t have a solid resume built up before running for your first office.
  • Empathy: One sometimes overlooked quality of successful politicians is empathy. If you don’t understand the problems of the people, or if they can’t see that you do, they are less likely to vote for you.
  • Well Educated: It is very rare to see a politician who doesn’t have a solid academic background. While some people may think that political science degrees are what is needed to hold office, that is definitely not the case. Often times, political science studies are aimed more towards the political process (jobs like campaign managers or analysts) instead of leadership skills or understanding of the economy. Degrees and experience in the fields of economics, business, law, or even something like communications would serve an aspiring politician well. In reality, what your degrees are in isn’t a big deal as long as you have them.
  • Excellent People Skills: Politicians spend a vast majority of their time interacting with people. Whether it is small talk with other politicians, voting in major meetings, or wooing donors for campaign funds, a politician needs people skills far beyond the average. Being able to talk to anyone, anywhere, on any subject, and convince them to believe you is a vital skill to have for politicians.
  • Connections: The size and authority of your network has a huge impact on your success as a politician. Who you know is oftentimes more important than what you know in life, and in no place is this more prevalent than in politics. Having connections with powerful people is a huge boost for politicians.

While there aren’t any formal qualifications to be a politician, meeting the above guidelines is a great starting point to begin a political career with. If you are interested in becoming a politician, make sure you read our in-depth guide.

How to Become a Lobbyist

February 11, 2013

Lawmaking bodies like the United States Congress or the various state legislatures wield enormous power to affect the quality of life for each and every citizen. It is no surprise, then, that the plethora of interests present in the American economy and culture will also seek a presence in the halls of political power. These interests include – but are not limited to – farmers, labor unions, business organizations, import/export partnerships, non-profit issue advocacy groups, health care providers and local governments. Such constituencies seek to promote their points of view and gain favor with lawmakers by hiring experts in the legislative process to make their case. These professionals are referred to as “lobbyists” because petitioners of old would wait in Capitol lobbies to make their case.

Since lobbyists represent a wide array of interests, they are expected to be competent in the workings and goals of their respective employers. Representing a teachers’ union, for example, calls for some knowledge of merit pay, curriculum design and standardized tests. More than that, however, the lobbyist must be thoroughly grounded in the machinations of the legislative body to which she is petitioning. If working with an individual legislator, the lobbyist should know where that lawmaker ranks among his colleagues, what other interests are currently pressuring him, the politics of his home district and his voting history. If seeking to persuade committee staff members, on the other hand, the lobbyist must be up on the committee’s rules of procedure and legislative calendar. This is the knowledge for which the teachers’ union is paying her.

Understanding the political culture and unique rules governing Congress requires living within it. This means working on the staff of a congressman or congressional committee. These jobs are excellent training for prospective lobbyists, but require a certain amount of book learning. Although majoring in political science or public administration is not a prerequisite, some course work in such fields gives a student a theoretical grounding in the political process. The completion of relevant classes also makes a student eligible for an internship – an unpaid position that nonetheless gets a foot in the door of a congressional office. After a semester or two, the intern becomes a known quantity.

A college graduate is well-advised to cover the Hill with resumes, and to take the first offer. This may mean working as a legislative correspondent (LC) – sorting and answering constituent mail. Building a consistent record of rapid turnaround demonstrates efficiency and competence. When an opening for legislative assistant (LA) develops, the LC has a proven track record of getting the job done. Legislative assistants begin to follow policy formulation on a narrow range of issues, advising their member of Congress on voting options and positions. Once established as a policy advisor, the LA can seek a position as a legislative director for a member. In this role, the would-be lobbyist has charge of all the policy work in the office, serving as the senior policy consultant.

An alternate route for an ambitious LA is to get a position on the staff of a committee. To obtain such a plum, the LA must be appointed by the committee chair or the ranking member of the minority. This is where legislation is forged, negotiations are conducted and compromises are made. Committee staff members are responsible for creating legislation that can pass in committee as well as on the House or Senate floor. Often, staff members at this level have earned additional degrees in law or their area of responsibility. A few years in this political crucible equips a staffer for the rough and tumble world of lobbying.

The organization for which a lobbyist works will often depend on his or her policy experience. If she worked on the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, she may do well to seek employment at the American Farm Bureau Federation or the Monsanto (Seed) Corporation. Time served with the Judiciary Committee might make her a good candidate to lobby for the National Rifle Association or the American Civil Liberties Union. Whatever the group, the job will often be advertised as “Government Relations” or “Federal Affairs”. A strong resume will include full immersion in the congressional community.

How to Run for Political Office

February 9, 2013

Running for public office is something people do for many different reasons. Some candidates want to help their community. Others have one issue that really matters, while others want to enact broad, sweeping change. Some are individuals who shun their party (or have none at all), while others are party operatives who know how to best work the system. Whatever type of candidate you are, it is important to keep some of these tips in mind.

Figure Out the Best Office to Run For

A brand new candidate might not have much of a chance at winning a Governor’s race, and a sitting Congressman can probably aim higher than his local city council seat. Knowing what office to run for is a vital first step for your candidacy. To figure it out, think about why you are running. If you want to change the educational system for your kids, the local school board might be a great fit. If you are tired of potholes or noise complaints, city council might be perfect. If you know a lot about state issues such as transportation, healthcare or natural resources, your state legislature may hold the most promise. Depending on where you live, you may also want to talk with your local party chair and party activists to see where you are needed most and where you could avoid a primary race. You also need to check with your county or state clerk so you can fill out all the appropriate paperwork to run.

Forming Your Core Committees

Once you have decided on what to run for and which party (if any) you are going to run under, you need to take the first basic steps of campaigning. Two committees that should exist for virtually every campaign are a steering committee and a finance committee. A steering committee should include your significant other, your party chairperson, your best volunteers and your best friends who are going to support your campaign. A steering committee can delegate responsibilities such as planning fundraisers, figuring out a budget, recruiting volunteers and testing out different messages.
The finance committee should be comprised of many of the same people, but also of local donors who don’t have the time to volunteer but still have money. A finance committee should be made up of your “maxed out” donors, people who have given the largest legal campaign contribution, and the goal should be for each committee member to find 5-50 other friends, associates or family to also max out to your campaign. The finance committee should meet monthly to check progress and to schmooze with your donors and ask their advice on the campaign.

Picking Up the Phone and Asking for Money

This is every candidates least favorite part of campaigning: call time. Call time is when you go through your personal phone list, and then any additional donor lists that your party or previous office-holders have given you, and ask them for money. You need to be diligent and keep calling until they give you either a commitment or a solid “no.” You should send out letters explaining why you need money and when you need it by, and then you should call the people you sent letters to and follow up with a personal ask. Many candidates prefer to have volunteers or paid staff do their call time. This is not a good idea. Even the President makes phone calls asking for money, and on a smaller race people may feel snubbed if they get a call from a volunteer. However, you should use either paid staff of volunteers to help you with call time, use them to make notes, dial phones and send out thank you cards so that you can focus on making the calls.

Figure Out Your Message and Take it to the Voters

Once you have money and volunteer support, talk with your committees, find out what message you want to spread, and get it to the voters. Use a print shop (many parties have these resources) and get walk cards that you can spread door-to-door. If it is a bigger race, you can even mail correspondence that discusses your stance on issues to constituents you think might vote for you. And once you are close to election day, and you have knocked on doors and sent mail, go chase people you know are going to vote for you to the polls. This is one of the most important parts of the campaign that is often overlooked, if you don’t get your voters to the polls, all that hard work will be wasted.
Running for political office is no small task. It requires dedication, passion, and sacrifice. But it can be a very rewarding experience, and it is the all important first step for someone looking to start a political career. If you are interested in doing so, make sure you read our guide on becoming a politician.