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How to Get Into Politics

July 5, 2013

If you want to get into politics, there are several good places to start.

One of the best is to simply begin to follow the political news. Watch TV news, read the newspaper, or follow it online. It doesn’t matter where you get the news, as long as you are getting it.

Another thing to do right away is form your political ideologies. You may already have them (most people do), but you probably still need to solidify some of your views. Practice debating with people just to make sure you have them down.

Once you’ve done that, you may be ready to get into politics in a major way: by becoming a politician yourself.

The Early Years

To get into politics in the US, consider starting at a young age. Children of parents who are politically active, or at least politically minded, tend to be more aware of politics early on. Those children will either reject politics or accept the arena as their own, too. Children that do not have politically active parents, can still show an interest by becoming involved in related school activities. Most grade schools through high school have some sort of student government, so get involved and run for office.

Volunteering at a Young Age

In the US, some form of election occurs every year. Whether it’s federal, state or local, there’s always a campaign going on. Students, who have an interest in politics, are encouraged to volunteer a few hours a week on a campaign of their choice. The chosen campaign can be for a candidate or a cause. Being able to experience politics from the ground level allows the individual to start forming their own personal ideology. This is where a person can figure out where their values, morals and opinions truly lie. In the US, there’s a two-party system within a democracy. By working on a campaign, people can decide if they are truly a Democrat or truly a Republican. If neither party is a good fit, there are many 3rd political parties that are always seeking volunteers to help spread their message.

College

Once a student has spent enough time volunteering for their political cause, there’s a very good chance that they have met a candidate or politician that they are most interested in working for in the future. 95% of the time, in order to be hired as part of a political staff, though, the individual must posses a Bachelor’s Degree. Until an undergraduate degree is attained, individuals can remain on staff as interns, paid and unpaid. This means that a college degree is a must. A chosen major is not a deal breaker, but it’s a good idea to study something related, including political science, international affairs, communications, philosophy and even business. What the student really wants to achieve, in whatever study they choose, is gaining tangible skills such as critical thinking, negotiation, public speaking and knowledge of US history and law.

Another option is joining the military. Those in the military can choose to earn their degree while serving their country. In this case, it’s usually win-win. Those who successfully serve their term in the military and maintain the required grade point average, can walk away with a wealth of experience and their undergraduate degree. When it comes to getting into politics, having served in the military is a positive highlight. Not only does someone who served in the US military become more attractive to prospective employers, Constituents will lean more favorably toward them because there’s a proven record of service. Individuals who wish to serve, but do not want to enlist, can choose the Peace Corps instead.

Post-College

At this point, those hoping to get into politics are either in, armed with the necessary ammunition to get in, or just realizing that they want to get into this arena.

If a person is in, they just have to figure out how to stay in politics. Many political jobs come and go based on what cause or candidate they have pledged their allegiance. If their cause or politician loses, then they essentially lose, as well. Therefore, it’s important to always have an contingency plan.

For those in the second boat, just completing their undergraduate degree, this is when all the hours of volunteering and having an unpaid internship should pay off. Yes, a lot of time was essentially donated, but in return, enough networking should have taken place so that some sort of job opportunity will available upon graduation. If it’s not, it just means that some more hours of pavement pounding and networking are ahead.

Those that have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and have just realized that politics is their path, it’s not too late. Be ready to show your qualifications, pick a political party, politician, cause or all three, and pound the pavement.

It’s Never Too Late

It’s never too late to get into politics in the USA. The same principles that those who showed an early interest in politics followed, can be applied to anyone, at any stage of their political career. Getting into politics requires having minimum qualifications, meaning a bachelor’s degree about 95% of the time, and many hours of volunteering and networking.

When it comes to a career in politics, ultimately, the most successful are the ones that are most able to build the strongest relationships with their Constituents. They do so by cementing their political ideology and being able to most effectively communicate their message.

If you want more info on becoming a politician, read out in depth guide on the subject.

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.

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 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.

How to Become a Politician

December 19, 2012

Becoming a politician is a somewhat rare and very exciting career choice. On one hand you can make a high salary and have a huge impact on the world as a politician. On the other, your entire life becomes public information and you are hated by half of the population no matter your opinions. If you are one of those people that wants to be a politician, read on. (more…)