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.
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.
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.