How to Become a Politician
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.
Decide If It’s For You
Politics isn’t for everyone. In fact, there are very few people who really want to live that type of life. I have a friend that likes to say “anyone smart enough to be President is smart enough NOT to be President”. After all, most of them are hated by a majority of the population, and they are sometimes even assassinated. Being in politics is a career with a lot of downsides. Before you make the decision to become a politician at any level, make sure you can honestly answer yes to all of these questions:
- Are you okay with your entire life being displayed to the public, including your flaws? Remember that many politicians are subjected to very public scandals in their careers.
- Can you state your opinions honestly, and hold true to them even if a large portion of the population hates you for them?
- Do you love public speaking?
- Can you be committed to having a professional demeanor under any circumstances, even trivial ones?
- Are you passionate about making decisions that will benefit the populace you are serving?
- Are you and your family prepared for a very unstable employment path, one which may see multiple years of unemployment as well as months on the road?
If you think you can handle it, and have made the decision with the support of your family, you need to fully commit to the notion of becoming a politician. Politics isn’t like other types of jobs that you can easily dip your feet into and test. Getting a political office requires you to dedicate yourself completely. It will likely take many hours of work without getting paid, talking to hundreds of people who aren’t really listening, and maybe even using a chunk of your own life savings to run a campaign. So make sure that if you decide to run for political office that you are fully committed to getting elected.
Get Everything Else In Order
Before you start to make preparations for your campaign, you should make sure that you have your other affairs all in line.
First and foremost, make sure you have your finances all in order. If your bid for election is unsuccessful, you’ll suddenly find yourself unemployed. So before you make the decision to run for an office, make sure you have enough money saved up to last for at least a few months after the campaign is over. That way your family can survive if you aren’t elected.
After that, make sure you settle all things well with any current employers. Let them know that you are running for office, and what the possible outcomes are. Chances are they will support you and help you as much as they can if you give them advance warning.
Lastly, make sure your friends and family are totally aware of what your decision means. They need to know the responsibilities you’ll have if you are elected, as well as how busy you’ll be during an election year. The last thing you want to do is make someone important to you unhappy because you didn’t give them a clear picture of what would be happening.
Build Your Resume
Successful politicians all have one thing in common: A very solid resume. And I’m not just talking about a nicely formatted sheet of paper. I’m talking about having achievements that will make people take you seriously. Here are some critical things that you can work towards to build up your resume before running for office:
- Education: Having a top notch education is key for politicians. You don’t have to go to Harvard Law to become your next school board chairman, but if all you have is an Associates Degree in art history you won’t be taken too seriously by many people.
- Work Experience: If the only job you’ve ever worked before involved a spatula and a grill, you probably aren’t ready to run for political office. Depending on what office you are going for, it may be necessary for you to have experience in high level positions with prestigious companies. The more titles and experience you can show off, the better.
- Volunteer Experience: Many voters will make their decision based largely on who has had a bigger impact in their communities, especially for local offices. Do as much volunteer work as you can and help as many people as possible.
- Leadership Experience: Hopefully in both your work and volunteer careers you’ve had plenty of leadership roles. Politicians are leaders, and voters are looking for someone who has shown they can lead effectively and wisely.
- Notable Accomplishments: Oftentimes it can be a good idea to have some miscellaneous facts to accent your primary list of achievements. Have you climbed Mount Everest or survived a gunshot? Some accomplishments may be out of place on a traditional resume, but you can use them in your campaigns to help people connect with you.
- Being Published: It’s no coincidence that “The Audacity of Hope” topped the bestseller lists around the same time that Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 2007. Being a published writer establishes credibility, and it also puts your opinions in front of eyes you otherwise may not be able to reach. You don’t have to write a bestseller, even something as simple as a letter to the editor will help.
The Necessary Skills
There are a few things that you should be competent in before election season is in full swing. Here are some of the most important:
- Public Speaking: Politicians do a lot of public speaking, so work on your skills as much as you can. Speaking is something that can be perfected only with real practice, so never miss an opportunity to talk in front of people. You should also practice writing speeches, especially ones that contain controversial opinions. You’ll be doing a lot of that soon, so get ready.
- Managing Finances: If you are running for local office, you’ll probably be doing most of your own financial management. Even if you do have someone else doing it for you, get familiar with campaign finance laws. The last thing you want to do is accidentally run into legal trouble.
- Social Skills: A large part of attaining and keep political office is communicating with people. Make sure you are comfortable with talking to anyone, anywhere, and be ready to network like crazy.
- Debate: You will also most likely be involved in a large number of debates in your political career. Once again, debating is something that can be learned best through practice. Have friends and family members play devil’s advocate and have a mock debate. Make sure you can make your points on the fly while someone else is biting on your every word.
Solidify Your Views
You likely already have political ideologies. But make sure you have a firm stance on every issue likely to come up during your campaign, and any potential issues that could come up if you are in office. So called “flip floppers” are politicians who change their opinions on issues. They tend to be regarded very negatively by voters. Have opinions and stick to them.
Network, Network, Network
Getting ahead in almost any career is often about who you know, and politics may be the best example of this. Having connections with those in office who could endorse you, big potential campaign donors, possible campaign staff, and even just everyday voters is key to being successful in politics. Any chance you have, make connections and develop friendships. This also ties in a lot with the next step.
Participate in as big of a way as you can with your political party. If you want their nomination for a position, you’ll need to be actively involved. Here are some good ways to get involved with your party:
- Volunteer or Work for a Campaign: This is probably the best way to get involved. Volunteering for a political campaign is a great way to meet all of the people involved with your party, especially those running the campaigns. Do as much work as you can and get friendly with as many people as possible.
- Help with Fundraising: Sometimes political parties will need additional help with fundraising, even when it isn’t election season. It may not be fun to call people and ask for money, but if it gets your foot in the door, it may be worth it.
- Attend Meetings: Local parties will likely have fairly regular meetings. Attend them whenever they happen, and offer to help if they need it.
- Donate Money: This is a simple way to get on your party’s radar that shouldn’t be overlooked. Donations, however small, are very much appreciated by organizations who survive off of them.
While you may have huge ambitions for your political career, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Politics is one of those careers wherein you really need to spend some time in the lower levels before moving up. If you are young and don’t have some pretty significant accomplishments already under your belt then this is especially the case. Here are some good starting points:
- School Board: Becoming a member of your local school board is straightforward and relatively easy, and it may give you a chance to connect with some important people in your area. Having this on your resume will allow you to more easily move up the ladder.
- City Council: This will be very similar to running for a school board, but you’ll deal with more than just the education system.
- City Mayor: For smaller cities and towns, becoming Mayor likely won’t be overly difficult if you are well liked and have some experience. It is also an excellent starting point for your political career.
- State Legislator: Running for state legislature is a way to really get into the political system. Most times these politicians are paid well, and they have influence on a much broader scale than any local office. Having this on your resume gives you the ability to make the jump to the next step anytime.
Rinse and Repeat
Once you’ve been successful in getting your first political office, you’re going to essentially keep doing the same things to get into the next office. Just keep networking, adding to your resume, and serving those who elect you with pride and honor. Use your resources and connections wisely, and you may find climbing up the political ladder exactly what you’d hope it would be.
Being a career politician isn’t for everyone. But it is an exciting lifestyle full of risk and reward, and it allows you to do things you can’t do with any other career choice.
If you want to watch a video overview of this post, here it is: