How to Start a Political Career
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.