Now more than ever before in history, politics is front and center of daily conversations. G
one are the days of political conversations going on behind closed doors with information of new policies coming to the people slowly through the newspapers and word of mouth. In today’s world, we know who our politicians are, what they support, and what legislation they support without having to wait for it.
This may have some drawbacks, but one of the benefits is that more people want to get involved and start a career in politics. And the more people who want to support the voices of their community in the government, the better off we are as a country.
If you’re considering a career in politics but aren’t sure where to start, keep reading. We’re breaking it down for you and giving you all the best tips for starting a career in politics.
There is no one right path for starting a career in politics, but there are a few more traveled paths you can take. Many people get started by choosing one of two different avenues: starting from the bottom or jumping in headfirst.
Is a Degree Necessary?
First, we’re going to talk about college education. Since 1967, members of Congress have become better educated each year. The 116th Congress from 2019 was the most educated congress ever, where 72% of the House had a graduate degree.
Most successful politicians have gotten higher education. If you’re interested in a career in politics, it may be a good idea to consider one as well.
However, that’s not to say that you can’t succeed if you don’t have a degree. Plenty of politicians have made it without higher education (and plenty of higher educated politicians have done less than stellar jobs!)
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if a degree is necessary or not.
Volunteer for a Political Campaign
In order to make yourself relevant in the field of politics, it would be a good idea to volunteer your time to a campaign that aligns with your beliefs. Most political campaigns rely heavily on volunteers who put in hours of their time doing difficult jobs like canvassing neighborhoods and making calls for campaign donations.
Reach out to a local politician who is running for office and see if there are any opportunities for you to volunteer. Your understanding of the inner workings of a political campaign will improve and you’ll rub elbows with people who could be beneficial to you in the future.
Jump in Headfirst
That said, there is something to be said about throwing caution to the wind and jumping headfirst by running for office before you’ve started from the bottom. If you have a clear message (and some money to back up your efforts) and you’re willing to put in the hours, you could start running for public office as long as you meet the government’s qualifications for that position.
You’re essentially fighting an uphill battle when you take this path, but if you’re lucky and your platform catches on, you could find success this way.
Run for a Seat on Your Local Party Committee
If you decided to take the “starting from the bottom” approach, your next step is to run for a seat on your local party committee. This helps you establish yourself as a party leader.
These are usually elected positions so you’ll have to get your name on the ballot. This is a great way to learn something new about the political process.
Donate to Political Candidates
It comes as no surprise that money talks. One way to catch the attention of a political candidate who you think could help your career is to donate money to their cause. If you happen to have the funds, you could wind up with a lot of influence in politics without needed to choose it as a career.
If you don’t have the cash on your own but you still want to make a difference, you can start a political action committee to support a candidate.
Know Your Political News
If you want anyone to take you seriously, you have to know what you’re talking about. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a political science degree, you do have to have your finger on the pulse of political news.
Read the newspaper that comes from your community, the areas surrounding you, and your state. Read national journals and publications like The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
Accurate and true information has never been easier to find.
But a word of warning: inaccurate and false information is easy to find as well. Make sure you’re getting your information from somewhere that is reputable.
Make a Difference in Your Community
If you want people to know who you are, if you want to build power in your name and start to gain the trust of your community, you have to get your name out there. The best way to do that is to attend all the public proceedings in your community as you can.
Go to municipal meetings and network with the activists you meet. Learn what issues your community is facing and try to build coalitions that aim to improve your town. Go to school board meetings and join in on the conversation.
Keep yourself open and available for job opportunities even if they aren’t the ones you were dreaming of. Every step forward is one closer to your career in politics.
Run for Elected Office
Once you’ve made a name for yourself, you can run for an elected office in your area. Starting somewhere small like the school board or town council may be a good place to start.
Before you start running, pick a team of people who you trust to stick by you through the election process. Prepare your family for the scrutiny that comes with running for office.
The media and your opponents will all take an intense interest in every aspect of your life. It may be a wise idea to sit down and figure out what areas of your personal life you may need to address before they come out in the media.
Create Your Own Opportunity
One thing to remember when starting your career in politics is that you can create your own opportunities. If there’s an area that you feel particularly informed about, convince a local politician that you’re the best person to advise them.
When you make yourself indispensable, you create a position for yourself and you put your name out there.
Getting Into Politics Without Running for Office
You don’t have to run for office in order to have a career in politics. In fact, there are a ton of ways to gain influence over policies and procedures without needing to get a single vote from anyone.
You can still work in the government without having to run for office. You could work as a legislative aide or a spokesperson for a Senator to get started.
The work usually isn’t all that exciting. For the most part, you’ll be answering phone calls and opening letters.
But you’ll be able to network and learn the ins and outs of government work before taking the official leap into running for office.
Without sugar coating it, these jobs are hard to land no matter where you’re located. Volunteering in the office is the best way to make sure your work stands out.
Non-Profit and Advocacy Work
If you’re passionate about a cause, like the way John Arnold is passionate about lowering the cost of pharmaceuticals for patients, you could get involved with a non-profit that focuses on that cause.
When you get involved in causes that you’re passionate about you become a part of something bigger. You also promote your name and network.
This is another area that volunteering is crucial when you’re starting. Unless you have friends and family involved in the cause, your best bet to getting a foot in the door is by volunteering your time.
Get on an email list and find out about the events the non-profit is doing so you can attend them. Volunteer when you can. Put yourself out there.
Private Sector Work
When you work for the private sector, you’re working in the political dealings of an office or a company. Lobbyists and the people who work beside them have a ton of influence in policymaking. This is another job that’s hard to land if you don’t have the right connections or experience, but if you can get in with a company you can have a real impact on policy changing.
Starting a Career in Politics Is Possible
Remember that no matter how you choose to start your career in politics, it’s not an overnight thing. You will have to work tirelessly at improving the value of your name and your word. You’ll have to meet people and be willing to have your personal life made public by your opposition.
It’s not an easy line of work and it’s not for the faint of heart. But if you believe that you can help represent people in the government who may not have a voice otherwise, it’s work worth doing.
If you’re thinking about starting a new career, check out our other posts for tips!