If you want to make a difference in the world and help those in your local and national community, a career in politics could be perfect for you. Becoming a politician can be a long and challenging process, but one with a considerable amount of personal and professional satisfaction involved as well.
It is crucial that you fully understand the task ahead of you if you decide to enter into a career in politics. You will need to be a confident and comfortable public speaker, someone who can converse with all cross-sections of society and who is motivated to get things done.
There are many routes into politics, and the one you choose will depend on your experience and current skill set. Here are some of the best ways to help you grow as an aspiring politician.
1. Consider Getting A Degree
While this is not a requirement for becoming a politician, a degree can help you gain a deeper understanding of different political issues a country faces. It can also help you to cultivate an image as a competent and knowledgeable person. Image can be hugely important when running in an election, so it is crucial to find ways to improve and hone your image throughout your political career.
2. Join A Political Party
It is often helpful to be part of an established political party when starting out in your career. Not only does this lend you legitimacy, but it also allows you to meet with other like-minded people. You should carefully consider the political party you decide to join based on your own values and principles. While it may be tempting to join the most popular party in your local area, it is more important to be consistent with your own beliefs.
3. Get An Understanding Of PR
In an ideal world, politicians could be judged on their policy and track record alone. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the optics, image and PR of a politician matter almost as much as their policies. Therefore, it is crucial that you understand how to show yourself to the best advantage and make the most out of your public image.
It is vital to avoid any political or social blunders that may come back to haunt you further down your political career. Be smart about what you post to social media, and consider limiting access to your personal profiles to only trusted friends and family. It can also help to work on your physical appearance, as the clothes you wear and the way you carry yourself can significantly impact how you are perceived.
4. Volunteer Your Time
A great way to get your foot in the door is by volunteering your time. Sign up to volunteer with the local chapters of your political party. You could also consider volunteering on election days by manning polling stations or going on door-to-door campaigns.
5. Work On Someone Else’s Campaign
A great way to fully understand the ins and outs of an election is by working on someone else’s campaign. This can help you understand the process, help you make contacts, and practice running an election campaign. It will also give you an appreciation of the hard work that goes into elections at all levels, from the top down.
6. Start Networking
It is crucial to have an excellent political network. This should include people at different levels of local and national government and within multiple parties. It is a good idea to try and get your name out there as someone dependable and easy to work with.
You could consider networking opportunities like political gatherings and events. It is also a good idea to network with prominent local people such as business owners, religious leaders and other key community organisers. This can help show that you understand the local community and are willing and able to work with people within it.
7. Understand The Global Political Economy
If you plan to go far with your political aspirations, it is crucial to understand the global political economy, as well as the local one. All major political leaders in 2023 are, by necessity, also involved in global politics.
You could consider taking an international relations online course to help you understand the different ways that the global economy impacts local and national business and political interests. For more details on this type of course, you can learn more here.
8. Start Locally
While it may be tempting to aim high, it is often wiser to start small when it comes to politics. Not only will this allow you to get used to the way the world of politics works, but it will also make you more likely to be successful when you do set your sights higher.
You could consider starting out by running for a position in the local council. This will help you better understand the needs of your constituents and help you learn the ropes of political life on a smaller scale. Once you have had success as a local councillor, you could start working your way up the political ladder, with past achievements and a track record to back you up.
9. Be Prepared For Knockbacks
The path to becoming a politician is rarely smooth. You will likely face setbacks in your career, and it is crucial that you handle them with grace and, importantly, don’t allow them to keep you down. Almost every politician you will speak to will have a story to share of an election loss, a policy point overruled or some other knockback. It is part of the process, and the best thing you can do is learn from the experience, pick yourself back up and keep going.
10. Get Experience In Work
It is essential to have experience outside of the political arena. Consider different roles and organisations that will be beneficial to your political aspirations. For instance, you could consider a management position in a large company to help you improve your communication and leadership skills.
You could consider working for a non-government organisation (NGO) to get real experience working with the causes and issues that motivate you. You could also consider a role with a trade union, which can be an excellent way to get a feel for political life.
11. Build And Maintain A Support System
Politics can be an intense space to work within. There will be many challenges to face, and it is crucial to have the support of friends and family when you face setbacks or issues. It is vital to take care of yourself and ensure you have a good support network. After all, you can’t serve your constituents well unless you are fighting fit mentally and emotionally.
12. Keep Learning
It is crucial never to stop learning as a politician. Education is the best way to improve as an individual and leader. You could consider taking courses in subjects that you aren’t strong in or volunteer locally to help you improve your understanding of issues impacting your constituents.
It can also help to read books and essays by political figures that you admire. This can help you continually develop your own sense of your political beliefs and policies. It is crucial that you take the time to grow and learn to ensure that your political goals are appropriate, compassionate and beneficial to those you hope to represent.