If you’re looking to truly make a difference in the world, becoming a politician may be your calling. In-office, you could instigate change! How amazing would that feeling be? The path won’t be easy — and it definitely won’t be short — but it would be so worth it. Are you ready to make an impact?
1: Go to college for higher studies.
While really anyone can be a politician (depending on your definition of a politician, of course), the ones that make a true dent in society and can call it a career have been to college. They likely studied economics, business, political science, or international relations. Though any degree is better than none!
• Many go on to law or business school. This isn’t a hard-and-fast requirement, but it’s definitely not a bad idea. If you want to be a big dog, it’s wise, that’s for certain. In the US Congress, 68 are currently either lawyers or businessmen. Just for the record.
• Back in the day, the military experience was pretty common. It’s definitely not a bad idea — we’re all pro-people who support their country. But it is becoming less common and if you don’t feel the pressure to fit the presidential mold, there’s no shame in keeping your office job.
With volunteer experience on your resume, it’s hard for someone to look at you and say, “That’s not a trustworthy, good person.” That would require a person who doesn’t like puppies. To get votes, you need to show that you support good causes, you’ve put in the time, and you care about your community. The easiest way to do that? Volunteering.
• You could start by volunteering for a local campaign, but it’s also a good idea to foster your interests outside the political arena, too. Join a non-profit, help the homeless, get involved with an organization you would support if you were in a position of power. Show the world just how well-rounded (and moral) you are.
3: Introduce yourself with the political parties.
Running on the Jane/John party won’t get you much attention (well, good attention at least). If you’re serious about this politics thing, you need to affiliate yourself with a well-established political party. That way you’ll get backing, you’ll meet like-minded friends and cohorts, and in some cases, people will look at your label and assume you’re good to go.
• Or don’t. Whichever. That’s what the Independent party is for. However, do note that running with this party and getting elected to office is like running up a hill blind with a Skip-Bo on your ankle, carrying a screaming monkey on your back.
People like labels and they really like labels they think they understand. “Independent” isn’t one of them, sadly.
4: Pay your dues on someone else campaign.
If you’re blessed enough to know what you want to do at a young age, then a good way to make headway into this field is to work on someone else’s campaign. It may be grunt work, but you’ll get a sneak peek into what it’s like and get a leg up on the whole networking thing. Which is super important, by the way.
• You may be knocking on doors, you may be stuffing pamphlets into boxes or putting stamps on envelopes, but you’ll be doing something. It will give you an appreciation for these roles when you’re at the top — and a relatability people will admire, too.
5:Get active in your community and meet with the peoples.
If no one knows you from Joe, it’ll be hard for people to trust you with, well, anything. So get active locally! Be that one that everyone knows. The one that’s involved in everything. You have a reputation to develop!
• A good place to start? Community meetings. Get on local school boards, city assemblies, and the like and make some noise. Be active. Starting at the bottom is the only way you’ll work your way up. So go to your area’s party headquarters, ask some questions, and grab a seat.
6:Have a flexible career.
So while most big cheese politicians are businessmen or lawyers, the local and state ones are a different story. Your city’s representatives could be grocery store owners, teachers, factory supervisors, anything. Since politics won’t start paying you for probably another decade or two, get a career and get a flexible one — unless you have ten years of money lying around.
• The flexible part here is important because there will be times when politics takes over. You have to take an afternoon off for a meeting, you have to take a week off for a convention, or you have to take six months off for your campaign. The more flexibility you have, the less you’ll be sweating your finances in the long run.
7: Start local.
While you could go from student body president to running for the President of the United States…you’d really just be asking for a hard time. If you want to go about it and be successful, you’ll start small. In the US, you have a few options:
• School board
• City Council
• City mayor
• County supervisor
8: Check your bank balance.
Okay, you’ve decided you want to run for office. Maybe it’s mayor, maybe it’s county supervisor, heck, maybe it’s even state legislator. The bigger it is, the more money you’re gonna need. Do you have some padding in there in case things go awry? What if your campaign comes up short and you have to foot some of the bills? What if you lose the election and your job isn’t there when you get back? Will there be food on the table?
• Campaigns are expensive. Way more expensive than you realize before going into your first one. There are travel expenses, paying your team, marketing expenses, and schmoozing expenses, just to get the list started. Ideally, these won’t come from your pocket. Ideally.
9:Develop your campaign in different palaces.
Now for the fun stuff! You know, sort of. At least the adrenaline-packed stuff. You’ll need to assemble a team of people you trust to run it for you, but you need to develop it. How do you want to go about getting the word out there? How big should your team even be? What issues will you be pushing? How will you handle your opponents?
• Three words: Start. Raising. Funds. Start raising funds now. Hit up everyone you know for donations (you’ve been nice to them because you knew this was coming, right?). Even if you met them once and they’re not even your Facebook friend, hit ’em up. No shame!
10: Get statewide.
Once you’ve dominated your local pond, you’ll probably look for some bigger fish to fry. So go state-wide! Be a legislator — get involved in the Congress or the Senate. You’ve proven you have the chops, so might as well make some money with it! This is a lot of the same, just on a bigger level. And with a bigger level comes more scrutiny. And more money. Generally, more of everything. Definitely more time. And because of the “more time” thing, make sure you talk this over with your family and those with who you’re close with. Your life will not be the same and you will not be as accessible. You may be on the road quite a bit and you may be very stressed because of it. But hopefully, it’ll be worth it!