Do you want to represent people in accomplishing their goals and upholding democracy? Do you want to work in a fast-paced environment where your reputation and networking skills make you excel? If so, you should perhaps consider becoming a politician. While the job requires hard work and barely no rest, it will suit those who want to work with people and create long-lasting change. Here’s the inside scoop on how to reach your goal of becoming a politician, while also acknowledging the hard work and dedication that goes into the being elected to office.
Read on for College Magazine’s guide on how to become a Politician:
What does a Professional Politician do?
A politician participates and contributes to the ways in which the government operates. The position can focus on a local, state or national level. These include members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate, state legislators, city councilors, governors and mayors. A leader in the office can appoint you to this position or you can get elected to office. The roles of a politician depend on the level you work at, but the primary duties encompass proposing, voting on and enacting laws and policies that regulate the government’s role in society. Specific job duties of a politician vary depending on the office they work in and whether that takes place on a local, state or federal level. The following list includes tasks that politicians typically pursue:
- Campaign for election or re-election
- Listen to, address and advocate for public demands and concerns
- Propose laws and consult with lawmakers
- Discuss political and policy issues
- Learn about policy issues that face a community
- Serve on committees
- Meet with constituents and lobbyists
- Attend political functions and events
What does it take to become a Politician?
Contrary to other professions, no higher-education requirement exists to pursue the career of a politician. However, the most successful politicians hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Common majors of politicians include political science, international relations, economics, business administration and public relations. Some politicians also choose to go to law or business school. Examples of such politicians include Barack Obama (Harvard Law School) and Hillary Clinton (Yale University). Other politicians, such as John McCain, worked in the military before choosing the political career.
If you want to succeed as a Politician, you do not just need a good skillset, but you need to appear credible and sought after by voters. To accomplish this, you must know where you stand on political issues and causes. In other words, get involved in local politics. A common route for politicians includes starting at the lowest level of community politics and involvement. To do this, you can volunteer for a local campaign or committee. Consider sitting in on local boards and joining a chapter of your chosen political party. Everything comes down to establishing your persona as a motivated, driven and ambitious politician who the public wants to vote for. While no requirement for this exists, networking with local political leaders often works as a great way to learn more about the career itself, gain insight on what the career entails and also help you gain support for your own political aspirations.
What you should know about becoming a Politician?
1. What income will I earn as a Politician?
Due to the different positions you can hold as a politician, no average income exists, it ranges from zero to six figures. For example, as a President, you get paid $400,000 a year. Members of Congress earn a base salary of $174,000 a year while governors earn between $70,000 and $200,000. State legislators’ income depends on how many full-time and part-time legislatures they work for. The same also goes for county politicians. Overall, their income ranges from $12,000 to $100,000. If you work as a mayor for a bigger city, (such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago or New York) you get paid around $200,000. The average annual salary for the position nationally tends to average around $56,000 a year.
2. How much will I be expected to work?
Due to the demanding nature of the job as a politician, you work almost nonstop. In fact, most voters assume their politicians represent and work for them 24/7.
3. What will my work environment be like?
A politician’s work environment includes two main types of environments: the public and the private space. The private environment equates to the place in which the work will get done, such as the office or your house. Every time you step out of those two places, you will find yourself in public and on public display: therefore, even if you experience a bad day, you can’t show this when you find yourself in public as a politician. You want your public display to serve as a representation of your mission. This often includes helping people and improving their communities by solving political and policy issues.
4. What do I need to know about the future of this profession?
The best politicians realize how disassociated the voters have become from politics. To excel as a politician, you must regain the lost respect. In other words, the political leaders need to make a much greater effort to win voters than previous times due to the disassociation from politics. Without this additional effort, voters will develop even less confidence in the elected office. In a democracy you elect the best people to represent the voters’ wants, needs and demands. This means that you trust people to make the choices for you. If you, as a politician, don’t get the voters’ trust, our democracy essentially breaks down.
3 key skills you need to become a Politician
1. The ability to listen and hear people out. You need an understanding of what the people you want to represent value as important. If you don’t know what your constituents values, how do represent them? You don’t. In order to thrive as a politician, you need to work on your listening skills.
2. Confident but not arrogant. As a politician, you need to possess enough confidence to take a leadership role. However, don’t appear arrogant because people don’t want to follow that type of leader. You need to appear in command but not self centered. Someone who is certain of themselves but willing to work with their team.
3. Know your very specific substantial goals. You need to know what you want to do and accomplish once you get elected to office. Solely getting elected into office does nothing. Completing objectives requires real work. In other words, think beyond making it to the elected office.
Some Other Important Skills:
1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. The best politicians know their strengths and weaknesses. This makes them effective. If you don’t know this, you will fail.
2. Need a good eye for other talented people. No leader or politicians succeed completely on their own. You need people around you to support your goals.
3. Thick skin. Not everyone will vote for you.
4. Find something good in other people even if it’s not very obvious. Succeeding as a political leader is always about growing your support and building relationships to achieve your goals. If you constantly dismiss everyone based on a bad first impression, you limit potential allies.
“As a politico, when helping politicians reach their goals, I always ask the same two questions: what’s the most important thing you want to accomplish and is being elected to office the way to get there? Because if you just want to get elected for the title, you will not be an effective or good politician,” University of Southern California Public Relations Professor Daniel Schnur said.
“I don’t want to be a politician. I want to be a policymaker that can use the tools available to elected officials to not only create legislation through an equity lens, but also leverage the broader platform to advocate for our communities that are most in need,” Educator and Candidate for Los Angeles City Council District 9 Dulce Vasquez said.
“I yearn to change my community. For far too long I have endured and witnessed the inequities and inequalities still prevalent in our society. Therefore I yearn to be a policymaker, to enact progressive change, speak truth to power and provide for our most marginalized communities and the community at large,” University of Southern California sophomore Zaid Emanuel Diaz said.