PREPARING OR DECIDING FOR A POLITICAL CAREER?
Are you young and deciding about a career in politics? Then this might just be for you!
If you have passionate opinions and are enthusiastic about enacting positive change, working in politics can be an appealing career option for you.
There are a variety of ways to start a career in politics. You need to build a solid educational foundation, seek out volunteer experience and internships, and familiarize yourself with the kind of paid jobs available to those starting out in the field.
Before you can begin a career in politics, you should strive to know the ins and outs of the legislative process. Pay attention in school. Be genuinely interested in history and civics classes; they explain the basics of the three branches of power in the Nigeria’s government: legislative, executive, and judicial.
The legislative branch is comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives. They’re responsible for making the laws at the federal level, and the House of Assembly members serves that function at the state(s) level.
The executive branch, the president, vice president, and cabinet at the federal level; the governors, their deputy, along the commissioners at the state level, carry out/execute the laws.
The judicial branch is the Supreme Court, the high courts, made up of the Chief Justice, Judges, appointed by the president/governors as the case may be and approved by the Lawmakers. The Supreme Court evaluates the laws.
Do not just learn about the basics of national politics. Familiarize yourself with your own state’s system. Oftentimes, politicians start by running for positions in the state or local government. If possible, get involved in your local political scene. Volunteer for a campaign or political party in your area.
Choose a field of study related to politics; Any of the social sciences is equally good.
When you reach university, your field of study is important. There are a variety of majors that help you prep for a career in politics. A political science degree is one of the most popular degree paths for those interested in a career in politics.
You build knowledge of political philosophy, learn how public policies are formed, and study how government bodies operate in Nigeria and other nations. You also learn about social issues such as warfare, poverty, and global inequality, good governance, development etc.
A degree in public administration may provide more hands-on skills. You learn about public policy, fundraising, budgeting, government decision making, and community analysis. If you’re seeking to work in a local community, or work directly with a specific community, this could be a great major for you.
International relations might be a good major if you hope to get involved in politics on a global scale. You will get a detailed introduction on the basics of law, world history, international relations, and how these issues come into play in negotiations and partnerships between countries. Warfare, trade, diplomacy, and poverty will be issued discussed while you pursue an international relations degree.
Communications could also be a good degree path and could serve you well as an elective, if you’re interested in a political career. Communications degrees focus on public speaking, marketing, journalism, and rhetoric. A degree or minor(elective) in communications can give you specialized skills you can use to become politically involved in the world of journalism or news.
Develop skills related to politics. As you pursue your education, work to develop certain skills that are vital to a political career. Communication, both written and spoken, is an important skill to have if you work in politics.
You will have to communicate with a variety of other people in any political office and also write or proofread legislation and draft proposals, press releases, and more.
Taking English classes or getting a job on a campus newspaper in college can help with your communication skills. The ability to collect and analyze information is important, so make sure you’re an excellent researcher before launching a political career. If you’re a student, many professors may need research assistants for their own work. E-mail around and see if anyone is willing or able to hire you.
You can also stock up on coursework where research papers are required to complete a class.
You can also look for job or internship where you would be responsible for researching certain topics for an organization, politician, or professor.
Gain computer skills. In an increasingly digital world, proficiency with a variety of computer programs is vital to success in the political field.
Take computer classes in college and build your computer skill set so it contains a wide range of computer programs. Check with #N_Hub if you’re within Jos, #PlateauState .. they’re a good place to start.
Look for internships and jobs that require you to build upon existing computer skills. Download certain softwares and teach yourself the basics by using online tutorials.
Volunteer: The easiest route to begin a political career is to start by volunteering. The connections you make as a volunteer could lead to bigger opportunities down the road.
Get involved locally. Find a grassroots organization or non-profit that shares your passions and political interests. Such organizations are almost always seeking volunteers and even small office tasks can help you further your career. A willingness to work hard will reflect well on you down the road, and you may eventually be offered a job or an internship.
Volunteer each election cycle. Political campaigns are always in need of volunteers during election periods. You can go door-to-door spreading information about a candidate, call supporters asking for donations, and help register people to vote in the upcoming election. Simple office tasks in local campaign offices or headquarters are also much appreciated during this time.
Election seasons get very busy in the political world, so this is the easiest time to find meaningful work as a volunteer.
Stay in touch with anyone you meet while volunteering. Someone who supervised your a campaign activity/work during a presidential election can be a reference you use while applying for a job or internship.
Networking is vital to the political world. When it comes to finding jobs, it often comes down to who you know. Strive to network as much as possible during your political career. Try to work in an area where you can interact with major political players. Work in your state’s capital, where you’ll have a chance to meet state senators and representatives.
If you want to work in say Abuja, try to get involved in the area so you can make connections to people who work there as well. Keep regular correspondences with anyone you’ve worked with professionally.
If you’ve interned or volunteered with anyone, stay in touch with them periodically. If you use your social media responsibly, adding contacts on Facebook could be a good way to stay in contact.
You can also send out occasional e-mails. Keep them as a contact on LinkedIn and like and comment on any new skills, jobs, publications, or other honors they post about. You want these people to remember you down the road as your connections with them could help your political career or a job in the future.
Look for internships:
Internships are an important stepping stone into any career path, but especially one in politics. If you’re a tertiary institutions (college, university, polytechnic student…), you can ask an adviser or counselor about where to best apply for internships. A good adviser should be able to direct you to websites that list internship opportunities based on your interests and areas and may even have a few personal connections to share with you.
There are also international intern opportunities like the Young Africa Leadership Initiative where you can learn valuable experience and take classes while gaining real world experience. If this is something you’re interested in, ask your college adviser about how to integrate such an experience into your education.
If your college or university has a career center, pay a visit and have your resume critiqued. A strong resume is vital to landing a good internship. If you’ve recently graduated, some internships may still be available to you. Such internships may even pay or offer a small stipend. Keep your eyes out for good internships on job forums and LinkedIn.
Join Twitter. Twitter is a social media platform used heavily by politicians. If you want a career in politics, it’s important that you have a Twitter account. Many politicians use Twitter to make political statements and interact with voters.
Following a politician you admire on Twitter might allow you to interact with that person without having actually met him or her. Forming connections on Twitter is a new form of networking. As Twitter is such an important marketing tool for politicians, potential employees may ask for your Twitter handle on a job application. It’s important to maintain a clean, profanity free Twitter page and post appropriate content. Good content for a political job would include tweeting about issues important to you and sharing news articles, op-eds, and essays about current events and politics.
Learn about the different political career paths:
Once you’ve gained some experience in the field, familiarize yourself with a variety of different political career paths. Paid positions for those starting out in politics include the following: Campaign staffers manage political campaigns and perform duties like writing speeches, conducting research, preparing candidates for public speaking events, forming media strategies, and supervising volunteers.
Field representatives are staff members that work in district offices monitoring meetings, coordinating events, and acting as a liaison between city, council, and district officials. You will be the voice of a politician or organization as a field representative, so it’s important to have excellent communication skills.
Legislative aides are aides assigned to cover specific issues or areas for a politician or political party. You will write memos and press releases, meet with lobbyists to discuss the issues you’re assigned to, and track legislation. This job is research and analysis heavy.
Legislative corespondents work mostly in the media. You would manage all media, such as press releases, op-eds, speeches, and newsletters, related to a candidate or political party.
Run for local office. Getting some kind of position in a local office is a great way to kickstart a political career. While you will likely not land a position in the state senate the moment you graduate college, something small like being on local government legislative council can help with a resume when you begin looking for jobs.
Getting your name on the ballot is a topic for another day. Meanwhile, you must know that the rules for political parties and also for campaigning are very important factors to be familiar with. Figuring out how to do so is where you’ll put the research skills you’ve developed over the years to test. Carefully consider the position you want to run for, based on your career goals. Prepare for a lot of time and money. Running a campaign is timely and costly, but can be worth it as being an elected official is a great stepping stone for a political career. You may need to do a great deal of fundraising in order to successfully launch a campaign, so plan well ahead of time. Clean up your social media and be aware of any potentially damaging information about yourself. Even minor infractions, like getting caught drinking underage, can come up in a campaign, especially if it’s competitive. Be prepared to address any issues that might upset your voters and supporters.
Land an entry-level job. Politics is a competitive field. It might be hard to find that first job, but there are things you can do to increase your likelihood of getting hired. Start a professional blog. In an increasingly digital world, having a blog you can link prospective employers to that you update regularly is a huge plus. You don’t have to have a huge following. Just show employees you’re a self starter who’s committed to the field of politics.
You can include your opinions on different political causes, link to relevant articles, and respond to current events. Be specific about what you want. Oftentimes, a resume includes too much experience and is not focused in on one area. If you want to work in political journalism, stock your resume with any experience related to writing, copy editing, and communications. Leave out campaign work or put it towards the bottom under “additional experience.” Use your alumni status. If you graduated from, say, #PLATEAU STATE UNIVERSITY BOKKOS, UNIVERSITY OF JOS, find PLASU Alumni organizations or Uni Jos Alumni organization. People who automatically know and respect your educational background are more likely to give you a chance that someone who went to a school in a different part of the country.
Go back to old connections. If you volunteered at a grass roots organization throughout college, contact them. Even if they’re not hiring at the moment, they could keep your resume on file and call you back later. They also might know similar organizations that could use someone with your skill set.
Be prepared to move:
Politics is a dynamic field and if you’re serious about working in the industry, you need to prepare to move around if necessary. If you want a higher paying job, you may have to switch locations. Jos is the primary location if you want to work in Plateau politics. If you want to rise in ranks, start saving money to move to Abuja as you gain experience in the local political scene. You might also have to relocate frequently if you get a campaign job.
Oftentimes, working on a political campaign means following a candidate from place to place. You might have to change locations every few months, which means you’ll have to make certain sacrifices. It can be hard to keep do certain things and having a spouse, or a significant other who would like to have you around can be difficult during campaign years.
Nungkop Mishael Salamu
SPECTRUM Political Consultancy