To be a politician is to hold immense power in one’s hand as politicians inform decision-making at the community, state, national and international levels. While there are no degree requirements to be a politician, people with good public speaking, negotiation and people’s skills often emerge as winners in the race. Being a politician or a career in politics is not only limited to contesting elections, it provides a number of opportunities in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Roles may range from working in Political Action Committees (PACs), lobbying organizations to working in non-governmental organizations, election campaigns and thinktanks.
In India, we need much more in terms of education and training in politics, since, the leadership that politicians hold affect the population at large. As a country, we are focused on technical and professional courses in fields like engineering, management, law, medicine, pharmacy, producing skilled professionals. A look at the present scenario indicates a critical need to have good leadership and leaders with skills, knowledge and education in areas of public relations, foreign policy, international relations, constituency development, the constitution, public policy and many more.
Many people join the field to serve the community at large and a good way to start is by exploring your own values and aligning them with that of a particular party. You may work as an intern/volunteer for the party, join like-minded campaigns and other organizations. By joining campaigns and volunteering, you may start working at the grass-root levels, gaining practical skills and an understanding of how the field works. On the other hand, many people interested in the field often pursue political science and other related courses.
In colleges and universities, many interested students start joining the student bodies of political parties like NSUI and ABVP. Many universities like Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Jamia Milia Islamia, and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) encourage students to participate in political activities and many of these students may later be recruited by different political parties, depending on their ideologies and values. To hone the essential skills of public speaking, charisma, problem-solving and critical thinking, and understanding national and foreign policy, students may start participating in Model United Nations (MUNs), debating among many other co-curricular activities.
Top Careers in Politics
1. Legislative Aide
This may be classified as an entry-level job and is useful for students who want to pursue a career in politics. The main role is that of communication and research; legislative aides may work directly on legislation or help with administration and communication. They may research on particular issues such as immigration or wider areas prevalent in the area. They also keep the legislator updated on reforms in current bills, new bills and documentation.
2. Communications Coordinator
A job perfect for people who are good with writing, expression and eager to get their word out, communications coordinators may help politicians, organizations and parties with communications, preparing speeches, press releases, social media handling, and media and public relations.
3. Policy Analyst
A job with scope for growth, the job profile includes research and analysis. A policy analyst should have essential skills of data collection, analysis, communication and writing. Those who are detail-oriented and vivid readers often succeed in the role. Policy analysis involves researching about a proposed or existing policy, conducting surveys to know people’s opinions, analysing this data and informing back legislators, candidates and organizations.
While lobbyists primarily work with candidates, political organizations and parties, they may take independent clients and be recruited by organizations that are affected by legislative outcomes. The job profile includes convincing elected officials to vote for or against a policy/bill depending on whether it favours their client or is not desirable for them. Hence, lobbyists need to have excellent communication, negotiation and persuasive skills.
5. Political Consultant
This title requires experience and hence, many people start by working on a single campaign, perhaps as a volunteer for the candidate or party. Once they hone the skills and gain expertise, the role attracts a high pay. Political consultants help candidates prepare for elections by strategizing and planning about the campaign, voter outreach and execution.
Were you good with statistics and numbers in school? If yes, you may wish to consider a career as a pollster. The job role is to study a campaign and measure its effectiveness by analysing the views of voters about the candidate and the issues discussed. Pollsters gather information through a number of tools like surveys, evaluate responses and analyse them. The results are then presented in the form of graphs and illustrations easy to understand and comprehend by their clients.
7. Campaign Manager
Campaign managers are the frontmen in any election campaign and play multiple roles in planning, strategizing about and executing a successful campaign. Their responsibilities include logistics, hiring and managing staff, technology, budgeting and communication.
8. Media Strategist
Often hired by elected officials, media strategists are an important component of public relations and campaigning. They help with the promotion of the elected candidates and with issues that may arise during the campaign. The role is to manage advertising, maintain relations with media, strategizing and implementing social media, radio, online, print, in-person and television campaigns for the official.
While there are no degree requirements or entrance tests to be a politician or work in politics, widespread knowledge and multiple skills are needed to succeed. Students may start honing these skills and working at the grassroot levels for experience during their graduation and post-graduation years. Politics not only offers a career limited to being a politician but extend various opportunities in policy-making, execution, research and communication.
Recommended Read: Driving Change from Within: How to Build a Career in the Indian Politics
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