If you want to make a real contribution to society or even just your local community, then politics could be right up your street, so to speak. However, it can also be stressful, competitive and extremely difficult to progress, especially if your long term goal is a seat in parliament.
Starting out in politics
A career in British politics for most means beginning at the very bottom. Moving up through the ranks requires perseverance and some very hard work, mostly unpaid. Getting into UK politics means starting your career as a part-time occupation, usually doing long hours, supplemented by a full time job that may have very little relevance to your political aspirations.
While one good way to get started is by becoming involved in local issues, obviously a degree in politics will help if you’re serious about going further. The majority of elected MP’s are graduates, many from prestigious universities. If you later discover that a career in politics isn’t for you, then a political degree can take you in other directions, such as journalism, social/political research or even HR and marketing.
But, mostly, when it comes to politics, getting ahead is more about experience and who you know, much more than qualifications. However, if you do study politics at university, one very useful way of gaining relevant experience is by running for office within the Student Union.
Getting experience in politics
Otherwise, gaining initial experience won’t be easy. Try volunteering for work with a charitable body or local MP, but don’t make blanket applications. Make sure you’re able to align your interests and concerns with those of the organisations or politicians you apply to. This will be vital when it comes to a potential interview scenario. Before an interview, think about ways how your experience might add value to the cause. Politics is one career choice where you really will need to spend a lot of time focusing on your cover letter and tailoring your CV. A generic CV will not get your foot in the door.
Moving up in the world of politics
Working for an MP is the ideal way to gain experience, but you can expect to spend years in ancillary and local roles before getting a break at national level. Many people underestimate how difficult it is to get elected for a seat, even in a local election. Many candidates are nominated only to campaign tirelessly year after year, yet are never elected.
However, a career in British politics has other options. From lobbying and communications, journalism to research, academia to strategy, being an MP isn’t the only role for those interested in UK politics. There are a host of other related jobs. You could be a civil servant, policy analyst, diplomat, security specialist, economist, public relations specialist, lawyer or campaign manager.
Be forewarned: a career in politics doesn’t happen overnight, and you’ll need to be prepared for a lot of setbacks and disappointment along the way. The key is determination and to remain passionate about your causes.
In the meantime, for jobs that could give you the initial experience you need for a career in British politics or a related industry, try a search on Zoek.
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