Do you often wish you could effect more change in the world?
Do you have a passion for getting involved in your community? Have people heard you speak and told you, "you should go into politics"?
Politics is a lifelong ambition for many, ever since they ran for class president or trounced an opponent in their high school debate club. But real-world politics can be brutal, cutthroat, and full of compromise. Not everyone has the right character for it.
So how do you know if a career in politics is a wise career path?
You want to bring positive change to your country. While some think of politics as somehow disconnected from reality or daily life, the truth is, politics is intensely personal. For a country to move forward, its people must take responsibility for its future. To have a successful career in politics, you should be passionate about changing your country, and your society, for the better -- to rise above self-interest and work to improve the lives of others.
You're tenacious. Politics is not for the faint of heart. Not only does it require determination and resilience to work your way up to occupying public office -- it also takes that same determination once you get there, to maintain your moral principles while still accepting the compromises necessary to make policy that works. Politics is not for those who give up easily.
You have good negotiation skills. Speaking of compromise -- as a politician, you'll find yourself negotiating with members of the opposing party, the private sector, the international community, and many others. Negotiation is sometimes jokingly referred to as "the art of letting others have your way." In a country that's increasingly more polarized, the ability to de-escalate and find common ground is critical.
You're a hard worker. Politics is not your typical nine-to-five job, where you clock out promptly and can forget all about it until the weekend is over. Politicians regularly work long hours, weekends, over holidays, and whenever they're needed. Political figures are expected to be present during emergencies or crisis situations. It's a job that will likely take over your life, for good or ill.
You're too sensitive. Politicians frequently come under attack: from critics, from constituents, even from members of their own party at times. If you're thin-skinned in any way, a political career might not be the best choice. A politician must be able to weather criticisms and accusations with calm, tact, and grace. Depending on your circumstances, even a mild outburst on social media can require significant damage control
You value your privacy. To take public office is, in many ways, to give up what you previously thought of as your private life. Not only do politicians become public figures whose every public action may be open to scrutiny and even misrepresentation, but private events from your past could also be unearthed and used against you during elections -- or at almost any other time. A career politician must be prepared to have their life come under the spotlight for the duration of their career.
You don't have patience for bureaucracy. As the saying goes, the wheels of politics grind very slowly. Making those changes you want to see in the world isn't an instantaneous process by any measure. Making decisions and passing laws will take lots of time, paperwork, and overcoming legislative hurdles, as well as resistance from opponents of your policy. Some politicians work at their chosen cause for years -- or even decades -- before they manage to make much headway. This is another example of a political career requiring lots of tenacity -- you must expect to meet with bureaucracy, delays, and frequent frustration as you work toward your political goals.
You're too aggressive. While it's important to stand your ground on issues or champion a cause, you must also be cautious not to be too aggressive in your approach, lest you not only put off undecided constituents, but even those on your side who feel you're pushing too hard. Policies take time to develop, and societal change often moves slowly. Politicians who are agreeable and not overly aggressive or radical tend to have more success.
The good news is, if you don't think politics is for you, there are still other positions you can take in the government. Government offices need all types of staff, from admin clerks to drivers to skilled speechwriters.
If you do want to pursue public office, but dislike the limelight that might come with it, you might also consider working at the local government level, where politicians tend to come under less scrutiny.