How to Get Into Politics

Five Ways to Start Your Political Career

Campaigning for Office
Every campaign - whether it be for your local school board on up to legislature or Congress - needs hard workers. Getty Creative

So you want to get into politics. You've been bitten by the politics bug. Maybe you're considering a run for the town council, perhaps weighing whether to launch a campaign for elected office in your community, maybe even Congress. What do you need to know first?

Here are some helpful tips for how to get into politics.

1. Volunteer for a Campaign

Every campaign — whether it be for your local school board on up to legislature or Congress — needs hard workers.

If you want to get an idea of how politics really work, walk into any campaign headquarters and offer to help out.

See also: Find a Government Job

You'll likely be asked to do what appears to be menial work at first, things like helping to register new voters or making phone calls on behalf of a candidate. But if you do the job well, you'll be given more responsibilities a a more visible role in the campaign.

2. Join the Party

Getting into politics, in a lot of ways, really is about who you know, not what you know. And an easy way to get to know important people is to join or run for a seat on your local party committee, whether it's the Republicans or Democrats or some third party.

See Also: How Congress Works

Precinct or ward leaders are the rank-and-file of any political party and are among the most important players in the political process. Their responsibilities include turning out the vote for the party's preferred candidates in primaries and general elections, and screening potential candidates for local offices.

3. Contribute Money

It's no secret in politics that money buys access. In an ideal world that wouldn't be the case. But donors often have the ear of their favorite candidate. The more money they give the more access they get. And the more access they get the more influence they might have over policy.

So what can you do? Contribute to a political candidate of your choice in the community. Even if it's just a $20 bill, the candidate will notice and make it a point to acknowledge your help in the campaign. That's a good start. You can also start your own political-action committee or super PAC to support candidates of your choice.

4. Pay Attention

Read your local newspaper. Find good local bloggers. Stay current on the issues. You'll want to be able to speak knowledgeably about them when the time comes. If there's a particular problem in your town, think about solutions.

5. Start Local and Get Involved

Get involved in your community. Go to meetings. Find out what the job is about. Network with activists. Find out what the issues are. Build coalitions dedicate to changing and improving your town.

A good place to start is attending your weekly or monthly school board meetings. Public education and school funding are important issues in every community in the United States. Join the conversation.

6. Run for Office. Finally.

Start small. Run for a seat on your local school board or town council. As onetime U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local."

Most politicians who go on to serve as governors, congressmen or president started their political careers at the local level.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, started out as a freeholder, an county-level elected office. The same goes for Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic Party who might run for governor in 2013 and is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in the 2016 election.

You'll want to pick a team of advisers who will offer advice and stick by you through the process. And you'll want to prepare yourself and your family for the intense new scrutiny you'll be getting from the media, other candidates and campaign workers who perform "opposition research" on you.