Sacia B and Hugh T speak to Maria A while campaigning for the Greens in Canada.
I recently interviewed 4 people who work in government, the civil service, and political parties in the UK. Here is a synthesis of the steps they consider most useful for starting a career in politics.
Net-work to get-work. Go to as many political and think tank events as you can. Talk to people. Ask advice. Make friends.
Copy your heroes. Read biographies of people whose careers/impact you’d like to emulate. Copy what they did.
Be there. Physically spend time in the places you’d like to end up. That means visiting Parliament (you can sit and watch the Commons and Lords, and attend select committees). Have a drink at the Red Lion pub, where MPs and researchers hang out. Attend the annual Party Conference of your Party.
Enter the meme-space of the political class. Listen to the Radio 4 Today Programme every morning. (Have a break at weekends). How would you answer the interviewer’s questions? What questions would you ask? Watch Newsnight in the evening.
Apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream. It’s an amazing, underrated and potentially high-impact career. The assessment process in itself is good practice, and you’ll meet some cool people if you get through to the assessment center. If you don’t get in first time, keep trying.
Organise a meeting with your local MP. Ask them for career advice.
Hit the streets. Deliver leaflets and canvass for your local Party – they always welcome new volunteers.
Do an internship. Apply for roles from the Working For an MP website. Write a bespoke cover letter for each application.
Read this book. Politico’s Guide to Careers in Politics and Government by Sally Gillman. It’s excellent.
Keep trying. If you don’t rapidly get the job you want, don’t give up. Keep trying because it can take a while to get there.