As people involved in politics, we all admire those whose political career has risen far and fast. Whether they are politicians who have risen from city council to governor in a decade, or a political staffer who is named chief of staff after three years on the job, these ambitious go-getters capture our attention and give us pause to reflect on our own careers.
It’s not just people who rise through the ranks that get our attention, either. It’s also (and maybe even more so) those who go out on a limb and start their own campaign, organization, group, or firm, refusing to go through the paces and “put in their time,” who know what they want and reach out to get it on their own, regardless of what anyone else may say.
These people, whether they rise through the political ranks quickly or eschew them all together by going out on their own, truly are entrepreneurs – political entrepreneurs. Like their namesakes in business, these political entrepreneurs have demonstrated that they have what it takes to get things done, to set their own rules and organize their own empires.
Too often, we in politics are too complacent, too ready to rest on our laurels and enjoy our job as a political appointee or our position as vice-chairman of the local party organization. Too often we stop being political entrepreneurs, stop reaching for the next level. It’s not too late to get started again, to reach for that brass ring and take control of your own political destiny. It’s never too late to start being a political entrepreneur:
1. Everything that happens depends on you.
True political entrepreneurs realize that only be taking responsibility for their careers and surging forward on their own will they ever reach their goals. Like entrepreneurs in the business world, they realize that working for someone else isn’t the best way to get ahead. The most successful candidates, campaign managers, consultants and staffers take charge of their own careers.
Of course, if you’re on a political staff and looking to move higher within that organization, you are always working for someone else – but that doesn’t mean you have to let your boss limit how high you climb. Take responsibility for your own vocation and press forward.
2. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.
Do you have a career plan? Do you know where you want to be in 10 years? 5 years? Do you know how you are going to get there? What are your top goals? Your top values? If you’re in the state legislature and want to have a greater impact on your pet issues, how will you go about it? If you are on a political staff but want to see a certain situation addressed, how will you do it?
Without a plan, your political career is just a shot in the dark. Entrepreneurs realize that they have to plan where they are going and how they are going to get there. Sure, your plan may be fluid, but at least it’s there. Start planning now, and you’ll be miles ahead of most people in politics, whose only plan is to “see what happens next.”
3. Start doing it, even if you’re not doing it perfectly.
Most people who have a plan wait to implement that plan until they are sure they can do it perfectly – until everything is just right, all the pieces are in place, and they are assured of success. In many cases, that assurance never comes, and the plan never gets acted on. For others, waiting means missing opportunities over and over again before finally acting on one. If you’re going to do it, you can’t wait.
Political entrepreneurs know that they are going to make mistakes. They know that they may fall on their faces. But they also believe in what they are doing. They know that what they are doing is worth pursuing, even if it means failing a few times before getting it right. They are persistent and follow the old saying, “if at first you don’t succeed….” If you want it to happen, you have to make it happen, and you have to start now.
Print out this article. Read these three keys every time you think about your career. Above all, remember to think big, take responsibility for your own career, then get started with your plan. You too can be a political entrepreneur!