I was very inspired by a recent Claire Zillman article in Fortune about the mayor of Sonoma, California. Partly, I was inspired because I believe it is good for our civic life when more women – across all sides of the political spectrum – run for and serve in public office.
But Rachel Hundley also inspires me because hers is a wonderful reinvention story. And, a story of diving in – not knowing what you are doing, not waiting to get permission, not being sure if it will really work out.
If you are a woman on a break from your career and looking for a way back in, consider a run for public office. Think I’m nuts? Consider these advantages:
- You don’t have to quit your job to do it. That’s not to say you aren’t busy and wouldn’t need to re-arrange a lot. But many people who aren’t already in politics hesitate to give up a stable job to run for office. If you are involved in volunteer work already consider if you can shift some of that time to an endeavor that might ultimately have a bigger impact.
- Even if you lose, you’ll gain valuable skills that will bolster your resume. Running for office involves organizing supporters, raising money, drafting and giving speeches, creating marketing materials and much more. These are all very valuable skills – in both the public and the private sector.
- You will expand your network. Running for office literally requires shaking hands. You will meet donors, supporters, constituents. Again, even if you lose you will have built a network of people who can potentially lead you to a job.
- You might win! You notice I kept talking about the advantages you’ll garner even if you lose. I did that because I think many women focus on the negatives of failure and worry about wasted effort. But there is the very real possibility that you will win! In fact, when women run they win as often as men do. And if you win you will have, you guessed it, a job. Depending on the office it may not pay much, but many of the positions are part time and some include benefits. You can use that position as a platform to run for a bigger office, of course. But you can also decide at the end of your term to resume your private sector job search. But now you have a really great set of new skills and experiences to sell to a potential employer.
Remember, you don’t need experience to run for office. The entire point of our system is government by the people and for the people. Your business experience combined with what you know about education and your community gives you a valuable perspective on the issues your community faces. And you also don’t need much money. Everyone focuses on the millions of dollars it takes to run for President or state-wide offices. But Hundley was able to win her City Council seat in Sonoma by raising just $5,500.
The good news is there are lots of great resources for training and support on how to run for office. Check these out:
She Should Run: A non-partisan organization on a mission to train women on how to run for office.
VoteRunLead: As the name implies this organization focuses on getting out women to vote, supporting them in running for office and supporting women’s political leadership. They also hold training and events on how to run for office.
Politics may not be your thing. But if you’ve ever thought “I could do better than these chuckleheads” (and, who hasn’t?) consider taking the dive. You’ll never know if you could until you do.