The key to a career in politics ... internships, internships, internships!
A career in politics is dynamic and high stress. In order to get your foot in the door, you have to prove you can thrive in this type of environment. An internship is the best way to prove this; therefore, internships are the most common career starter for politicians.
Interns are often unpaid. Duties include preparing daily press clips, answering phones, opening mail, running errands, sending out mailers and staffing campaign events. Interns work long hours on sometimes tedious work; however, once you've proven yourself, you'll likely get more substantial assignments. Persistence eventually pays off, because when you have proven that you are willing to work hard as a part of the team your reputation will help open doors for you.
After paying your dues as an intern, you may look to find a paying entry-level political position.
Legislative Aides can be assigned a number of specific issues. They will meet with constituents and other interested parties regarding these issues, track legislation, and basically become an expert on the issues).
Field Representatives are the elected official's personal staff. The representatives work out of the district offices organizing events, monitoring district meetings, and acting as liaisons to city, county and district officials.
Legislative Correspondents work for the Communications Director or Press Secretary who provides media and public relations support to the elected official. Communications include news releases, feature stories, press letters, brochures and newsletters.
Campaign Staffers are involved in the day-to-day management of campaigns. They write speeches, coach candidates for debates, conduct research and implement media strategies. They also supervise the volunteers.
Other opportunities such as working for the national party committees, state or even local committees are also ways to be involved politically. Others choose to work for lobbying firms, state or national organizations (CUNA is an example for credit unions) or even advocacy organizations or political think tanks. Some people choose to never run for office but rather to become political strategists or heads of important lobbying firms.
Whatever path in politics you might choose to pursue, be prepared for long hours and low pay at the beginning. Education is also important to move forward in politics. Becoming an aide to a representative or senator means one will do research and meet constituents in order to fully brief the representative or senator on important legislative issues.
Always remember the saying: "It's not what you know but who you know that is important" is never so true as it is in the political world. No matter how you choose to be involved in our democratic process, don't forget how lucky we are as Americans to have this opportunity.