Roadmapping Your Path to Elected Office

By Sofia Pereira
March 15, 2018

 

Jess Weiner, She Should Run Board Member

Every woman will have a unique path to elected office and She Should Run is committed to helping you find yours. Whether you want to run in one year, in the next five years, or by 2030, we’ve outlined some ways to start charting out your path.

1. You definitely should run!

The first step on this journey is to say to yourself, “I want to run for office” - even if it’s not right away. Maybe a friend or family member asked you to run or maybe you nominated yourself with She Should Run’s Ask a Woman to Runtool. Regardless of how you got to this place, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate the possibility of serving in elected office and the exciting journey that can lead you there. Know another woman who would be a great elected leader? Ask her to run nowso you can support each other on this path.

2. Get clear on your WHY

Now that you are committed to exploring a run for office, you’ll need to clarify your vision (i.e., your “WHY”) for running for office. What are the issues that motivate you to run? What are the underlying values that drive you to make a difference? As the foundation for your run, your vision should be clear and compelling so that others will be moved to join you on the campaign trail.

Pro tip: Need help getting started? Join the Incubatorand use Cultivating Leadership, Lesson 1to help you write out your first vision statement.

3. Silence your inner critic

One of the biggest critics you may face on this journey is yourself. Now’s the time to value your experiences, your qualifications, and what you have to offer in public service. Having a supportive community can help you to get some perspective on all that you have to offer. So call on your personal support network to give you feedback on your leadership style, and if you’re in the Incubator, join the She Should Run Incubator Facebook groupto receive support and encouragement from other women on this journey. Internal barriers like imposter syndrome may pop up, and you have what you need to overcome them.

4. Build your network

Networking sounds challenging, but it’s really just about relationships. Do you have a friend? Guess what, you have a network! Joking aside, it’s worthwhile to think about who’s in your network and map it out. Make sure to include coworkers, friends, family, neighbors, and even acquaintances. Once you map it out, you’ll often find your network is way bigger than you imagined.

Pro tip:In the She Should Run Incubator, use Building Networks, Lesson 1to help you map your network so you can find the gaps and opportunities to strengthen your connections in your community. And don’t forget to join the Incubatorfirst to access the She Should Run Incubator Facebook groupas a way to build your ever-growing network!

5. Find your voice

Communication skills are essential to running for office. But communication is not just about trying to give rousing speeches like Senators Lisa Murkowski or Kamala Harris. The most important thing you can communicate to the public is who you are. This means developing your story and your voicewhich will make it easier to cultivate an authentic presentationstyle. Our stories are what help us to connect to potential voters.

6. Amplify your voice

As you lay the groundwork for a future run, getting more comfortable with having your voice heard in the public forum will prepare you for your candidacy. Practice speaking up at city council meetings or on social media; write letters to the editor or opinion pieces for your local newspaper. Lastly, in this current political climate, it seems easier to talk ateach other than to listen. Practice listening as an essential skillthat will prepare you not only to be a great candidate, but a great elected official.

7. Identify the office(s) you want to run for

With over 500,000 elected offices across the country, you got some narrowing down to do! You can do some research online or contact your local elections office. Below are some questions to help guide you in your decision-making process:

  • What offices are available to run for based on where you live, and are there any age or residency requirements?
  • Which elected offices interest you most? Why?
  • Who holds those positions? Are there term limits? Will the incumbent be running? Who else may run?

Remember, the higher the office, the more lead time you may need to prepare, so it’s important to start thinking about it sooner rather than later.

8. Map out the political landscape

Once you’ve identified some potential offices to run for, it’s good to review the local political landscape and map out your next steps. Below are some questions to help you better understand the local politics in your community. If you can’t answer these questions on your own, work with a trusted and supportive ally to get more information:

  • What are the demographics for the district/community the elected office represents?
  • Who are the influential people and organizations? Do you align with any of them?
  • How involved are the local political parties? Do you need to strengthen ties with them?

9. Take action

Once you’ve outlined the issues you care about - what makes you a unique leader - your network and the office you may want to run for - it’s time for action! Some Incubator members volunteer on a campaign to better understand the campaign process. Others join a local government committee or board to build up their local government chops. While you get more involved in your community, you may want to look at local organizations and resources that can further prepare you as a leader and candidate in your community.

Pro tip:She Should Run created Pinpoint, an interactive tool that allows you to find and share valuable educational resources that focus on running and serving in elected office. With Pinpoint, you can find the support and tools you need right in your backyard, making a step towards running that much easier. Create your account today.

10. Ask for support

Running for office is a team sport. Don’t ever feel like you have to do this alone. Talk to your family and friends first to gain their support and encouragement. Identify who from your network can be an early supporter and help you build up your experience in the community or your campaign plan. Find an elected official, political party leader, or influential community member to be your mentor. Start to build your “kitchen cabinet” - a group of trusted allies who can help you navigate the campaign. These are just some ways you can bring others along the journey you’ve mapped out for yourself.

We each have a unique path to elected leadership and a unique story to share. Have you started your journey already? We want to know! Share your storywith She Should Run.

 

Views reflected by those featured in our content do not necessarily reflect the views of She Should Run. As you know, She Should Run is a nonpartisan organization. However, some of our guest contributors (and readers) may not be. That is totally okay! It means we’re all human. She Should Run is committed to celebrating the diversity of backgrounds in our community and lifting up the voices of all women.

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