Women Use Political Skills as Stepping Stone to Career Success
Women can use political skills to advance themselves in the job market as well as in public office, according to George Dean and Ann Sheffer, co-chairs of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale – WCS.
Each June the school offers a five-day intensive training program for women running for political office and women who manage candidates’ campaigns, but “the skills they learn can be invaluable for careers in business or non-profit sectors,” Dean says. This year’s program will be held June 17-21 at Yale University.
Julie Belaga is an example of a woman who has moved successfully from public to private sector. A founding member of WCS, Belaga began her two-decade political career with election to the Westport, Conn., Representative Town Meeting. She served 10 years in the General Assembly, worked for environmental organizations and ran unsuccessfully for governor. She was appointed by President Clinton as chief executive officer of the Export-Import Bank in Washington, D.C.
Another example is Pauline Kezer of Plainville, Conn. After a stint in the state legislature, she served as Connecticut’s secretary of state from 1990 to 1994. From there, she became CEO of the Hartford Ballet, and is currently assistant treasurer of the state. Kezer believes strongly that “the skills you learn through politics are readily transferable to other jobs. The management experience I got in the executive branch enhanced my marketplace appeal for the private sector CEO job,” she says. “The people skills, organizing skills and networks formed through political training are essential tools for life.”
Marilyn Faust, a Larchmont, N.Y., attorney, was active in the Republican party from the time she was in college. Her interest continued after she graduated, married and had children. The exposure she got while running for town council in Larchmont gave her such visibility and credibility that, when she hung out her shingle as a lawyer, clients flocked to her door. Furthermore, shaking all those hands and going to all those events built her confidence and trained her to network.
What these women have in common is that they, like thousands of others, catapulted themselves to success by mastering political skills, Dean says.
According to WCS founder Andree Brooks, “Politics became not just a pursuit for its own ends – the chance to make a difference – but a means by which to propel them ahead.”
Tips for Embarking on the Political Path to Career Success
How can more women follow this path to success? Brooks outlines some steps anyone can take to embark upon a career in politics:
1. Speak to people who currently hold posts similar to the one you might like. Find out how much time and energy it takes to serve in that office and what it took to get there. Then ask yourself: How much can this position truly help me get ahead? What kind of contacts are best courted to help realize my long-term objectives?
2. Attend a meeting of your local party’s town or district committee. See what makes someone an attractive candidate. Offer to raise money for the party and/or candidate. Anyone who can raise money gains the attention of party leaders. It is the automatic door-opener of politics.
3. Begin working on name recognition. Are you sufficiently known in your community? Do you belong to any area groups that might give you political support or help you raise funds: the local Bar Association, PTA, religious group, cultural organization? Join. Attend public meetings. Speak up on issues important to you. Write letters to the local papers.
4. Start planning. Learn how to run a political campaign. Develop a group of friends and associates who might serve on a campaign team. Decisions to enter a local race may be made only a few months before the upcoming elections. Be ready, so when opportunity strikes, you won’t decline to jump in because you are unprepared.
Learning How to Run a Political Campaign
For women thinking about running for office this year, the time is right to get that training. The Women’s Campaign School is currently accepting applications for its annual training program.
All elements of the WCS curriculum are applicable for seeking public office or a private sector job:
– Public speaking
– Polling and research
– Image creation
– Media relations
– Writing a campaign plan
– Campaign ethics
Tuition is $750, and some scholarship funds are still available. The program includes lectures, seminars, role-playing workshops, mock campaigns and case studies, as well as the opportunity to meet and learn from women already involved in politics.
WCS is jointly sponsored by the Yale Law School and Women’s Studies program at Yale University. It is a non-profit corporation, offering a non-partisan, non-issue based training program. All three Congresswomen from Connecticut – Rosa DeLauro, Nancy L. Johnson, and Barbara Kennelly – serve on its board of directors.