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So, You Want to Be a Politician?

February 1, 2016 7:02 AM | Columns

By Barbara Bowes

Manitoba Legislature Chamber

The Manitoba legislature chamber, shown on Wednesday Jan. 6, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert)

With all the career changes occurring amongst the current flock of Manitoba politicians, many individuals have seriously considered the allure of political life. Yes, being an MLA and/or the Minister of a department has its appeal but how do you get there and, are you really prepared for it?

As someone who once fell for this allure and personally ran for nomination, the first thing I can tell you is that it’s a dynamic process often full of conflict. Nomination means selling party memberships and then getting them out to vote! Be prepared for behind the scenes maneuvers from competitors and strategies to prevent your success. I ran at a time when there were few women and believe me, I quickly learned who my friends really were.

At the same time, winning a nomination is only step two of this challenging career ladder. Next, you need to convince enough constituency voters you are the right person for the job. Then, once elected, you’ll find the job of MLA means putting aside personal interests and addressing community needs through the skills of speaking, lobbying, advocating, negotiating, strategizing and resolving conflict at every turn.

It means keeping a strong and visible public face through attendance and support at local events. You’ll endure multiple, long and exhausting meetings. As well, for newly elected members, the legislative process is complex and confusing. Finally, in many cases, being an elected official also means your own family needs are often set aside to address the needs of the larger good.

So, when you are thinking about running as a candidate, take off the golden glow and allure of the job and seriously think about the lifestyle change it requires. Do you have the skills, the patience, and the stamina? Do you really know what you are getting into?

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Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group, an author and professional speaker. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.