Have you ever heard of the great institution of the DMV? You probably have, even if you might be able to recall it right away. I’m sure you have seen a sketch about them in a US comedy series or movie. The DMV, or Department of Motor Vehicles is usually portrayed as the epitome of everything that is bad in the public sector. They are slow, bureaucratic, and extremely inefficient, people are in their jobs without proper qualifications or due to nepotism, and it’s basically impossible to get anything done. All in all, they are being shown as the primary example of why working in the public sector is bad, and people who spend too much time there, just simply adapt to their ways too much. Now I’m not saying that every person who works or worked at the DMV would be unqualified, or unfit for their role, far from it. I’m not even American, so I never came across them in real life. But I just want to use their very negative image, the way they are portrayed, as an analogy of how the public sector is being viewed from the outside by many, and why you might not want to get stuck in that world. In fact, you should very actively encourage your staff and your people to get as much experience as possible in other areas of professional life.
Public or private, all organizations should aim at trying to become the most efficient and effective version of themselves. This is not speaking of their goals, as I strongly believe that a public company or a political party should not only focus on efficiencies when setting their objectives, but I rather mean their ways of working. Why is that? Because resources are scarce, whether it is about money or human resources, and by maximizing what is available and at your disposal, you can actually get closer to achieving your primary goals. And if one thing businesses are (or should be) good at is maximizing profit. This naturally brings about efficiency and effectiveness. Having worked in both the public and private sectors myself, this is the greatest difference in human mindset that I witnessed during my professional years. And that is something that I believe a political party should really capitalize on, by bringing a way of working that puts: merit over patronage, track record over nepotism, performance over blind loyalty. And to achieve this you really need people who did see ways of working that are not based on the historical structures of the public sector.
Other than the possibility of acquiring a certain work mindset, getting experience in the private/corporate world can bring about many other benefits. Two main things I would highlight, are 1: effective communication and negotiation skills, and 2: the chance to build a network that can benefit you and your political party in the long run.
The corporate world can be ruthless. Sometimes even more ruthless than the political one. Profit does come first in most cases, and there aren’t elected leaders, or the chance to always have your vote cast at the convention of your party if you don’t like the way things are going. You might not even be able to have such clear access to your leaders, many times simply due to geographical distances (especially in multinational corporations). That is why one must learn and exercise assertive and effective communication and learn how to negotiate persuasively if one wishes to get ahead. Also because of the fact that people are not elected for their positions, but chosen based on merit and past performance, one learns how to showcase their positives, be less afraid to present themselves, and be more open to speak up and challenge leaders. Especially when they see their own or their team’s performance declining or in jeopardy. These are very important soft skills, that should be part of every political party’s internal culture as well.
I believe I don’t need to explain too much the importance of networking and connections to anyone wishing to make a career in politics. That being said, however, it’s important to diversify these connections and to have a professional network that includes people from all walks of life. Some people might think, this is only because they can utilize this network later to call in for favors… which of course, is not only illegal in some cases, but completely missing the point of the power of a politician’s network. The best and most successful politicians and political parties are usually there where they are because they feel the “beats”, the “vibrations” of their base- They resonate with them on multiple levels and are able to change course in messaging or in actual actions accordingly if needed. A vast network can provide a politician, or a political party with many natural channels of input which can prove to be incredibly valuable in many situations. This is not to discard, of course, the power of real hard data, which I believe should be the base of any political strategy and decision. However, having a strong connection to “the people”, and being able to channel their feedback into your everyday decision-making can make you become later not only a wise but also a popular leader as well.
Effective, efficient, capable, a great communicator, and well-connected. These are the traits of any great candidate, may that be for a job in the corporate world or when running for office. And building a party where your staff and people have actual first-hand experience from the business world, as well as the public sector, will allow you to become not the DMV, but the Google or Apple of political parties!