Architects of victory: Do you have the chops to become a political aide?
Behind every great man is a great woman, goes the (rather dated!) saying. In the case of politicians, however, it would probably go along the lines of: behind every successful politician is a great political aide.
Political aides not only help politicians look good in the public eye, but they also help these elected officials do their jobs better.
They work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep politicians informed, on the ball and keyed in to their platforms. Their work may also entail doing research to help politicians make decisions that can impact communities locally and nationally, preparing reports, and communicating with campaign managers, among others.
The importance of the role of a political aide in supporting politicians cannot be understated.
Joe Biden, who was elected as the 46th US president in his third bid for the White House, has an army of political aides who support him in a variety of ways, including writing his speeches, handling the press, doing online communications and serving as political advisors, to name a few.
Gerald Butt, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former principal secretary, was a key player in his 2015 successful election bid according to The New York Times. Butt was part of the team that raised the Liberals from third place in the polls, right to victory, making Trudeau the 23rd Canadian Prime Minister.
While every politician has a different number of aides that support them, each of these individuals often have varying duties to support their leader. These range from developing strategies for reelection, to creating talking points for politicians to discuss during interviews with the media and to keeping up to date with current affairs and political developments.
They can work long hours and may be required to follow politicians wherever they go, which means the job may entail both domestic and international travel.
What credentials do political aides have?
Career website Zippia’s résumé data indicated that 48% of political aides majored in political science. Some other common majors for a political aide include communication and business majors.
In terms of education levels, the most common degree for political aides is bachelor’s degree. “In fact, 85% of political aides earn that degree. A close second is doctoral degree with 8% and rounding it off is master’s degree with 4%,” they said.
Some of the academic credentials of Biden’s aides include degrees in political science and government, international studies, economics and law. Butt has degrees in English and theology.
Among the common skills that Zippia found on résumés of individuals in this position include analytical skills, critical-thinking skills and communication skills, making them useful areas for aspiring political aides to upskill in.
Boosting your credentials
Political aides come with varying bachelor degrees, be it English literature, economics to political science, but there are additional skills that can come in useful for current or those aspiring to become political aides.
If you want to learn to write a speech like Biden’s widely lauded victory speech, there are many speech writing courses that will equip you with the tools of the trade.
Coursera offers Presentation skills: Speechwriting and Storytelling, an online course that will equip you with both the tools to deliver and write a compelling speech. “This course is not about how to fabricate a catching tale, but rather how to structure your ideas, facts and data into an interesting story you are going to tell during your presentation,” it notes.
For those in the UK, the College of Public Speaking London offers Advanced Speech Writing, a half-day one-to-one advanced speechwriting course that will give students the structure, tools and direction to craft a speech in-house or in London.
Do you want to grasp basic analytical skills that you can apply to your job? The American Management Associate’s course on analytical skills will teach you how to quickly synthesise qualitative data, determine implications and make informed decisions. Classes can be taken in-person or online.
Coursera also offers a number of critical thinking courses, some of which can help you learn tools to help you master tough subjects, solve problems creatively, among others. Meanwhile, speaking, writing and presenting are not just useful skills for political aides, but also across a range of other roles. Be it learning about communication strategies, communicating during global emergencies or improving your presentation skills, Coursera offers a motley of communications-related courses for beginners, as well as those looking for intermediate or advanced-level courses.