Professional Development

Politicking & How to Get There: Part 2

by Colin Hornby Legislative Assistant to a Member of Parliament

These Hallowed Halls

In Manitoba, the Legislative Building is truly a marvel of architecture. This physical center of government is where you start to feel like you’re involved in something grand and wonderful. Your new digs are impressive, and you think, “wow I must be important if I get to work here.” Well, I hate to break it to you, Colin, but you’re just a tiny part in the behemoth machine which we call the government apparatus. You must start all over again and learn an entirely new job and set of rules.

Having this group of forty elected officials each representing vastly different regions of the province opens a whole new set of doors. Behind these doors is more knowledge, experience, and opportunities which can be leveraged into career advancement. Sometimes, right when you are starting to feel comfortable, one of those experiences happens which changes the course of your life.

Welcome to the Big City

It’s rare to meet people who you really connect with on a different level and would go into battle with. These are the people you’d want in your foxhole. Politics requires loyalty and aligning yourself with people you can trust, and vice versa. After working on a federal campaign, I affirmed the existence of this with the successful candidate and freshly minted Member of Parliament who I put in countless hours of work for. Somebody who truly deserves the title of “honourable member” and still has so many more great things ahead of him. I knew I had to follow him on his journey to Ottawa and into the world of the federal government, while continuing my own journey in this crazy world of politics.

Going from being in government to being in opposition brings its own unique challenges as well. You go from being close to the levers of power, to simply looking across the aisle at the opposing political staff and wanting to have that proximity to power again. Having 121 politicians on your team instead of 40 is another big change.

Seven months in and I feel like an entirely different person. My beliefs have been hardened, old skills have been developed, new skills have been created, new people have been met, and most importantly an entirely new set of experiences have taken place. This is what career and personal development are all about, and the decision I made to change the course of my life has truly accelerated growth in both the career and personal arenas.

Where to Go from Here?

I took a leap of faith, uprooted my life, drove thousands of kilometres across the country for a new chapter in not only my professional life, but my personal life as well. Leaving behind friends and family is never an easy decision to make, but opportunities like these don’t come around every day. You must seize them when they fall at your feet. This is a career path which can take you in a million different directions: government, opposition, lobbying, public policy development, writing, and so many others.

I am by no means anywhere near accomplished in my career field. I’m still a rookie at this, with only a few years’ experience in the actual political world under my belt. Every experience contributes to the patchwork that is your unique fingerprint as an individual, both personally and professionally.

You sometimes need to make a decision that scares you and takes you out of your comfort zone.

There’s a lot of work ahead, and I have no idea where I’ll end up. That’s the best part. Every day is a new challenge and you never know what lies ahead. If you keep putting in the hours and growing your network, the opportunities will present themselves. Find the opportunities that really make you think and know that if you follow them, you’ll be back to being a minnow in a giant ocean of whales. I’m still a minnow, but I’ll keep swimming until I grow and need a larger ocean myself.

Find Like-Minded People

This career is unique as it truly takes over your life. Your personal life at times can suffer, and there is an expectation that you’re on call all the time. This can be hard not only for the person in that career, but their family and those closest to them. You should surround yourself with people who are willing to accept and understand this. There’s enough negativity during the work day, and there’s little room for it when you’re off the clock. Find people who support and build you up and it truly will make the difference.

Two Types of Currency

A friend much, much wiser than me once told me that, “in life, there are two types of currency: money, and experience.” Go out and get those experiences and figure out what the hell it is you want to do with your life. Don’t give in to the pressure and feel bound to pick something because somebody once told you what you should be doing, or that you must make a decision. Experience is truly the most valuable commodity in the world, so go out and get some. The rest will figure itself out.

Colin Hornby
About Colin Hornby

Colin Hornby is a Modern Money contributor that writes on professional development related topics.

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