CareerBuilder Menu Search Search

Campaigning Your Career

Robert Half International

  • Email

With the 2008 presidential election drawing near, it's only natural for politics to be a topic of debate -- and for workers, this could be a good thing. The strategies that have allowed the most respected politicians to move ahead often mirror those needed to be effective in the business world.

No matter what your political views, you can learn a lot from past and present front-runners. Following are five lessons that can help you prevail in your career:

Surround yourself with greatness.
The best political leaders know they can't do their jobs alone. They depend on a trusted team of advisers and support staff to help them make smart decisions.

In a similar manner, the people you associate with at work have a significant impact on what you're able to accomplish. Developing relationships with your firm's leaders and top performers not only is highly motivating but also can help you develop key skills and learn strategies for success. Consider inviting a colleague you admire to lunch or coffee after work in order to pick the person's brain and begin building a connection.

Find your passion.
Politicians who are enthusiastic and committed to the issues that matter most to them are able to create positive change. They also are willing to take a stand on risky matters and challenge the status quo.

 Focusing on the aspects of your job that you are most passionate about can help you set long-term goals, outline a plan for continued career growth and overcome challenges that would otherwise derail your progress. For example, you may enjoy it most when you're able to take the lead on projects and, as a result, focus on pursuing a management position in the near future. A sense of passion can also help you build support for your cause. Your desire to move up the corporate ladder, for instance, may compel your manager to recommend a training course for improving your leadership skills.

Be willing to bend.
Respected politicians also are masters at reaching agreement and understanding the need to make concessions. They ask difficult questions during negotiations, truly listen to the other side's perspective and are able to find common ground, allowing them to finalize deals that please all parties.

Knowing when and how to compromise is crucial for arriving at sound business decisions. Agreeing to take on a new project, but only if a tight deadline is extended by a few days, for example, may mean the difference between an important assignment being completed or not. As you negotiate, listen to the other person's side and look for ways to achieve mutual gain. But remember to stand your ground when necessary. You can be diplomatic and still assert yourself.

Research the issues. Those successful in public office don't just examine issues at face value -- they evaluate all the angles, including the broader impact of moving forward with an idea and how it will affect the community at large.

As you take on new projects, assume this same approach. Who will be affected by your work? How do your plans align with the long-term needs of the organization? Whose input should you solicit? What resources do you require? Keeping these concerns in mind -- and ensuring you have all the information you need before moving forward -- will increase your likelihood of success.

Build grass-roots support.
The campaign trail is a powerful avenue for political candidates to connect with community members, promote key messages and, ultimately, grow their coalitions.

Likewise, getting involved in community activities outside of the office can be a critical stepping-stone in your career. For instance, heading up a children's literacy program at your local library can reinforce your management skills, raise your visibility and expand your network. Local charities and professional associations often seek volunteers to lead committees, plan fundraising or membership drives, and orgnize events.

You don't have to run for public office to benefit from thinking like a politician. By emulating some of the actions of the public officials you admire, you can make yourself a strong candidate for plum assignments and future promotions.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. For more information about our professional services, please visit

Last Updated: 09/07/2008 - 2:15 PM

Article Reprints
Permission must be obtained from to reprint any of its articles. Please send a request to