WOMEN
01/20/2017 11:44 am ET

Want To Run For Political Office? Here's How To Get Started

The time for broader representation in government is right now.

Hillary Clinton may have lost the presidential election, but her defeat motivated thousands of women to consider running for office. The non-profit She Should Run, which focuses on helping women seek elected office, has seen a 6,000 percent increase in women joining their programs since the election. Women in this country have been fighting for representation in government for a century. Now more than ever they’re motivated to run ― and win. 

But making the leap into politics can be daunting. At Watch Us Run, HuffPost Women’s inauguration day event, panelists like Evan McMullin, former independent presidential candidate, and attorney and women’s right activist Sandra Fluke laid out their blueprint for getting started. 

Thinking about a run for office? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Don’t over-analyze.

Preparation is good, said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of The Victory Fund and Institute. “Women tend to over-prepare,” Moodie-Mills argued, and that means many of them take themselves out of the running before they’ve ever really jumped in.

Should you understand exactly what you’re running for and why? Should you have a clear understanding of who your support team is, and who your potential donors are? Yes, absolutely, said Marilinda Garcia, national spokesperson for LIBRE Initiative and a former state representative in New Hampshire. But ultimately, “know you can’t plan for or prepare for everything,” she said.

2. And don’t wait to be asked.

“For some reason, women tend to need to be asked to run for office,” said Garcia. Of course, that’s a wide generalization she said ― but there’s truth to it (and there’s certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence to back it up). 

“Don’t wait,” she urged, adding with a laugh. “Ignorance can be bliss.” 

3. It’s OK to be nervous. 

“Courage is a bit of a misnomer, because courage only exists when there is fear,” said McMullin. “When you think about running for office, you’re most likely going to feel tremendous fear.” Know that just about everyone who has been in your shoes has felt the same fear, and don’t let it be the thing that holds you back, he urged.

And you don’t necessarily need to overcome that fear in some sort of heroic, macho way, added Christine Quinn, CEO of Win and a former member of the New York City Council. “Don’t wait until you have courage,” she urged. “You’re going to be afraid,” she added. “Just do it.”

4. Never forget: Representation matters.

Representation is, of course, important at a broad level. There aren’t nearly enough women in politics, there aren’t nearly enough people of color, and there certainly aren’t enough people who identify as LGBTQ, argued Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of The Victory Fund and Institute. There is a visceral need for more diverse voices in government, and that need can and should be a real source of motivation.

Representation matters at a more granular level, too. Look closely at your local governing bodies and make sure your voice is represented there, advised Erin Cutraro, co-founder and CEO of She Should Run. If it’s not, get involved ― it’s how you can help ensure that the issues that matter to you get the attention they deserve. (And by the way, that doesn’t even mean you need to run, Cutraro said. Simply attending City Council meetings or sending emails to your local legislators about issues that matter to you can help hold your local leaders accountable.)

Want more content from Watch Us Run (an inauguration day even presented by HuffPost and Bustle in partnership with Bold)? Check out our livestream

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