This question originally appeared on Quora: For people in their 20s, what’s the best path to get into politics and elected to office? Answer by Hillary Clinton, senator, secretary of state, 2016 presidential candidate.
I love this question.
The first thing to know is that there’s more than one path. Case in point: I was always interested in politics, because I knew it was important to the issues I cared about, but I never thought I’d run for office. I did a whole lot of other things instead. I worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. I taught and practiced law. I served on the Legal Services Corporation, which is the largest provider of legal services in the country. I registered voters in Texas… worked to improve schools in Arkansas… and helped lead the fight for health reform in the 1990s. All along the way I supported my husband as he ran for office.
Then, toward the end of my husband’s administration, people started approaching me about running for Senate in New York. For the first time in my life, I really considered it. I had been encouraging smart, capable women to run for office for decades. “If you think you’d do a good job, you should run,” I’d tell them. Now here I was, pondering my future. I thought I’d do a good job as senator. I knew I’d work incredibly hard for my constituents. So how could I not take my own advice?
I decided to go for it. And I’m so glad I did!
The people I admire most in politics took a lot of different routes to get there. But they all have one thing in common: They have an issue they’re passionate about. For me, that issue has always been helping kids and families. But you need to decide what that issue is for you.
The next thing to do is put your money where your mouth is. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to come along—just get started. Join an advocacy group. Find out who’s organizing around your issue. Check out groups like EMILY’s List. Figure out which elected officials are leading the way—or holding up progress—and start reaching out. Then there’s my personal favorite: Volunteer for a campaign!
There’s absolutely nothing like it. If you’re interested in being part of the Hillary for America grassroots organizing team, you can get started here.
Running for office isn’t easy. But when things get tough—and they will, especially if you’re a woman, a person of color, or anyone who is challenging the status quo—just remember what you’re fighting for, take a deep breath, and keep going.
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