Does business experience help when moving into politics?

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The world of politics can seem like something of a closed shop to younger people hoping to forge a career in parliament. The stereotype of the standard politician is someone from a fairly privileged background who seems somewhat removed from those they have been elected to represent. We live in exciting times though where the traditional ways of doing things are being re-imagined – this is as true in the political sphere as it is for anything else in society.

But what does this mean? You only have to look at the UK in recent years to see the impact made by politicians such as Nigel Farage who does not fit the stereotype. It was largely his desire to connect with the ordinary UK citizen on a level they could respond to that brought him success. Over in the USA Donald Trump is a President who is not from a political family – Trump is simply a successful businessman who wanted to help his country and thought he could do a good job for the people.

The election of President Trump is the main example of businesspeople moving into politics. However, we see this occurring more now across the world, such as when Herman Mashaba was made Mayor of Johannesburg in 2016. The rise of businesspeople moving into politics in recent times certainly seems to suggest that the experience they bring with them is helpful for a political career.

How can business experience make a better politician?

• Makes it easier to understand business sector – there is no doubt that business is the driving force of each country’s economy. A prosperous business sector makes for a vibrant and robust country due to employment being high and people earning money to spend on goods. Having business experience as a politician is therefore very useful as it means there is an understanding of how an economy operates in reality and the problems businesses have to solve.

• Gives you experience of negotiating – moving into a political career may well mean having to negotiate key deals with experienced individuals. This is especially true if you were to move to a high position in the political world where you could be responsible for economic strategies. If you have business experience in handling negotiations, then you will already possess the skillset needed to negotiate successfully.

• Experience of public speaking – another key way that business experience can help in politics is by making you comfortable with public speaking. Being able to speak confidently and get your ideas across to people in a clear manner is vital for a politician. Most individuals involved in business will have experience of this at some point even if it is just having to make informal presentations to their team of co-workers. Such experience is vital as it means you are already used to public speaking when moving into politics.

• Helps to build connections and interpersonal skills – being a politician is about bringing people together and uniting them. If you have never experienced a cross-section of religions, cultures or ethnicities, then it is very hard to do this. It is likely that you will lack the interpersonal skills needed as you will not be used to dealing with anyone outside your own culture. Being in business helps to combat this by exposing you to various cultures and learning how to interact with them. Successful businessman and the prime minister of Lebanon Najib Mikati showed how effective this can be when gaining widespread support across the Lebanese political landscape when he was elected.

• Enables the public to connect with you more – businesspeople are normal citizens working to earn a living before they enter politics. That means they have encountered the same issues or problems as the working population. The experience gained allows them a unique insight into what it is that really matters to people. By directing some fresh energy and new ideas into the political world they can help to solve problems in a pragmatic way that the public will appreciate.

Politics could learn lots from business

As the above shows, business experience can transfer to a political career in many positive ways. It not only allows for new thoughts and ways of doing things to emerge but also gives the public someone that they find more acceptable to vote for. With more and more businesspeople deciding to change their local area or whole country for the better through politics, it is something that we are likely to see more of.

The Editor

I wish it was satire.