Can I make a career out of this?

Yes and no.

You will often hear “career politician” used as an insult in Guernsey. But the truth is that Guernsey needs experienced politicians. Politics isn’t just about knowing what outcomes might be good for our Island – it’s about knowing how to deliver those outcomes. You need a unique set of professional skills to be effective as a States Member. You can’t get that training anywhere else; you can only really learn by experience.

We also need organisational memory – for want of a better expression – to be effective as a government. We need to know what has been tried in the past, what worked (and what didn’t), and why.

If there are too many Deputies saying “we tried that in the past and it didn’t work”, the States will be paralysed with inaction. But if there aren’t any Deputies who can say “we tried that in the past and it didn’t work – so here’s what we need to try differently this time”, then we’ll be like lemmings in a nightmare, throwing ourselves off the same cliff again and again.

Where would you go to get the ‘story’ of Guernsey politics over the last twenty or thirty years? You don’t really get that depth of political knowledge from the media or think tanks over here, as you might in a bigger jurisdiction. You don’t get it from party organisations, because they don’t really exist. You might be able to find it in the civil service, if you know where to look. Or you might find it by asking those who’ve lived it – experienced politicians (and, sometimes, campaigners).

Guernsey’s States can’t be ‘born new’ every four years. It needs experience to make progress. There is no shame in wanting to be part of that.

But at the same time, a political career is a hugely unpredictable one. You are up for re-election every four years. There are no guarantees that you will succeed. You can be highly respected and valued by your States’ colleagues, but barely known outside the Assembly.

Long service is not a bad thing of itself – it really depends on the attitude you bring to work, and the reasons why you are choosing to stay – but it is never guaranteed. You need to be prepared for that unpredictability, so that you have a back-up plan for life outside politics, in the event you can’t stay around for as long as you might have hoped.

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Will I be employable afterwards?

I hope so. I can’t say “yes” from personal experience, because I haven’t got there yet, and I don’t know what will happen when I do.

Maybe talk to some former politicians about their experiences. There are all sorts of factors that might make a difference to how easily you move on to the next stage in your career – whether your retirement from the States was planned (which means you might have had longer to look for another job), or whether you stood but were not re-elected; whether you had continued with some part-time employment throughout the term, and so on.

If you can afford to do so, it is wise to try and save – even just a little – every month, so that you create a bit of a buffer fund for yourself and your family, in case the transition from politics into other work takes a little longer than you’d hoped.  

I’m sure we have all made a few enemies in this job. It shows up our weaknesses like nothing else, because it forces us to make so many decisions on things outside our usual comfort zone, within an endless public spotlight. That doesn’t look flattering on anyone – whether they are the most experienced and expert people within their field, or whether they are just starting out.

But if you gain enemies, you also gain admirers. Don’t forget that. There are people who will have watched your work during your time in the States, who will recognise you as a real asset to the community and will be excited to work with you.

And finally, when the time comes to look for new work, don’t under-sell what you have learnt and done during your time in the States. You will just have spent four years (or more) doing challenging work, managing absurd deadlines, gaining new skills and making connections you’ve never had before. If you can offer all that to a workplace, you’re going to be an asset. Good luck.

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