In the United States, the term 'Secretary of State' conveys two meanings, one the Secretary of State for a selected State government or a Secretary of State for the Federal government. So how to become the Secretary of State for either of the governments? Simple enough, here's the answer and a probable career path for both. Please note that the career paths for the two are almost the same, however the governments that the two would serve are different. Take a look...
In the Federal Government of United States of America, the term Secretary of State implies a position which lies at the head of the Department of State. A Secretary of State holding the public-political office, is in charge of the Foreign Affairs of the nation. It is basically a political position and as in a democracy, its held by a person who is appointed by the President himself. This post should not be mistaken with the civil service post which is held by members of Civil and Administrative Service in several of the Afro-Asian and Commonwealth nation.
In the United States, it's a political and public office held by a representative of the people, who is also an expert on foreign relations. Technically, if you take a look at the position of the Secretary of State, the person holding the position is the highest ranking member of the cabinet and the 3rd ranked in the hierarchy pyramid following the President and the Vice-President.
A position under the Governor in the hierarchy pyramid, the Secretary of State for one specific state is a position of no less importance. Conventionally, as per the laws and regulation of the state, the Secretary of State for a specific state is the Chief Elections Officer, and is responsible for State Archives, incorporation and chartering of companies and leading some State officers and committees, boards and councils.
Becoming a Secretary of State
The career path which you need to follow to become a Secretary of State is very, very long and you need to start for it at a very, very young age. Teachers always makes a very simple statement about the term, 'Public Administration', which I would like to cite, 'enrich yourself to enrich the society'. Hence if you want to lead the people of the nation and the society itself, then you need to start nurturing your own qualities, behavior, knowledge and skills at the youngest age possible.
Here are a few things which you can do:
- Reading is the primary thing which you need to start with outright. Start with the daily newspaper, weekly magazines and your regular academic books. Next proceed to biographies, heavy theoretical books on the society and social sciences. Every academic discipline of social sciences has a 'Godfather' or 'Father', in some cases, it has several fathers. Make it a point to read their books as well. Reading novels and also religious books would also help a lot.
- The next corresponding step is to polish yourself and become a better person. Nurture some simple qualities such as being kind, caring and joys and even sensitive to others thoughts and grievances. These qualities will not only make you a better person, but will also let you be a friend to the society at large. Apart from that, there's a lot more than you can do, for example, you can increase your memory and concentration, enhance your mental arithmetic, better-up your style of dressing, plus you can also start improving your hand writing, etc.
- Becoming a leader can start at the simplest possible level, hence within your school or college you can participate in regional elections and get yourself nominated to some or the other position of responsibility and a position where you would have to lead. Such a position will nurture your skill of handling public responsibility and public accountability.
All these activities will chiefly imbibe within you certain 'habits' and personality traits which will make you a better and a more able leader.
During Your School Years
Apart from all the aforementioned activities I would also strongly recommend you to join your school sports term, any non-individual team, or even the school band. Other academic teams such as Mathletes would also do. The logic is that such teams would also make you a very good team player as being a Secretary of State means that you will have to be a part of several committees, councils and boards where you will have to work with other people to make well oiled team.
✦ One of the most essential qualities a Secretary of State should possess is being able to work with other people, as a part of a system, mechanism and team.
✦ Secondly, obeying a command from a superior and executing the task with a killer lightning speed is an absolute necessity, especially if you want to be a Secretary of State to the Federal government. And as you will be leading the United States Foreign Service, obeying and executing such commands would become an everyday occurrence.
Hence in order to nurture this skill, I would recommend you to join the ROTC (Reserve Officer's Training Corps) or the JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps). The training will not only help you become a highly dynamic team player, but you will also be able to communicate very well with the people with whom you are going to work. Now mind you, these include the President, Senate, Congress and Heads of States and organizations worldwide.
✦ Now the above two points clearly indicate that to become a good Secretary of State you need to become an excellent team player as a team member and also as a team leader. There is however one more very improvement quality which you need to nurture within yourself - understanding a person. Being the chief of foreign services, you will be meeting and needing to communicate with people from all corners of the globe. Hence understanding the perceptions, languages, cultures and customs of people from different nations would become an essential part of your work.
You can start this right in school or high school and college. For this, start leaning basic greetings in all prominent languages such as German, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Hebrew, etc. Apart from that make it a point to know important facts about these prominent cultures, such as important cuisine preparations, important holidays, greetings to elders, etc. This skill of understanding a person form a totally different background, region, culture and languages will take quite some time to master, maybe a couple of decades. Of all the skills that you need, this one's the most important one, and if you master it completely, you will probably become the best Secretary of State.
Your College and University Academics
Now, many of us do not even think about what we want to do for our college education, till we reach the last months of high school. However the last months of the higher middle school and entire high school is an excellent time for you to think about what you want to study at college and university.
- Now there is no hard and fast rule regarding what a Secretary of State be educated in and there is also no specific educational requirement. However, an education in any of the social sciences, public administration, legal sciences or being a regular lawyer, international and foreign relations is always recommended. Anything else such as engineering or physics would also do, however the aforementioned ones are recommended. Hence, think about what you want to get educated in and nurture your skills and qualities in that manner.
- Next, step is to study to get into Ivy League or other highly reputed colleges or universities. Now remember having a firm and sturdy educational record along with an awesome alma mater is a key point in becoming the Secretary of State, owning to the simple reality that making a mark in the academia, makes you an expert in some field and you become an important contributor to the society. Two very, recent and inspiring examples have been set by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rice is a Ph.D. holder from the University Denver and an expert on Soviet Union. Hillary Clinton the current Secretary of State is a lawyer from Yale. Thus, getting into a great college or university is of essence.
While still in college you can start getting involved in social and political work, by joining help groups, charity organizations, protest groups, campaigning for the resolution of certain issues and even joining a political party.
- While in college you can start blogging about politics and society, enter internship programs with political parties and also actually join and volunteer at the political parties.
- In all this time duration, never ignore your studies and also make it a point to make a fulfilling and meaningful career. You need to follow these points without fail, as take into consideration the fact that the President selects the cabinet himself. Hence, you need to be an expert and a very capable and acclaimed personality in a field in which you make a career, again Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton have set ideal examples.
In the Political Party
Within the political party you need to rise through the hierarchy and shoulder responsibility. Taking charge of things and executing work flawlessly, would earn you promotions and would also help you to get associated with prominent people.
- Now here, based upon your entire career profile and work within the party the top brass would promote and support you and would offer a chance to run elections of some or the other jurisdictions and Offices. Several of the Secretaries of State had been appointed on political positions before being Secretary of State. Again here your expertise, knowledge and flawless work should get noticed. Remember becoming a Secretary of State requires about a 30-40 years of preparation.
- When the President or the Governor gets elected to office, he/she is empowered to select his or her cabinet and it can be potentially any person. Hence in such a case, you need be the best available expert on foreign relations at the time.
There are some significantly alternative routes which can take to achieve this dream of yours. Civil services, military services, working at the IMF, UN or World Bank or any other services can be great alternative career path. At some point though, you will have to enter politics by affiliating yourself to some political party. There are a few more things which I would like you to tip you off with.
- Have a belief, which is flexible and loyal to the Constitution of the United States.
- Read and think about great people and also about values such as justice, liberty and freedom.
- Learn to find joy and help others find it.
You need to be a person who deserves the position and also desires it at some time. Being righteous and prepared at the movement, is the sole key which you need to achieve when the time comes.
'Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other' ~ Beloved Abraham Lincoln
Politics and governance means working incessantly and believing in oneself. Governance and handling public issues can be real tough. It requires great networking and communication skill at the same time courage and a knack to work with people as a team.