Nervous about Running for Office? Here’s How to Win, Even If You Lose

July 30, 2014

Failure is a scary prospect for everyone, and it makes taking risks inherently hard. Even the most competent women may the lack the confidence to take risks. But losing doesn’t make the race worthless. If our Elect Her–Campus Women Win students are any indication, failure can actually be a positive outcome of running for office.

Jessica Gottsleben headshot

Jessica Gottsleben

Just ask student Jessica Gottsleben. She ran for president of the University of Central Florida, one of the largest universities in the country. Only two women in UCF history have held the office, and Gottsleben is only the third woman to run for it.

“The most important thing I learned was what I am capable of as a leader,” she said. “I also learned the importance of resources, endorsements, and sponsors in higher-level politics. I am proud of how much I have grown from this experience.”

Even though she ultimately lost the race, Gottsleben hasn’t ruled out running again once she graduates. “If I find myself running for public office after I graduate or many years down the road, I will thank UCF and Elect Her for showing me the ropes and reminding me of how powerful I am as a woman and as a leader.”

Farrah Fong, who studies at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, also lost her race for a student government position but made groundbreaking accomplishments and learned valuable lessons.

A photo of Farrah Fong smiling at the camera

Farrah Fong

Fong ran for secretary of her school’s affiliated Student Association of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians. She lost that position but gained a nomination to one of the school’s committees instead. Farrah says the Elect Her training empowered her and gave her the self-confidence boost she needed to run for student government.

“It forced me out of my comfort zone in a good way,” she said. “I am absolutely terrified of public speaking and generally avoid it whenever possible, so just getting up in front of everyone and speaking was somewhat of a big step for me.”

During the race, Fong gave her first speech ever — to rave reviews.

“Afterwards, many people approached me to tell me that they’d loved my speech and that it’d been the best one out of the candidates I’d been running against,” she said.

Fong told us she would consider running again, and she’s proud of herself for stepping up. “One of my life’s philosophies is that you gain a lot more out of life if you go after what you want,” she said. “You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you actually try.”

This post was written by AAUW Campus Leadership Programs intern Jessica Bonilla.



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