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Five Resume Tips to Land Your Political Dream Job

November 25, 2019

As a partner at Arena with more than 15 years of experience on electoral campaigns and for government and advocacy organizations, I often hear from people looking for resume advice after a campaign cycle.

2020 hiring has already begun and will continue to move quickly. You’ll want to be ready when hiring managers are — which means ensuring you’ve got an updated resume you can send at the drop of “I’m looking for someone who …”.

The good news: there are a few easy tweaks to take your resume up a step.

1. Include location information.

Particularly in-between campaign cycles, it can be hard to include current location information on your resume. “My friend’s couch in … “ isn’t quite right, and so many people leave their resume location agnostic to implicitly communicate their willingness to move.

A good rule for far more than just resumes: make the implicit explicit. Someone looking to hire quickly will want to know where you are, or if you’re okay with relocating quickly. Include that information up top.

2. Customize your metrics for the job you’re applying for.

The majority of roles on campaigns and in non-profits are metrics-based. That allows for easy apple-to-apple, job description-to-resume proof points. But, just because someone is looking for an organizer or a social media director or a campaign manager doesn’t mean they need a run-down of the %  you increased turnout by in an unrelated county two years ago.

Instead of matching data point for data point, take some time to think about what the hiring manager is really looking for.

If the job you’re applying for is in rural turf and you’ve only worked in major cities, what data points will make an effective case for you? (Maybe you’re used to managing volunteers with extremely diverse schedules, or maybe your turf was so urban that it was all non-canvassable apartment buildings — and you still ran an effective persuasion and/or turnout program.)

If you’ve never been a “digital person” but you’re applying for a digital role, what experiences make your argument? (Maybe you helped integrate online tactics with your on-the-ground organizing program, or managed your high school’s social media channels.)

And if you’ve never been a manager but you’re applying to run a campaign or department for the first time, focus your metrics on what you’ve managed instead of going long on every position you’ve held to show a diversity of experiences. How many people, how big a budget — these are most important here.

3. Use an objective statement that includes your transferable skills and why you want to do the work.

Use a resume objective statement to craft your own narrative that includes your transferable skills and your “why” you want to do this work. 2-3 concise sentences with this information puts it front and center, and under your control, for a fast-moving hiring process.

Here are a few successful examples I’ve seen in the past:

“Educator, policy nerd, and creative with proven communication, project management, and adult development skills. Seeking to join a passionate team to continue focusing—whether as an educator, analyst, or organizer—on breaking the cycle of concentrated poverty and social immobility in America.”

“I have worked as a people-manager and budget administrator for seven years in the private sector. I’m now excited to take those universal skills to a new and values-driven setting.”

Because this section is already personal, it’s a good place to include any individual details that make you a particularly strong candidate for the work, whether that’s your experience with a particular community, or a personal story involving a key progressive issue. Especially as progressive campaigns and organizations want a staff that represents the communities they hope to serve, your unique background is important.

4. Show (some of) your personality.

Taking this overboard will have the opposite effect, but we’re well into a creative resume era where people include their headshots, a headline, and lots of other small things that show personality in addition to their expertise. Hiring managers are evaluating how you might fit into their team culture. Showing a bit of your personality can be big clues to them.

A more traditional bent on this is to include an “Interests” and/or “Skills” footer on your resume. Hiring managers know to look for this, so if you speak multiple languages and haven’t already included that somewhere, make sure it’s here. Same with VAN or SQL.

5. Include relevant references up top (if you can).

Much of Arena’s work is about breaking down traditional barriers to training and hiring within the progressive community — which includes so much experience being accessible only if you “know the right people”. We don’t agree with that, and it’s why we’ll host four Arena Academies this year with more than $100,000 in scholarships. It’s also why we’ve created Arena Careers, so that anyone from anywhere can access open positions and connect with like-minded community members.

But until we’ve actually changed how hiring works, your references will still be important. If you can, you should power map the person hiring for the position and include relevant references up front. (Nothing’s quite as eye-catching as a name you know when reviewing a resume.)

Let’s be real though. Since this approach requires knowing the responsible staffer’s name AND having a connection to them handy — it’s not a reliable tactic. All the more reason to have your resume lift you up.

6. And of course, don’t forget the basics.

Feeling pressured by the “one-page rule”? Good. Hiring managers (whether they’re hiring for campaigns or non-profits) aren’t necessarily looking for everything you’ve ever done. Yes, they want to see continuity of work, but mostly, they want to see what you can do for them.

Choose active, impactful language with clear examples. Read it outloud to check for comprehension and typos. And find a resume buddy to share with — an extra set of eyes or two will make a world of difference.

Ready to put these tips to work? Join Arena Careers to get seen by employers hungry for people like you.