Formatting a campaign resume can be hard. Positions in the industry are temporary and short-lived, which makes it difficult experience to chronicle on the standard CV. But there is a way to make your campaign resume shine, if you know the right format.
A few common problems pop up when writing campaign resumes. How do you keep it on one page? Which section should come first? Should I say I was an “intern” or an “assistant”? Everyone who works on campaigns faces these questions when writing their resumes. Here are the answers to those common questions:
It doesn’t take much time before you’ll find your resume has exceeded one page. It’s not abnormal to work as many as five different campaign jobs or internships in two years. So what do you do? Do you let it spill over onto a second page? Or do you shorten it?
If you look at the resumes of some of America’s most powerful and successful people, you’ll notice they keep it to one page. A friend once noted that if CEOs can keep it to one page, nobody has an excuse to deviate. Your resume must always be one page, although it’s good to keep a full version for your own reference.
But this poses a problem for those whose resumes consist of various campaign volunteer, intern and work experiences. In most fields, the format for resumes is the logistics of the position (title, organization, duration) followed by a few bullet points that describe what you did at that position. This makes it hard to add more than four different positions.
My preferred format lists the organization/campaign on the left side of the first line of the position, and title on the right side. The second line lists duties in italics, with the duration spent working there on the right side. Duties can exceed one line if you want a little more room to describe the work you did. But following this format allows you to put more positions on your resume.
Some people will tell you to put your education at the top of your resume. Those people are wrong. Your college education likely has little relevance to anything you’re doing now or to the job to which you’re applying. The value of a college education is decreasing, and is next to irrelevant in campaigns. For that reason, if you work in most political fields, put your education at the bottom, and keep it short and relevant. List your college, degree, years attended, and relevant organizational activity, if you have room.
If you have work experience, always put it first. If you have no work experience, you should expand your education section to list all your achievements from college, and that should be at the top. Next should come what makes you look best. This can be skills, other times it can be awards, if you have earned any. Otherwise, it might be organizations, if you belong to any.
After work experience, the better something makes you look, the higher on your resume it should be.
Make sure the titles and duties you provide are accurate. Don’t exaggerate your title or what work you performed on a campaign. If you don’t know your title, just ask your former employer.
If you were a volunteer, write “Volunteer, Bernie Hughes for State Senate,” not “Field Staffer” or “Communications Assistant.” If and when the place to which you’re applying contacts your former employer, you want your resume to reflect your actual role. If you lie or exaggerate, you’ll have lost that job opportunity. Worse yet, you may have also lost future career opportunities: Politics is a very small world and people talk.
That means you should always work your hardest, be a good employee and coworker, and be nice. If you’re rude, don’t do work, are lazy, or treat your coworkers or interns poorly, people will find out and not want to hire you. Your resume isn’t always the first thing prospective employers check out — it’s often your reputation. In politics, as in many professions, your reputation is your living resume.
Shoshana Weissmann is the founder of Network Red, a right-of-center networking site. She also works in consulting, serves as executive director of City GOP, and writes for Red Alert Politics.