Project Wonderful

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ask An Election Nerd: How Do I Translate Campaign Skills To a Non-Campaign Resume?

Dear Nancy,

I wondered if you might be able to give me some field-related advice. I've been transitioning out of campaigns and into other things, and I've found it difficult to explain in concise, jargon-free language exactly what it is a field director does. It's a massive job, as you know, and I want to do it justice, but I keep thinking of more things that need to be added to it. There are so many skills involved: statistics, project management, people management, data management, crisis management, logistics, outreach, community building, diplomacy, etc.

I keep on remembering more things involved: besides the basic things like writing the field and GOTV plans, and training and supervising FOs and ensuring that they make voter contact goals (which are themselves complicated operations to explain), there are so many little but important things: crafting simple but effective phone scripts, coordinating GOTV logistics, overseeing out-of-state vol housing, setting up good systems for data management that hundreds of vols can make sense of....

I know you're still in this business, but I remember from your blog that you went to grad school; did you ever have to explain what field is during your application process? If you have any suggestions for bullet-pointing this stuff, I'd love to hear them.

Thanks again for Campaignsick. It always makes me smile.

Great question! Editing down one's resume is never easy, but it is especially daunting when switching careers. It's hard to know exactly what advice to give you without knowing what kinds of jobs you're applying for, but I'll do my best.

1)Tailor your resume to the job. Don't worry so much about how to express what you did, concentrate on showing that you have the skills and experience to do what they need you to do. Whenever you embark on a new job hunt, you should save a "master" version of your resume that includes all your job related skills and experiences in bullet points, even if this version is longer than a page. Then when you apply for jobs, you can pick and choose the bullets to include on your resume based on the specific job you're applying for. You're right. You can't possibly include everything you did as a Field Director, so the trick is narrowing things down to what's relevant. For example, if you are applying to work in Veterans Affairs and you were the point of contact for that constituency on a campaign, you should include the bullet point about organizing Veterans for Obama phone banks or an event focusing around military policy, even if these activities only took up 5% of your time.

2)Have a non-campaign friend proofread your resume. Preferably this should be someone with whom you have not discussed your campaign work at length. Ask your friend to reflect back what they think your skills and strengths are based on what they're reading, and to point out any places where you use terms or phrases with which they are unfamiliar.

3)Conduct an informational interview. I know this is my answer for just about everything, but advice is free and people love to give it. If you're moving into governement, law, non-profits, grad school or business, chances are there is someone in your network who has made the switch you're about to make. Find that person and ask them what campaign skills were particularly applicable in their new career.

4)Use your cover letter. If you can't find a succinct way to articulate how a certain experience qualifies you for a potential job, you can use your cover letter to bridge the gap. For example, if the job posting mentions the ability to meet goals under deadlines you can use your cover letter to expound upon a time that you organized a rally with a major surrogate on 48 hours notice.

5)Mirror the language in the job posting. Rather than reinvent the wheel, use the language in the job post to guide your resume bullet points. For example, a non-profit job may require you to "manage a diverse team of stakeholders," which in a excellent way to explain what you did by building and coordinating a campaign steering committee.

Good luck in your new adventures and thanks so much for reading!

Campaign Love and Mine,


PS. If you like this advice, please support CampaignSick!

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