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What You've Done, Not Where You've Worked

Posted By Seth Tanner, Monday, March 23, 2009

One of the things I do, and I recommend people do as much as they can, is to help friends find jobs. It helps create loyalty, backchannels into other organizations, and promotes yourself as a person who can be “helpful” to people in need. You never know when the shoe will be on the other foot. And it’s a nice thing to do.

One of the largest issues I’ve seen when people send me a resume, or talk about why they should be at X or Y job is a focus on where they have worked, rather than what they have done. A clear and public example can be seen in Rahaf Harfoush, who worked on the Obama new media team for a few months. That detail was included in her bio along with previous social media research work to create a bio that lead her to be promoted as an Obama strategist at schools and other institutes she worked on. In the New Republic, details of her involvement in the campaign leaked out. What did she actually do for the campaign?

For the last three months of the campaign, "The Foush" was an unpaid volunteer at the Obama headquarters in Chicago, where her regular duties essentially involved approving comments and groups. There were two to three dozen people doing similar work, but she was somewhat unique in that she had a background in social media.

So. Member of Obama New Media Team. Intern-level site moderator.

Personally, I’ve seen other resumes and had other conversations with people new to DC who have a false expectation that people will hire based on where they worked, and not what they’ve done. When looking at a resume, and evaluating your previous experiences, here is some of what I would look at and emphasize:

  • District size of your campaign (or at least the part of the campaign you were assigned to manage).
  • Number of staff reporting to you.
  • Budget you were responsible for spending and/or raising.
  • Your responsibilities (not department or principle responsibilities).
  • Measured results (raised X money, recruited X volunteers, contacted X voters X times, etc).

If you keep these concepts in mind, you will have a much better idea where in the world you are. If you want an example, take a look at my resume and see how the bullets talk, not the organizations I've worked for.

Many people this year will be working in New Jersey and Virginia for their odd-year elections, and will add to their resume by doing higher level stuff for lower level candidates. If you think you need to work on doing higher level stuff, working on the lower level campaigns a good way to set yourself up to do higher level stuff for higher level candidates in 2010.

Tags:  expectations  job search  resumes 

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