This year, back-to-school season coincides with election season—which means if you’re a political science major or someone interested in politics, you might be thinking about volunteering with any of the political campaigns on campus and in your area, whether it’s at a local or national level.
However, with politics making our nation look like a junior high dance (a divided dance floor, with no one in the middle), it can be intimidating to take a stance. Will pledging allegiance to a particular party hurt my job prospects? Don’t let that stop you, though, as there are many good reasons to get involved with politics this semester—you just have to know how to present yourself.
1. You can put the experience on your resume—just don’t be a jerk about it. For example, whether you’re working for the Romney or Obama campaign, don’t write: “Worked for the campaign that helped the nation return to sanity.” You don’t want to alienate the prospective employer looking at your resume, so instead, you can just write, “Volunteered for a presidential political campaign” and then explain the duties you completed—without even mentioning what side you were fighting for.
2. What if a prospective employer in a job interview asks you about your political campaign work and who you were affiliated with? It’s actually illegal to ask this kind of question, so you don’t even have to answer it!
3. No matter what political party you’re affiliated with, you don’t necessarily have to alienate your professors. Some professors are very passionate about particular causes, and if you are working against their cause, it could get awkward. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be good resources for you in the future. After all, people from two different political parties can get along—and even married (look at James Carville and Mary Matalin!). Healthy discussion is one of the things that makes politics great. Treat your professor with respect and if they do the same with you, you’ve got an ideal working relationship (if only the parties in D.C. could work so smoothly).
4. Volunteering can actually help you, not hurt you. If politics is definitely something you want to get involved with, then working with a local political campaign is the best way to get started. It will teach you the ins and outs of the industry and give you an idea of what you can expect with a career in this field. Plus, it helps you build connections.
The main thing to remember when being concerned about your political affiliations in regards to your career is just to have respect for each other. You can work for someone and not necessarily agree with their political thought, but enjoy your job and the professional direction in which they guide you.