How to Build a Professional Political Network

The greatest asset for a successful career in politics is your professional network. The political arena is a true meritocracy: who your parents are, where you’re from and what schools you went too don’t matter. Sure, they can help get your foot in the door, but only through hard work, loyalty, and lots of luck can you make your way to the top.

But it’s also true that who you know is more important than what you know in this business and your professional network is central to a successful career in politics. Here are some strategies to build yours:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an important tool for professional networking, but it’s especially critical in politics because of the amount of movement from one organization to another throughout an individual’s career. I recommend connecting only with people you’ve actually worked with an would be comfortable asking for assistance in a future job search. Use transitions like the end of an internship, a coworker moving on, or the end of a campaign as occasions to connect.

Participate in Professional Groups or Meetups

There are a number professional groups on Capitol Hill and around the city like the New Media Exchange or DC Tech Meetup that are great places to grow your professional network. Sign up at MeetUp.com to find events that may interest your professional interests beyond politics.

Sign Up for Email Lists

There are a couple of great email resources like the aforementioned New Media Exchange (email me at [email protected] to get an invite) and my own LTO Links newsletter (sign up here) that can keep you up to date on professional news and trends. Make sure you’re signed up for the professional group’s email list above.

Be a Regular

Whether it’s going to a bar for trivia night, signing up for a kickball league, or joining a church group, it’s important to have a regularly scheduled activity outside of work where you can meet new people. You never know when someone can help you with an introduction, a project, or a recommendation. Plus it’s just good for your mental health to have a network of friendships outside of politics.

Be a Connector

One of the best ways to build your network is by connecting other people. This follows the important networking principle of creating more value than you capture. Become a connector by providing meaningful introductions to others within your network or get a group of colleagues together for dinner and encourage them to bring a friend.

Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are a great way to get insight and career advice from people outside of your network. Ask those within your network for an introduction for an informational interview. Be prepared with a resume and questions about how and when they hire, what they look for in a candidate, and how they got to where they are.

Reach Outside Your Network

Don’t be afraid to reach outside of your network for career advice, but be strategic about it. Always make it easy for someone to say yes to your request. Follow this formula: “Hi X, I work a Y and understand you also started your career there. I’m interested in learning how you made the transition into Z. Would you be available for a brief 20 minute chat? I’m happy to meet you where it’s most convenient.”

Keep in Touch

A network is like a garden, you’ve got to take care of it to keep it flourishing. If you view your network as an ATM and only attend to it when you need to make a transaction, you’ll soon find your balance at zero. Remember: create more value than you capture.

If this is something you struggle with, keep a list of the last time you’ve spoken with someone and make sure it never gets older than 90 days to six months. Set a calendar reminder if you need to.

 

5 Tools for Building a Stand-Out Resume

Having a well-written resume filled with relevant experience and a good work history is only half the battle. You’ll stand out from the pack of Word template resumes with a well-designed, visually appealing that incorporates colors.

It’s an easy way to concretely demonstrate your technical savvy, an appreciation for branding and marketing, and how to organize information persuasively.

Here are 5 tools that will help you out:

Ceev
Free with a $10 premium option.
https://ceev.io/

A Chrome extension that will build a modern, well-designed resume in a few minutes from your LinkedIn profile.

Resume.io
Free plan with paid monthly plans for additional templates
https://resume.io/

Resume.io helps you build a resume focused on organization and readability. It also allows you to create accompanying cover letters which are always a good idea for demonstrating your ability to communicate.

JobCV
$9.99 and includes a website to host your resume
http://www.jobcv.me/

This builder incorporates color to help you stand out in a pile of resumes and also includes a website so you can share your resume electronically with ease, which is a great option when sharing it with your network or over social media (private messages) so you can update it based on feedback in real-time.

 

Ineedaresume
Free
http://ineedaresu.me/

This tool’s motto is “Creating a resume shouldn’t suck” and they focus on the basics: readability and formatting. This template will help give you a well-formatted classic looking resume and cover letter quickly.

 

Resume Worded Checklist
Free
https://resumeworded.com/checklist

Once you’ve built your resume with one of these tools, follow this checklist to make sure you’ve done everything according to best practices.

Introducing LTO Jobs

It’s been almost two years since I launched Learn Test Optimize as a community for you — my colleagues in the digital/technology/marketing political space  — with the goal of sharing best practices and must-reads. There’s lots of room to grow and improve (you should send me an email at [email protected] with ideas) and I’m proud of our success so far.

Today we’re launching LTO Jobs. This website is my attempt to answer the question I’m asked on a near daily basis: Do you know of any good digital people looking for a jobs?

Right now there’s a job board with job listings from great companies like Engage, IMGE, Push, the Prosper Group, and Advoc8. Anyone may post a job and we’re asking for a nominal fee to post each job (send us feedback on this) to help support this project since LTO is 100% a labor of love.

Each week, job-seekers who sign up here will receive a rundown of the jobs available as well as career advice and tips.

Additional features are in the works and suggestions from both employers and job-seekers are encouraged.