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Keeping Politics Out Of the Job Search
October 2012

Last week, I sat half watching the Presidential Debate and made the mistake of logging into Facebook. The moment my news feed pulled up, I was blasted with status update rants and raves about each candidate, the issues at hand, and the debate performance of Jim Lehrer. Everyone was on their soap box voicing their opinions – some significantly louder than others, some based on facts, others fiction.

A thought came to mind. How does one manage their job search and career though the minefield of politics during an election year and beyond?

While I am not trying to revoke your rights to freedom of speech, I think it's important for people to be mindful of the following:

  • Political rants may hurt your chances of consideration for a job or promotion. Remember, social media posts are public record and sometimes even with strict privacy settings, your comments, photos and posts can be viewed by unintended audiences. That heated online argument that you had with your neighbor about Obamacare could be viewed by a potential hiring manager – who may just happen to be your neighbor's first cousin.

  • Unless you are applying for a position with a politically-based organization or non-profit, don't share your political opinions! You can't tell what a person's political beliefs are by looking at them, and you never know who is reading your blog or connected to your friends/family via social media.

  • Do a pre-election cleaning and remove your politically-based postings, cartoons and comments from your social media accounts. No potential employer wants to see you calling the Democrats/Republicans "idiots" or "stupid" etc. Are you a member of a politically based LinkedIn Group? You might want to rethink your participation in it. Again, if you are applying for a position with a politically based organization, there are exceptions to this rule.

    Do you volunteer for one of the political campaigns? While it's fantastic to volunteer and contribute to your community, many activities such as political activism can be considered potentially controversial to some. Don't include them on you résumé or tone them down so they are applicable for the job you are applying for. For example, if you helped a political organization staff up and you are applying for a recruiting job, talk about "what" you did, "how" you did it, and your accomplishments. Take the focus off the "who" you did it for.

  • Politics sometimes can be brought into the interview process. People have very strong opinions surrounding politics. Holding a conversation or stating your political beliefs at the office or during an interview can quickly become heated. People do not always view the "other side" as rational. It can be challenging enough to have a debate of the topics with family members or friends, let alone a co-worker or potential employer.

    Not sharing your political opinions includes what you wear to work or for an interview. The lapel pin from the candidate or political party of your choice that you wear is making a statement. Keep it out of the office and out of your job search.

    An untrained interviewer may also ask you a direct question about the election or politics as a way to "break the ice". Maybe they will ask about the presidential debate and some of the "dumb" comments the candidates made. Be diplomatic in your answer and respond in a way that is non-judgmental for either party. For example: "I can't imagine the kind of pressure any candidate would face in a live presidential debate."

  • Pay attention to your nonverbal communication as well. You may disagree with their comment and not respond back, however if you crossed your arms, put a scowl on your face and your body tensed up, it may be a clear sign you were not in agreement with their beliefs.

  • Be your own lobbyist. Bring the focus back to the job opportunity and how you would be the best candidate for the position. Talk about your experiences and skills and how you can solve a problem for the organization and the value that you bring to them.

Bottom line, leave the political debates for the dinner table and keep it out of social media. Be your own lobbyist and focus on selling the benefits of hiring or promoting you to your employer.

Note to the reader: I am so tired of seeing political rants on Facebook that I changed my profile photo. This year I am supporting "Chunk and Sloth 2012, Goonies never say die!"