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Be Who You Are - Even on The Job Hunt: Political Affiliations in the Workplace

by Theodore Masthay, Professor for Department of Social Sciences Feb 28, 2022

Nobody is apolitical. People have varying levels of interest, engagement, or awareness of the political world around them, but there is not a solitary individual who is entirely insulated from politics.

So when it comes to how you approach the beginning of your career, it is not something you should tuck away and hide from potential employers – after all, your politics are a part of you.

As someone who is an early career academic, memories of the application process in my chosen field are fresh. After all, I am a professor of political science; so it would be difficult for me or anyone in my profession to entirely disassociate themselves from politics. However, as it relates to the process of acquiring employment, the role of your personal ideology is highly contextual. First and foremost, when delivering application materials in my field or any other, displaying your professional credentials and qualifications ought to be your primary focus.

Beyond that, it is prudent to ask yourself whether you think your political beliefs or affiliations would have any effect on your ability to carry out the duties of the job you desire. For many jobs and careers, the answer is clearly ‘no.’ In my capacity as a professor, I sincerely believe my personal political beliefs do not impact my effectiveness as a teacher or researcher. At the same time, I try to create an environment where open dialogue is encouraged and if students want to know my thoughts on anything, I am more than willing to offer it to them.

For other jobs, the answer to the aforementioned question is an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ Your political beliefs often inspire you to act in ways dedicated to what you really care about in life. So if you have a passion for a certain issue and you are applying for a job in a field related to it, it absolutely makes sense to inform your potential hirer that you are on the same page.

In my experience, once you have reached the stage of an interview, then it is both easier and more important to really present yourself to the folks you may end up working with. By that point, you have clearly demonstrated that you are qualified. Here at DeSales University, we cite the St. Francis DeSales quote, “be who you are, and be that well” often. While that maxim applies broadly, I think it is specifically useful to employ its spirit during a job interview. You want an employer to accept you for who you actually are, not for who you project you are. Which is to say, if politics seems contextually appropriate to discuss in an interview or work setting, then based on my experiences I would advise you to engage with it. You want to make sure that you end up in an environment where you feel both welcome and comfortable. So while this is much easier to say than it is to internalize, be aware that you are interviewing your potential employer as well. You can take the information you acquire and the observations you make during an interview to help you decide whether you would like to work there if offered a position.

I cannot offer any advice that is universally applicable – context matters deeply at every stage of the process in every sector of the economy. But at the risk of sounding trite, you will more likely than not find yourself in a better situation if you search, apply, and interview with employers whose missions align with your values. Since politics is inescapable, it makes sense to price it in to your evaluation of employers.

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