Anyone who has applied for a job before understands the dilemma of having an incongruous mix of work history on your resume, reflecting a career shift that has occurred somewhere along the line.
Sacramento resident Jenny Bach remembers a defining moment in her career trajectory when her seemingly mismatched experience actually helped land her a job. She currently works in the California State Legislature as a consultant for the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and holds the office of Secretary for the California Democratic Party — but that’s definitely not the career path she started on.
Bach had focused on the event and wedding industry throughout college at Sacramento State, as a co-owner of a photo booth company that travels throughout Northern California. Bach says the business was doing well, and she was completely invested in growing the company alongside her partners.
Then she found politics.
“I started taking these political theory classes and I didn’t even know that there was a College Democrats chapter at school at the time,” she says. She became involved and volunteered for political campaigns, but also maintained a leadership presence at the photo booth company. “I wanted to make that grow, and then keep the politics thing a hobby on the side. I thought in my spare time I’d be in this group during school and go to some of their events, volunteer here and there.”
By 2014, however, Bach had volunteered to help run a candidate’s campaign for the Sacramento City Unified School District, and the experience made her realize just how much she enjoyed politics and making an impact in her community. She ended her time with the photobooth company. “I had to ask myself, in a few years from now or in five years or in 10 years, what do I really want to give back and what was the most important thing to me?” she says. “So I left and they bought out my share. We’re all still friends. They’ve been extremely supportive.”
In 2015, Bach had just graduated with a degree in political science and government, and was urged to apply for an open district representative position for State Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D – Sacramento) after meeting him and his staff at campaign events. While the job was enticing, she recalls looking at her resume and struggling with the question of whether or not her career change — which took place during college — should be represented on that all-important document post-graduation.
“I was actually going to take that off my resume because that was the one thing that had nothing to do with the legislature or politics,” she says. “I wanted to fill it with all my volunteer community service work — I was thinking, ‘Oh this is going to be a winner.’ But I did keep it in because I had a lot of pride in it. It was something that I was so invested in and helped me grow as a person.”
Sen. Pan says Bach’s background as a business owner was a selling point. “I very much admired her drive, not just in politics but also the fact that while she was studying and was able to run this company, she was also doing quite a bit as a leader in the College Democrats,” he says, adding that he knew she could relate to the long hours and hard work it takes to be in politics. “She had a passion for helping people and that was a great fit with my office. We were really thrilled to see that she was interested in coming on board.”
Bach landed that job as district representative with Pan’s office in 2015, but as since moved on — she is now a consultant for the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus for the California State Legislature. Bach also served terms as both Secretary and Parliamentarian for the California Young Democrats. Most recently, she ran and won an historic campaign for Secretary of the California Democratic Party and, at age 25, is now one of the youngest statewide officials ever to hold an executive board office.
She’s the first to note that it wasn’t a campaign she had planned to run. In fact, in early 2016 when California Democratic Party Vice Chair Alex Gallardo-Rooker mentioned to Bach that nobody was running for Secretary in 2016, she started listing off the names of others who might be a good fit. At the end of the conversation, however, Bach notes that Rooker told her she should run for the office. “I said, ‘Are you crazy? This is never going to happen.’”
After receiving a great deal of opinions from those telling her she was too young to run or that she was setting herself up to fail, she finally mentioned the opportunity to her then-boss, Sen. Pan. He recalls the conversation and that he encouraged her to run.
“I believe that young people are not only the future, they’re the present,” he says. “They should be involved in leading now. We often talk about how we need to better engage our young people and in politics, but when they don’t see young people being given a chance to earn a leadership position and have that kind of authority, I think some of that can ring hollow.”
After months of campaigning, Bach still faced daunting odds going into the election. The race was close, with neither Bach or her two opponents securing the required 50 percent plus one vote to win. However, she was elected as Secretary after a run-off.
In hindsight, Bach says while her career trajectory has taken a turn she didn’t expect, she now knows that all of her experience has prepared her for her current and future roles, including as a mentor to other budding politicians.
“I am so inspired by a lot of young Dems I see,” she says, adding that high school-age Democrats have told her that she’s inspiring them to become politically active, knowing that they too could run for office in their 20s.
Follow our writer Jennifer Snyder every month as she speaks with people in the Capital Region who have taken unconventional career paths to get to where they are today.
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