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For Displaced Staffers, Post-Election Job Search All Starts With Networking

The post-Election Day dust has settled, and while a few House races have yet to be called, at least 65 members will not be returning for the 113th Congress.

While the media focuses on the departure of lawmakers and what it means for members’ political and personal futures, the losses and retirements also directly affect people who work in Washington and district offices whose employment hinges on their bosses’ success on Election Day.

For the hundreds of staffers in the offices of retiring members and those felled by the electorate, the height of the Capitol Hill office shuffle begins now, as staffers begin to work their networks to find employment before the transition of power officially takes place on Jan. 3.

“Unless your boss is in a pure red or pure blue district, it’s rough and tumble,” said Harry Gural, communications director for retiring Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., referring to the cycle of losses and retirements that inevitably leave staffers unemployed. “It’s just the nature of this business.”

Experts and longtime staffers who have been through these shuffles in the past say that while daunting, there is hope for the dozens of people forced out of their jobs by the political process.

Their advice to those looking for a new job? It all starts with networking.

From staff associations to connections with workers in other Hill offices and the private sector, reaching out can help get your résumé to the top of the pile, as well as potentially break a tie during a hiring process with many qualified candidates.

Jake McCook, communications director for the Gay Lesbian and Allies Senate Staff Caucus and deputy press secretary for Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the members of his organization help each other network to find jobs when they’re in tough spots, such as the turnover that will come in January.

“It ultimately comes down to a person’s résumé and qualifications, but sometimes it just takes the initial contact or an introduction to get to the point where they can interview,” McCook said of the networking process. “We’re definitely here, and I think we create an environment and are up front about the professional development we offer, so people can feel comfortable coming to us and asking us [for help in the job search].”

Groups such as the Women’s Congressional Staff Association, which is open to female staffers in the House and the Senate, hold strategically timed workshops about job searching and networking to help their members who will soon be out of a job.

Sara Lonardo, communications director for Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and vice president of WCSA, said the group will host a job boot camp for its members Monday.

“There will be a panel talking about best strategies for looking, how to land a job and an interactive résumé review,” Lonardo said of the boot camp. “Folks can bring their résumé [and] have other people look at it who are responsible for hiring.”

“We’re definitely sensitive to the calendar, and the job search boot camp is planned for November, when people are back in town from campaigns and when people are looking for new jobs,” she said.

For those without ties to a staff association, Tom Manatos, a former Hill staffer who runs the political job search website, said the best place to start is with incoming freshmen.

“The most likely chance to get a job might be with new members, so my advice is that they know where the new member temporary offices are during new member orientation, and that they drop off their resume in those temporary offices,” Manatos said.

Chris Jones, president of political temp agency Politemps and former congressional staffer, said doing research on which members will be moving into leadership slots is also a good way to figure out which offices will be given bigger staffing budgets, and work those offices as well in order to find a job.

“When I was interning on the Hill, I was older, I was 28 years old. I was interning and handing out résumés, and I looked at a copy of Roll Call and I noticed that a person had just won a position as majority whip, so I realized that that meant more staff, a bigger budget, and I realized that person was going to be in leadership and did a basic lobbying effort there,” Jones said.

Manatos said looking outside the Hill is a savvy move to make as well — with the revolving door swinging in both directions, outside jobs are likely to open up.

After four years in the White House, Manatos said many staffers in the executive branch will begin to move on, creating openings for people on the Hill, which can ultimately trickle down to Hill staffers displaced by congressional change-ups.

The most important thing to remember, Manatos said, is not to get discouraged if a job doesn’t come through right away.

“Don’t get too distraught if it’s a couple of months [before you find a job],” Manatos said. “There should be a bunch of moving.”

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