Sometimes, you know what you want. And that might be a job in government. Not necessarily on the Hill, but in government in general. If so, how do you know you’re cut out to get there?
Q. I currently work for a multinational aerospace company. I am 23 years old, and have a BA in economics. I have wanted to work in government, specifically in policy development and analysis, since I graduated college, but have not had the opportunity.
I wanted to know your opinion as to whether I have a shot at positions such as a legislative aide/assistant. I have heard it might be worth going the unpaid internship route, although it is hard to leave a well paying job given that I graduated college 1.5 years ago. I have also been considering a MPA or MPP. In your honest opinion which route do you feel is the best option, given that government has always been my passion!
If it’s the Hill you want, start local. Ask to meet with your House and Senate offices. Tell them you’re interested in doing public service and you want to learn more about jobs on Capitol Hill. See what opportunities they have and if you’re a fit.
If it’s the broader goal of being a legislative assistant, you’ll need an expertise in a policy area. If you do not currently have that at your aerospace job, you’ll need to find a way to gain it. That is where the unpaid internship or entry-level Hill job can be helpful. You can take the opportunity to learn more about the legislative process and take on projects that will form the basis of a policy portfolio.
But say you don’t want to leave your comfortable paying job without a firm game plan. This is where the master’s degree comes in — but only if you can parlay that into legislative or policy expertise. Be mindful that academic expertise does not always translate into on-the-job qualifications. And it can come with some serious student loan debt. If you’re considering a master’s program with the goal of landing on Capitol Hill, my recommendation would be to do one of the D.C.-based programs that allow for internships/fellowships that will help transition you to a job once you graduate.
Some jobs on the Hill will help you, and then you can finally become a staffer and join the Capitol Hill world and the ups and downs that come with it.