How Important Is the Rep’s Reputation?

Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:30pm

So, you work for a big shot. Is there a fancy name in raised print on your business card? There are plenty of people in the name-dropping world of Washington who work for impressive bosses. But what if reputation alone isn’t enough? This week’s Hill Navigator takes a look at when it is worth jumping ship from a well-respected office to an unknown entity.

Q. I currently work for a member that is widely respected and have people tell me on a weekly basis how much they respect and admire my boss. However, I have plateaued in my job responsibilities and there is not any room for advancement until someone above me leaves. Sometimes I love the thought of a managerial role somewhere, but I also have a hard time imagining working for a member who may be less-respected or less well known. When considering moving offices, how much value should one put on the reputation of the member?

A. On Capitol Hill your work is defined by your boss — the bills are introduced in his name, the committee votes are the ones she takes and the press releases are quoting the boss, even if you are the one writing them. Reputation matters — working for someone who is known and admired will serve your résumé well when you look to transition off Capitol Hill. (You can avoid the awkward question of “who was that guy again?” or having to explain your stint with a one-term wonder.)

So the short answer is: Reputation is important. But your role in the office is also crucial. If you’re not able to grow into a better position, it’s time to look for a job better suited to you. But keep in mind that reputations change. Consider the staffers who worked for ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., or the people who relocated to North Carolina for the John Edwards campaign. Sometimes even the most “well respected” of bosses can fall from grace and the obscure can go to great heights. Just ask the staffers who went to work for a relatively unknown junior senator from Illinois in 2006. They’re seeing that gamble pay off in dividends.

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