Capitol Hill or Bust!

Posted October 7, 2013 at 1:30pm

Even as government employees are stuck at home in furlough mode, there are still people willing to work in Congress. Because — and Hill Navigator firmly believes it — it’s one of the greatest places to work. Today’s question is from someone who, government shutdown aside, still wants to be a Capitol Hill staffer again.

Q. Do you have any advice for folks who are looking to do a second stint as a congressional staffer?

I worked on the Hill as a legislative assistant about five years ago. It was unquestionably the best job I’ve ever had. 
I left (reluctantly) for what I thought would be an amazing private sector opportunity outside of D.C., which has, shall we say, turned out to be less than amazing.

I would really love to return to the Hill, and I’ve begun networking with colleagues from my old office and elsewhere. Do you have any special tips for this situation? My long term goal would be to find a legislative director or chief of staff position.

Second, you are wise to identify your goals — short- and long-term. If you have experience as a policy aide, you are more likely to transition to a similar policy role. Your long-term goal of chief of staff or legislative director is good to keep in mind, but traditionally members of Congress hire people they are close to for those roles, often a longtime staffer. There are exceptions to this, but an office is more likely to bring an outsider in for a particular policy area rather than for an office leadership position.

So when you network with your contacts, take time to highlight your legislative role. Your private sector experience — assuming you can connect it with your policy experience — should enhance your credentials. Rather than telling colleagues you want to “return to the Hill,” be specific. Say you want to work in energy policy or you want to help with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Then they can introduce you to people who are directly connected to those positions. Once you’re back on the Hill, you can continue to network and grow professionally in your role so that when the legislative director or chief of staff position does open up, you’ll have a good shot.

Have a question? Let us know. Hill Navigator wants to hear from you.