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It’s Not You, It’s Me

Has the Capitol Dome dimmed just a bit? Does the thought of constituent mail turn your stomach? Re-election leaving you glum? Perhaps Capitol Hill is not for you. But how to approach those contacts that helped you land that coveted job in the first place? Hill Navigator discusses.

Q. After lots of networking, many coffees and asking friends for favors, I landed a great new job. But turns out the Hill isn’t for me. How long can I wait before asking the same people for help again? And how do I explain that what I thought I wanted isn’t what I want anymore?

A. The Hill isn’t for you?  

Hill Navigator would not have a column if working on Capitol Hill were like any other government job. It’s not. And while the experience is valuable, fascinating and rewarding, it’s also time limited.  

And it’s not for everyone.  

Kudos for acknowledging that this might not be the right job for you. As to where to go from here, let’s explore a few options:  

If you’ve got a new itch. Cross Capitol Hill off your bucket list, you’re ready for something else. Maybe it’s the administration, or maybe it’s the campaign trail or grad school. Assuming your contacts helped you find your current position, you owe it to them (and your boss) to do the best job possible while you search for a new one.  

If you want to stay in the political and policy world of D.C., your best bet is to start with your existing contacts. Reiterate your gratitude and take the extra step to volunteer to do any informational interviews with people they know who are looking for Capitol Hill work. Even if it wasn’t your dream job, it’s still likely someone else’s, and you can return the favor that way before asking for additional help.  

Also, use your current position to create new contacts. As you meet more people in your newly desired field, you can expand your network. These people will have firsthand experience working with you. And they can attest to what a stellar staffer you are.  

If you’re in a hurry. Perhaps the Hill has been a total bust and you’re in a rush to get out. Before going back to your contacts, come up with a compelling narrative that validates their effort to help you with the job search. Perhaps you have new responsibilities in your life that makes Capitol Hill’s hectic schedule a poor fit. Perhaps the boss’s personality changes behind closed doors. However you approach it, lead with gratitude for their initial help. No one wants to feel like their effort is wasted.  

If you’ve got no idea. You don’t know where you want to go, but you know it’s anywhere but here. Take the time to figure that out. This is where your contacts can help; rather than meeting to ask about a new job, ask them how they found their ideal place of work. What do they value most? Do they have thoughts on what might be the best fit for you? Such conversations are productive to have in any field, at any level. If your contacts were willing to chat with you once before, they’re likely willing to talk again.  

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