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And the Winner of the Staff Assistant Job Is …

We’ve all been there — qualified, hopeful, ready to hit the ground running but ultimately not the one picked for the job. But what happens when you aren’t even given a chance to apply? Hill Navigator discusses.

Q. I’m an intern in a Senate office, and I truly love my job. Lately my office has been experiencing a lot of turnover: LA’s and LC’s moving on, and one of our old staff assistants moved back to the state to work in the state office. Instead of hiring a new staff assistant, the Chief of Staff and HR person decided to pick an interim from within the intern pool. They just decided to go with the oldest, (not me), and I was a little frustrated with the situation. If it would have been an interview process and I lost I would be fine with that, but the fact it was just a pick seems unfair.

I also got stuck with all of the other interns tasks, which I am going to nail because I want to prove they made a mistake in not hiring me. I don’t really want to mention it to anyone in the office, because I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who complains about not getting the job. The other intern is a good friend, but I would have killed for that job as a way to further prove myself and I just don’t know what to do now.

A. Keep doing what you’re doing.  

Hill Navigator has heard of a lot of unusual hiring practices — picking someone who is the “oldest” might be a new one. It is not unusual to give a promotion based on length of tenure or seniority, if that is what you’re referring to. But let’s assume this was an arbitrary hiring decision, and had you been born in January and not July, the job could have been yours.  

You’re correct; don’t be “that guy” who complains. But do take the time to connect with your direct supervisor about more ways you can position yourself for a full-time, paid job. It is no secret, nor is it unusual, that someone who interns on Capitol Hill will want to work on Capitol Hill. That pipeline exists for a reason.  

Pick a time to talk with your supervisor and frame the conversation about your goals and the best way for you to get there. As you said, you don’t need to lambast the office for its unusual hiring practices. It’s also possible there are forces at work behind the scenes that helped your friend get the job. He might have earned it through sheer hard work, or the senator could have taken a particular liking to him, or his father could be a major campaign donor back home. (Don’t look so shocked. It happens.)  

And take the time to work closely with your friend in his new post. At the rate the office turnover is happening, he could move up much faster than either of you anticipate. And then there will be another staff assistant opening, one you are well suited to be selected for.

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