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D is for Desperate

Think you’re the only one who really wants that Capitol Hill job? Worried that all the begging might leave you looking a bit “desperate?” Hill Navigator discusses reframing your messaging techniques below.

Q. I moved to D.C. specifically to work on the Hill, preferably in a policy area where I have some legitimate creds. After a long but very positive stint interning in all the right places on the Hill, I took a good job (again, related to my policy area) off the Hill because after what seemed like thousands of applications and coffees, I just couldn’t get hired. But now I am looking to get back to the Hill after the elections, and given some likely post-election changes, have a specific place in mind. How do I go about letting Hill staff contacts that I might be working with in my current role know that I want to leave to come to the Hill in a manner that is tactful and not too desperate?

A. Don’t call yourself desperate.  

Hill Navigator can provide you with a better term: goal-oriented.  

You already know it’s hard to get a job on Capitol Hill and that it takes lots of coffees and applications before anything can come to fruition. And you already have a plan to make a move post-election, which is reasonable and well thought out.  

It’s your messaging we need to change.  

Don’t be a “desperate” person begging for an informational interview. Rather, be someone working in a policy field alongside other Hill staffers, who presumably have a high opinion of your good work. Ask to meet for coffee without making it about your job search. It can be a simple catch-up, a recess lunch, or a “good to meet in person” conversation. Then build the relationship from there.  

You are not “desperate” if you cultivate a good professional relationship with someone and then ask if they know of any job opportunities in your related field.  

You are not “desperate” if you seek to connect with colleagues in your field to find more ways to work together.  

You are not “desperate” if you let your colleagues know of some of your long term goals — including your goal of working on the Hill —and see if there are mutually beneficial ways to help you get there. Remember, people at your policy organization stand to benefit from having one of their own working on the legislative side. You’re more likely to answer calls and emails from a former coworker.  

But still worried about having desperate written on your forehead? Some things to avoid:  

Mass emails. If you can’t take the time to personalize it, then no one will take the time to answer. In the era of cut and paste, there is no reason why you can’t send an email to each person individually.  

Showing up unannounced. Novice move. If you know the person, send an email and set up a time. “Just stopping by!” only works if they’ve issued such an invitation previously.  

Going for the big fish. That chief of staff you met might be helpful, but so will the staff assistant, who likely has more of an incentive to network with you. Don’t get caught up in labels; junior staffers don’t remain in those positions very long, and they can sometimes help in hiring their replacements.  

Good luck!

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