When the Boss Quits: Staffer Survival Guide

Schock is resigning his seat, what does it mean for his staff? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Schock is resigning his seat, what does it mean for his staff? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted March 19, 2015 at 4:13pm

Rep. Aaron Schock is not the only person’s career to be upended in a flash . The Illinois Republican’s staffers, who once thought they could be working for a future leader in the House , will be out of a job and looking for work.  

One Schock staffer had a head start on his job hunt, but for the others, finding a new position can be tricky, especially when the most recent job on the résumé is with a member who has resigned amid an ongoing ethics investigation.  

Schock staffers will not find themselves immediately unemployed. When he leaves office at the end of the month, the aides who stay will report to the Clerk of the House. (The same would be true for any office that is vacated mid-Congress.)  

Constituents who dial in will no longer hear, “Office of Aaron Schock,” on the other end of the line. The greeting come April 1 will be “Office of the 18th District of Illinois.” Aides can still provide constituent services, though the office is forbidden from taking on legislative work. Staffers may keep those jobs until a new member chosen in a special election is sworn in. He or she will decides who stays, and who goes.  

“In general, staffers shouldn’t have much to worry about if they didn’t do anything wrong,” said Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation. “The staffers who allow themselves to get drawn into any sort of unethical activity and don’t demonstrate courageous followership are the ones that have something to worry about.”  

Schock staffers seeking a way forward can take heart in examining where colleagues in similar situations have landed. Rep. Chris Lee resigned in 2011 after allegations  he pursued a date with a woman on Craigslist and sent her a revealing photo of himself. Of the 32 staffers listed on the New York Republican’s payroll, 21 landed in other Capitol Hill jobs post-resignation, including staffers who now work in House leadership or as chiefs of staff.  

Staffers for former Rep. Eric Massa did not fare so well. The New York Democrat — like Schock and unlike Lee — faced an ethics investigation. This one concerned sexually-charged comments he allegedly made to an aide at a New Year’s Eve celebration. Of Massa’s 26 staffers listed in Legistorm, only four landed in Capitol Hill jobs, two of them crossing party lines to work for Rep. Tom Reed, the Republican who succeeded him.  

So what can Schock staffers do about it? Hill Navigator suggests they reach out to networks. Ideally the network may do the same. As with many tough lessons of life on Capitol Hill, you can be on a great career track one day and scrambling for interviews the next. Start setting up coffees . Speak with House leadership. Reach out to other offices in the delegation.  

And hang in there. It happens to the best of us. And when you do finally land in a great position , keep a soft spot for the staffers attached to the next member of Congress who goes down in flames. Then it’s your turn to buy the coffee.  

Correction 10:05 p.m.
A previous version of this story misstated Rep. Eric Massa’s party affiliation.