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Capitol Hill: It’s Not for Everyone

Not sure you want to climb the ladder on Capitol Hill? Here's how to know when to leave. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Not sure you want to climb the ladder on Capitol Hill? Here's how to know when to leave. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Working on Capitol Hill may be a dream job  for some, but others may find the esoteric workplace a hard place in which to succeed. So what do you do if you decide Capitol Hill is not for you, and how long should you wait it out? Hill Navigator discusses.

I’ve been working as a Staff Assistant/Scheduler on the Hill for almost 9 months, and was an intern for 4 [months] before that. As great as this opportunity has been, it is abundantly clear that there’s no room for advancement in my current office and I hesitate to search for LC positions in other offices. After these past few months, I’ve realized that I’m not the type of person who can really do well here. I have good connections off the Hill but I also hesitate to leave so soon. How long should I remain in my current position before I seek work elsewhere?

Capitol Hill is an amazing place to work, but it’s not for everyone, and it’s certainly not for someone who knows they are ready to leave. I agree that you shouldn’t look for a legislative correspondent position if you’re lukewarm on the Hill environment, but there may be other options available to you.  

The average staff assistant tenure is less than two years (though for schedulers, it is more than five years). So leaving in less than one year may be a bit eyebrow raising, and because you’re within a stone’s throw of that one-year mark, I’d recommend sticking it out. Nine months may be a relatively short tenure in a position, but it’s not too early to start informational interviews to learn more about what else is available off of Capitol Hill. Start having conversations with people whose jobs interest you, or whose work is a better fit for your interests and skill set.  

One note to add: If this is one of your first jobs out of college — as most staff assistant positions tend to be — then be sure you’ve given it a fair chance before you conclude the Hill is not a place you would do well. While Capitol Hill is not an ideal fit for many people, those who do land one of the coveted spots usually have a reason for being there. If your office has no room for advancement but is happy with your performance, it may even help you make your next move, as few offices expect you to languish in entry level positions much more than a year or two.  

Whether you decide to stay or go, be sure you give your best effort at making your current job succeeding before heading out. When you do decide to exit gracefully, Hill Navigator has a list of some things to keep in mind .  

Good luck!  

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