Can’t Figure Out Your Hill Job? There’s an Outlet for That

Omair Mirza's new group helps legislative assistants learn about their jobs

Omair Mirza has worked in the office of Rep. Andre Carson for three years. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Omair Mirza has worked in the office of Rep. Andre Carson for three years. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 29, 2016 at 5:00am

Omair Mirza found navigating his legislative assistant job difficult when he first got the role.

He started in the office of Indiana Democratic Rep. André Carson as an intern in June 2013. He moved through the ranks from staff assistant to legislative correspondent, and in June 2015, he became a legislative assistant.

“It’s a vast job and ever-changing,” Mirza said of his current position.

So, he decided to start the Congressional Legislative Assistants Staff Association for people feeling the same way as he did. In January 2016, he got it approved through House Administration so it could officially take off.

It has since become an outlet for legislative assistants in Capitol Hill offices to get help.

“As an LC, you write letters. What is the actual role as an LA?” Mirza, 27, said. “Staffers don’t admit there are parts of their jobs they are unsure of. It’s OK to admit that, now let’s help you.” 

He also found that people leave the position because they are overwhelmed.

The association not only trains and answers questions, but also helps legislative assistants meet one another.

“You can go to receptions, you can party hop — we’re all in the same boat when it comes to networking,” he said. “You build a greater connection and camaraderie with another LA when you’ve helped one another out.”

[Veterans Work on And off the Hill for One Staffer]

The association has three board members plus Mirza, who is the president. About 400 staffers are on their mailing list.

Next week, the association is hosting its second week of events; its summer event week was the last week in June.

The week kicks off on Tuesday with a roundtable series, which will allow five or six legislative assistants to have an open discussion about their jobs, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in a yet-to-be-determined meeting room.

On Wednesday, House Budget Committee staffers will have a Q&A with legislative assistants and talk about the best practices for collaborating on legislative initiatives. This event takes place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Longworth 1324. In the summer, the association hosted staffers from the Ways & Means Committee.

The third event is a tutorial on House floor procedure next Thursday. Leadership staff from both the majority and minority will explain the complexities of the House from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Rayburn 2358A.

“We hope to dumb it down,” Mirza said of the floor procedure tutorial.

[Balancing Your Job and Activism on the Hill]

All events are on the Hill and easily accessible so staffers can go during the work day. The association’s website provides a place to RSVP.

They’re scheduled to run only during recess days and never go over the allotted time they’ve planned for, Mirza said.

“LAs are really receptive on a bipartisan basis,” he said.

Right now, the association is made up of Democrat and Republican legislative assistants in just the House but Mirza hopes to expand to the Senate.

While Mirza has a full workday, Carson has been “incredibly” supportive of him taking on this responsibly.

“He’s the reason why I’m here,” Mirza said of his boss who hired him as an intern at age 24.

“And, we have a great team who always puts work first,” he added.