How to Leave the Private Sector for Capitol Hill
Posted at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2014
Want to land a job on Capitol Hill? Don’t get too comfy in that private sector Aeron chair; Hill Navigator discusses how and when to start networking to cross “working on Capitol Hill” off your bucket list.
Q. I graduated undergrad this year, and recently started working in the private sector on and [around] the Hill. I enjoy it, but one day want to work on ‘THE Hill.’ What can I start doing now to ensure I can make that transition one day?
A. If by working on the Hill “one day,” you mean, soon, then start networking now.
There are myriad ways to land a job on Capitol Hill, but the best way — by far — is to know people there who will vouch for you and get your résumé to the top of the pile.
You’re already ahead of the game if you’re working in one of the many private sector companies that interact with congressional offices. Whatever your job may be, make yourself available to as many current and former Hill staffers as you can. Get to know them: join the softball team, go out for coffee, meet for drinks at Hawk ‘n’ Dove. When you have an established relationship, tell them your goals and ask if they have advice for you.
Include former staffers on that list of people you want to meet. Many of them still have strong connections to their old offices and delegations; some may be on the short lists that chiefs call when they need recommendations for an office opening.
A word of caution: Landing a job on Capitol Hill is not always easy, or timely, and often the job does not pay as well as its private sector counterpart. So if working on the Hill is something you have your sights set on, keep at it. Members of Congress want to hire people who believe in the job, and nearly every Hill staffer could be making more money in a different gig on K Street. Hill Navigator believes that the struggle to find a Hill job — which can take months longer than you anticipate — is well worth it, but it’s a decision each person must make for themselves.
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