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Posts in "State/District"
May 20, 2014
It seems to come so easily to many politicians: the hearty handshake, the half-arm hug, asking after family members then listening with oh-so-intrigued eyes as the stories roll in. But what about those for whom small talk and glad-handing isn’t a natural part of their modus operandi? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. Do you have any advice for someone incredibly shy who now all of a sudden has to represent their office at evening receptions as part of their job? It would be nice to get over the shyness for reasons of personal career advancement, as well. Being in a room full of strangers is more daunting than it looks.
A. Being in a room full of strangers can be daunting to anyone; even the most extroverted can stammer through talking points or have trouble feigning interest during the umpteenth round of small talk. Full story
July 31, 2013
There are few phrases more beloved on Capitol Hill than “August Recess.” That four-to-five-week stretch of time when the Capitol empties out, vacation days are cashed in, and the general frenetic activity and acrimony of Congress are mellowed in favor of shorter work hours and longer happy hours. Bipartisan cheers all around.
But August recess still means you’ve got some hours to spend at your desk. Even the long lunches won’t take up an entire day. So what to do with your time? Hill Navigator has some advice on how to make the best use of your August recess. A sprinkling of productivity makes the day go by much faster.
Q. I really appreciate your honest advice; you have a good view of things. Now that August is fast approaching, many staffers will take extended vacations. For those stuck in the office, do you have any suggestions on how best to use this time? Thank you.
A. Yes, pick a handful of things you want to get done this August recess and come up with a way to execute your to-do list. Need some ideas? Hill Navigator has a few:
1. Go to the district. No August recess is complete without a few days (or even a week) back home in the district/state office. Those lucky enough to work for your home state member can turn these trips into some quality family visiting time, but for those who work elsewhere, those district trips are still valuable. Here’s why: Capitol Hill is its own, isolated microcosm of a community. The politics and policies fiercely debated here have a way of translating much differently outside the Beltway. Even if you aren’t one to mull over the legislative accomplishment (or lack thereof) of Congress, going to the state/district will serve as a reminder of whom you represent. Hearing from people—whether in a town hall meeting or at the pancake house—will be the best dose of reality you’ll get all summer.
2. Catch up with everyone. I don’t just mean your softball buddies. Use the August recess to grab coffee with people you’ve worked with over the year—from the legislative assistant whose bill you co-signed to the staff assistant you met at your alumni reception. Success on Capitol Hill depends in part on connections, and good connections require some maintenance. August is the perfect time to do that.
3. Get smarter. Skip the New York Times crossword puzzle and use the August recess to brandish some of your legislative credentials. Our friends at the Congressional Research Service make this easy. CRS offers a full range of programs for congressional staff—free of charge–including policy and legal seminars, legislative research and orientation programs. Go to CRS.gov and click on “events” to see their full offerings for Hill staff. (Unfortunately for non-Hill staff, this website is not accessible outside of Congress). Or if you have questions, give CRS a call at (202) 707-5700.
And if all else fails, grab a bottle of all-purpose cleaner and give your desk a good once-over. Maybe you’ll unearth an old memo or to-do list to jump-start your recess with some fresh ideas.
July 15, 2013
Hill staffers are an ambitious bunch. That same call to public service sometimes includes the drive to run for elected office.
In today’s Roll Call, I interviewed several former Capitol Hill staffers who are running for local office. While these races won’t be decided until 2014, each of the people I spoke with believed their Hill experience was a positive attribute, and they found ways to bring their work ethic, understanding of policy, and love for politics to their own campaigns.
From the article:
Marc Korman has gained a new appreciation for his old bosses.
“Many Hill staffers joke about their bosses’ stock answers to questions or stump speeches, but as a candidate, you start to see that you are meeting with so many different people so often, that you cannot be original every time,” said Korman, who is running for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 16, which includes portions of Friendship Heights, Bethesda, North Bethesda, Rockville and Potomac.
Korman is just one of a long list of former staffers who attempt to make the transition to elected office. According to CQ Roll Call Member Information and Research, 76 of the current House and Senate members previously served as congressional staff, though those numbers do not include state and local offices, such as the one Korman is running for.
June 11, 2013
Every summer without fail, the Capitol Hill tradition of congressional baseball comes back in full force.
Middle-aged men and women put on their baseball pants and local team uniforms. Batting practice commences at sunup, staffers are lured by the promise of beer and hot dogs, and our friends at Nationals Park allow the Democrats and Republicans to take over their field in a spirit of bipartisanship and baseball.
Really, what could go wrong?
The answer: not much. Congressional baseball is a fantastic, unique-to-Congress event. It has the feel of a summer baseball game with the camaraderie of a work happy hour.
But Hill Navigator knows that baseball isn’t fun for everyone (insert collective gasp). And work events can be fraught with complications and interoffice conflicts. So here’s a guide on how to make the staff ballpark night go more smoothly for everyone.
First, take it for what it is. This is not the Washington Nationals, nor is it even the P-Nats. These are men and women fulfilling a lifelong dream to be a sports star with the audience and arena to do so. For all you Baseball Prospectus fans, leave the dither at home and try and enjoy the mediocre ballgame without the major-league comparisons. No one wants to sit next to a whiner.
Second, root for the home team. Bring on the partisanship and get into the spirit of your side. It’s one of the best days of the year to root for your party without any of the rancor or campaign ramifications. Bonus points for legislatively themed signage or creative partisan chants.
Third, mingle. I don’t mean with just your office — get up and walk around the park. This can be especially useful if the idea of three hours with your fellow legislative assistants seems daunting. Take advantage of the above-average ballpark food (see recommendation below) and great setting. If the weather cooperates, it could be a beautiful (albeit humid) night, and you can be part of your office outing without being confined to a single space.
Fourth, watch the drinking. Seems obvious, but know your limits and remember it’s a work event and not a trash-talking Yankees game.
Fifth, spin this to your local paper. If your boss is in the game, make sure you snap a pic and let your hometown papers know about it. You won’t be missing votes, and you’re likely to generate a story that even the most politically apathetic could still find interesting.
And several practical tips:
- Ditch the suit and ID badge. Change into casual clothes and don’t walk around with that badge hanging out. You’re not an intern, and if you are, you don’t need to look like it.
- Read the CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game Program. It tells you who’s who and has some fun facts about the players (see the GOP team spotlight on Jeff Flake and the Democratic team spotlight on Adam Smith). Information is power in Washington, even the trivial hometown details come in handy. And as a bonus recommendation, check out this story on the Washington Literacy Center, who will greatly benefit from the funds generated by the game.
- Get the National Pastime Concrete at the Shake Shack. From what my sources tell me, the vanilla custard and chocolate toffee concoction is one of the best offerings at the ballpark.