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Posts in "That First Hill Job"
August 21, 2014
Looking to make a switch from law firm life? Maybe you’d like to be more of an Erin Brockovich and less of an Ally McBeal. But how does time at a law firm — especially one outside of D.C. — affect your Capitol Hill job search? Hill Navigator discusses.
August 19, 2014
August 12, 2014
Think your past can come back to haunt you when searching for a job on Capitol Hill? What if it includes a less-than-stellar record that hasn’t been scrubbed? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. If I have a misdemeanor public intoxication on my record from college, will I be able to get a job on Capitol Hill?
A. Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: It depends. Most offices on Capitol Hill don’t do background checks, and those that would go through the trouble are looking for felonies or anti-American activities, not the kind that will earn you a night in the drunk tank.
Where your misdemeanor is most likely to surface as an issue is during a security clearance, which does come with certain Capitol Hill and administration positions.
The legislative branch uses guidelines from the Department of Defense for conducting staff security clearances. (You can find them online here). Disqualifying conditions may include arrest and/or conviction of a felony; frequent involvement with authorities even as a juvenile, and a DWI/DUI. You can also be disqualified for deliberately omitting or concealing information, so while that public intoxication by itself isn’t likely to ruin your security clearance, keeping mum on it could make it worse.
Most Hill staffers went to college, and not all were the upstanding citizens they are now, certainly not at all hours of the day. Consider Bluto from “Animal House.” He wound up a senator in the end.
But keep your tie on straight once you land that Hill job. Another misdemeanor could put you in a tough spot once your boss’ name is attached to it, especially if the news winds up in Roll Call. Hopefully your college mistake is a one-time “lesson learned” and you’re on to bigger and better things.
July 22, 2014
Sometimes it takes time away from D.C. to realize this is where you want to be. But how do you get back on the job market after you return? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. During college I spent a lot of time on campaigns and did two full time internships in D.C., one on the Hill and the other at the [White House.] I joined the Army and have been out of the loop for a couple years, but I am interested in moving back and going to work on the Hill. Does my time away from the Hill help or hurt my chances of joining a staff? Should I be looking at entry level positions?
A. Welcome back. The shiny lure of the Capitol is hard to resist, isn’t it?
As a general guideline, Capitol Hill hiring does tend to favor the straight-shot, college-to-intern-to-staffer line. But not everyone goes that route, nor is it best suited for all cases. There are ways to get back on the Hill even after time away. It just might require some more focus and patience on your end.
Some tips that might help you:
— Start local. Call your local members of Congress and ask for an informational interview. If you find a staffer willing to take time and offer an honest assessment, she can suggest what positions might be ideal for you. Ask for ways you can get involved and if there might be opportunities to put your current skills to work.
— Build up your expertise. Is there an area of policy you’re interested in? Maybe you’ve got a knack for foreign affairs, or want to work on behalf of veterans. It can be tricky to jump straight to the Hill without direct experience, but if you have a level of expertise, you can work in that field and make stronger contacts who can attest to what an asset you’d be in any office.
— Use your existing network. If there were ever a star “excused absence” from politics, it would be the military. Many offices give preferences to veterans while hiring.
— Separate “coming to D.C.” with “working on the Hill.” There are ways to do both simultaneously, but it might be wiser to find an opportunity that is a better fit for you now and maximizes your potential to work on the Hill later. Keep “working on the Hill” as a goal, but recognize there are different ways to get there, just as your own story illustrates.
Have a question for Hill Navigator? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will be treated anonymously.
June 11, 2014
For most of Capitol Hill, summer means intern season is just beginning. But what if you’re on a different timetable, and your internship is ending without a paid job yet? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. My internship ends this Friday. However, I haven’t found a job yet and I plan on staying here in D.C. What can I do to stay in the job loop on the Hill after, besides staying in touch with the contacts I’ve made?
A. Congrats on interning, it’s one of the best ways to land a paying job on Capitol Hill. And you are right; staying in touch with the contacts you’ve made is a great way to keep your job search active. But “active” doesn’t always cut it — you want a job soon, and not one waiting tables at Rock Bottom Brewery. So here are a few ways to hasten that along:
Ask your contacts for more contacts. These guys already know you’re stellar, so ask if they can introduce you to staffers in other offices for informational interviews. Assuming you were a strong intern, they’re likely going to be happy to help. And even if your internship wasn’t as outstanding as you would have liked it to be, your office can still point you in a good direction.
It’s opportunity season. Otherwise known as election season. Midterms are just around the corner and both sides should be staffing up soon. Working on a campaign isn’t always a direct route to Capitol Hill, but if you’re connected to a state with a challenger who has a decent chance to knock off an incumbent, or an incumbent who could use some help defending his or her seat, it could be worth exploring the option. And if you want to travel to far-off exotic spots, whether it be New Orleans or Scranton, Pa., a few months on the campaign trail could be a good fit.
Offer to help. Maybe your old office has a tough re-election, or maybe they’re actively supporting a challenger from a neighboring district. Nothing says “team player” like volunteering to canvas, stuff envelopes or shuttle volunteers. And if your old office has been lukewarm about recommending you on the internship alone, they’re likely to have much more glowing things to say if you’ve proved you can go the extra mile.
Put together a game plan and consider a second internship. Depending on how well your contacts are faring and how your job search is going, you may want to consider looking for a second internship. So many factors go into this — your résumé and experience, the hiring process, your state connections and sheer dumb luck — so Hill Navigator can’t say one way or another if you need to rush ahead on applying for more intern experience. But sit down with someone who does know you well and get their feedback.
Have a question for Hill Navigator? Email email@example.com. All submissions will be treated anonymously.
June 4, 2014
Congratulations on landing the interview, but what happens when the office goes silent? Is this a convoluted game of playing hard to get? Or is no answer really a “no” answer? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I finally landed an interview for a Hill internship after many attempts (I’m a college grad but after many failed attempts at staff assistant/LC jobs, I’m willing to do anything to start a career on the Hill). I thought the interview went fairly well, and afterwards they asked when I could start if I got the job when I e-mailed a thank you note. I don’t think it went as well as it could have, partially because they didn’t interview me for the job description I applied for, but rather something that seemed oddly tailored to my work experience and policy background. However, it’s been two weeks and I have not heard from the office … What do I do?
A. You follow up.
Send a friendly email, reiterating your interest in the position, how much you enjoyed meeting the office, offering to provide them any additional materials they might need. Then you can go back to waiting.
But waiting is rough, isn’t it?
We’ve all been caught in the impatient waiting game of job searching — even the best of job hiring processes have lag times, which seem endless when you’re kept in the dark. Hill Navigator completely sympathizes with the confusion you’re going through, and Capitol Hill is a prime offender in slow, obfuscated hiring processes. But, in an attempt to ease your frustration, here are a few things to ponder that might give you a glimpse into the furtive world of HIRING. (But none of these, except the follow-up email, might make it go any faster.)
Sometimes, the office doesn’t know either. Maybe they want to hire you, but they don’t have the office manager’s sign-off. Maybe the chief of staff wants to do another round of interviews and her schedule isn’t open. Or maybe the congressman has instituted an arbitrary hiring freeze so he can donate money back to the Treasury. Whatever the reason, it might be just as frustrating to the staff who wants to bring you in. After all, if there’s a job opening, it means there’s work to be done, and someone’s had to pick it up until that spot is filled.
Sometimes you aren’t their first choice. Hill Navigator thinks you’re awesome, and maybe the office does too, but sometimes you aren’t their number one. Second choices do get hired. They get promoted, they get big jobs, and sometimes they need to wait a bit longer for the first choice to walk away. It happens.
And face the cold, ugly reality: It might not be your job. Maybe you aced the interview and maybe you didn’t. Maybe they want to hire someone from western North Dakota and you’re from Fargo. Whatever the reason, sometimes silence does mean rejection. Give it one more friendly follow-up before crossing the office off your list. And know this: It happens to the best of us. Securing a job on Capitol Hill is no small feat, and one recalcitrant office shouldn’t get you down.
Got a question for Hill Navigator? Email firstname.lastname@example.org All submissions will be treated anonymously.
May 7, 2014
Maybe it’s the spring sunshine, or the abundant cherry blossoms, but Hill Navigator has noticed an uptick in questioners who have happily landed in their dream jobs and are asking what to do next. Make more contacts? Stay in touch with old ones? How to say thank you?
(Short answers: Yes, yes and a thank-you card.)
So this column is directed toward you, happy staffers. Here are some suggestions on what you can do next.
What? Is that some sort of typo? Surely Hill Navigator’s advice credentials must be fading already. Why on earth should a happy staffer interview for a job somewhere else?
Because it is best to interview when you are happy in your job. You can come to an interview with confidence and the ability to view the job objectively, rather than with the hangdog look of “please hire me” that tends to accompany desperate staffers who need to leave their job, posthaste.
The New York Times recently wrote that employers would rather hire people who are currently employed, rather than those looking for work. Hill Navigator argues this a step further and believes offices are more inclined to hire people who are happy in their current jobs, rather than those who are unhappy.
Here is why (and brace yourself for some armchair psychology). Happy staffers ARE all alike. If you’re the content, eager to work hard, friendly co-worker who organizes the March Madness pool and refills the coffee pot, then who WOULDN’T want to work with you? Happy offices want happy employees. Even the most savvy of us can have trouble hiding our true feelings if we’re dissatisfied in our job, and during the interview process this could inadvertently hurt your chances.
Still not sure you should be interviewing when you’re happy enough as is? Hill Navigator has a few more reasons for you to ponder.
1) It’s good to get out there. Maybe more offices are hoping to hire staffers with campaign experience, or maybe the salary range for your position has gone up. The best information is gleaned firsthand, and by taking the occasional interview you will know what your position is worth and what other skills you can brush up on.
2) Things change — sometimes quickly. If the ground shifts — a boss resigns, a CEO leaves or a company gets bought out and leaves the old staff behind — you don’t want to be caught without a lure in the water. Winds (and fortunes) can change overnight — just ask Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La., or Donald Sterling. Even if you’re happy where you are, know that situations change, for better and for worse, and you’d be wise to be prepared.
3) The better opportunity might be there. You might be happy in your job, but there might be something more suited to you. Maybe it’s a better location with an easier commute, maybe it’s a salary bump, or more (or less) travel. You won’t know unless you take the interview.
But take this advice to heart: Take an interview when it’s relevant to you, but if you know from the start the position is an ill fit, you can use your happy splendor of your current job to turn it down. Offices usually have a way of knowing when their star employees are interviewing elsewhere. It’s fine to keep them on their toes, but too many “afternoon doctor’s appointments” can give the wrong impression too.
And whatever you do, follow up with a thank-you note. Happy employee that you are, you probably knew that already.
May 6, 2014
“You gotta network to get work.” Wise words from Dan Egan, fictional Hill staffer turned vice presidential confidante on HBO’s “Veep,” which Hill Navigator finds more palatable than its flashier counterpart, “House of Cards” (but that’s another topic altogether.) The broader point is, once you’ve landed your dream job, how do you stay in touch with all those oh-so-valuable contacts who helped along the way? Hill Navigator answers.
Q. Just wanted to hear your thoughts on how to best network after you get the job. After doing tons of informational interviews that helped me land the dream job, how often should I remain in contact with those individuals who were crucial to helping me get that job? And what tone to use?
Q. After interning for a little while, I was able to obtain my current position as a staff assistant in a Member’s office several months ago (though I have remained ready to move up the ladder since my first week). During my internship, I had informational interviews with many people on the Hill, and some of those people were instrumental in helping me land my job, but all of the people I met with were helpful in some way. Sometimes I randomly see them around the Hill and I always regret not staying in touch with them. However, I don’t really know how to go about doing it, unless I just email them about seemingly nothing from time to time. Even if I did that, it would seem painfully obvious as to why I was doing it, and I barely know them. I added most of them on LinkedIn long ago, but that’s always a one and done sort of thing.
What is the best way to stay in touch with those I met during my job search, especially those directly responsible for helping me secure my current job, and also people I meet going forward with whom I will want to maintain a connection?
A. Congrats on getting your dream job. And you’re wise to start thinking about how to stay in touch with those key contacts who helped you along the way.
Start by offering to return the favor.
If they helped you get a job, you should be a resource for them in your related field. If they aren’t trying to make a move, they likely know other junior staffers who are. Volunteer to take informational interviews or meet with someone who wants to learn more about working in D.C. Take those meetings unfailingly. They will be grateful and you can use each interaction as an excuse to check in.
As for what tone to use, try a graciousness-humility hybrid, with a touch of personal warmth. Your contacts likely won’t want to hear about your personal dating woes or the list of injuries on your fantasy baseball team. They’d be more inclined to hear you’re enjoying the work, learning a lot and are still grateful to them for helping you get there. And if you haven’t already, be sure to let them know that you landed in your dream job. Much better to learn it directly from you than to see your name pop up in Roll Call’s Downtown Moves.
But what about those whom you just happen to see in the hall? Go with a quick “hello,” with a brief introduction (even the best of us forget names from time to time) and a happy line about how cozily you’re ensconced in your new office. And then add the kicker about how you’re thankful for the help and you’ll always appreciate it. Hill staffers might be busy, but few are too busy for a round of praise. Particularly from a staffer like you, who is genuinely appreciative of their good work.
And a final request from Hill Navigator: Print out (or bookmark) this column and keep it tucked away with your stash of business cards. Because one day your dream job might seem a little less rosy, or those junior staffers with requests for coffee dates might seem a little more needy. Jobs change, bosses leave, people outgrow positions — Hill Navigator doesn’t expect you to still be in the same spot a few years from now. But remember the hard work and good people it took to land you there. Keeping that in mind will serve you well, far into the future.
April 29, 2014
Hill Navigator has long lauded the benefits of internships. But even the best of internships have their limits. How do you know when you’ve reached the end of the intern trail? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I’m a college senior who will be graduating in May. I have interned in two congressional offices and my ultimate goal is to be back on the Hill. I have a couple of questions. Firstly, when is it appropriate to start applying to staff assistant positions such as those listed on job banks? Secondly, I know that both of the office[s] I have interned for would consider me if they had a staff assistant opening, but that doesn’t seem likely at the moment. I know there are many ways to get to a job on the Hill, but do you think I should cut to the chase and intern again in an office in hopes of it turning into a paid position? If so, is it best to wait until the fall?
A. Hill Navigator has written on this countless times before: Interning on Capitol Hill is one of the best ways to find a paid position. But you already knew this, which explains why you’ve interned twice already, putting yourself in a very good position to be hired. You have Hill experience and you have some foresight to start applying soon.
But Capitol Hill will not fit neatly into many timelines, and even the strongest powers of prognostication cannot tell you how long until you find a paid position. What Hill Navigator can tell you is how to maximize your opportunities to do so.
Stay in Touch: Those offices that you interned for are your best resource for additional informational interviews, recommendations for offices to contact and potential future employment. They should know that you are looking and it’s your job to keep them informed of your progress. If you are applying somewhere, let them know. If you are looking for an introduction to a particular office (perhaps your home state senator or member from a nearby district), then see if they can help arrange. Be gracious, be patient and follow up with a “thank you” each time they help you. Staff members are less likely to turn away an applicant that has been recommended to them by another office. You might not get the job, but you’re more likely to land an interview.
Evaluate Your Prospects: What does a third internship get you? Are you angling to work on a particular committee or in a particular chamber but lack the requisite experience? If so, a third internship homing in on your interests could help. But if you’re just adding another office experience that is largely indistinguishable from the previous two, you may be better off finding temporary paid work while focusing on your Hill search.
Seek Selective Guidance: Hill Navigator thinks you’re great, though we haven’t actually met so I can’t give you the personal assessment you need on how long your job search might take. Seek out one or two trusted individuals for their input; they may have insight on how long you’ll be waiting for a job. Perhaps you’re from a region that is likely to be hiring someone local, or people are getting ready to depart for midterm election campaign trails. Or, perhaps you’re angling for a position that could take months (or a blue moon) to become available. Not all resumes and job opportunities are created equal, and someone who is closer to you and the process can give you a more realistic assessment of how long your wait might be.
March 25, 2014
Hill Navigator has yet to meet a person in Washington, D.C., who has never been turned down for a job. On both sides of the aisle, in each branch of government, there are staffers that — like you — were not picked for a job they wanted.*
But talk is cheap; you don’t want company in your zero-batting-average job hunt, you want success. That’s why Hill Navigator has put together “The Loser’s Guide to the Job Hunt.” All of us — Hill Navigator included — have been on the wrong side of that awkward email. Here are some tips on how to take the rejection in stride.
1) Write back. You know that terrible email you’re about to get, with some vague line about how they’re going in a different direction or have found someone else, or really liked meeting you. It may pain you to read it, but chances are that it pained the author to write it. It’s never fun having to reject people, especially in the Capitol Hill world, where everyone is qualified and more than one person would make a stellar co-worker. Even just a few lines — “Thanks, I appreciate it, would love to stay in touch, etc.” — can go a long way toward leaving a good last impression. And it shows that you’re a pretty upstanding person who won’t hold a grudge.
2) Stay in touch. This was not the last job you’ll ever apply for, and it’s possible that another one could exist that is an even better fit. Capitol Hill offices usually want to fill jobs quickly; make sure they know you’re still interested in working in their office should another position become available because it may happen sooner than you think.
3) Don’t take it personally. Easier said than done, of course, but don’t take a job rejection as a referendum on your personality or capabilities. This bears repeating: This happens to all of us, for myriad reasons. Which brings me to the next item on the list …
4) Don’t obsess over the myriad reasons. Maybe you misspelled Tucson on your cover letter, or thought the state capital of New Mexico was Albuquerque**. Perhaps the boss wanted to hire someone from a certain part of the state, or with a rural health background, or a grass-roots organizer. Maybe the office had one too many extroverts and preferred someone laid back. Whatever it is, you’re unlikely to find out the real reason. Save your energy for bigger and better things.
5) Keep your confidential circle small. Yes, when you’re feeling glum it can be tempting to hang out by the Nespresso machine and spill your troubles to whoever asks. But be smart about whom you tell about job woes to. If someone you trust is close to the application process, you can ask them for their feedback. Perhaps they can offer useful insight, either on what the job required or areas of improvement for your résumé. If nothing else, they can be a sympathetic ear for you. Because like everyone else in this town, they are familiar with what you’re going through.
*Hill Navigator acknowledges there may be an exception whose résumé has always shined a bit brighter, or whose luck has never strayed. Congrats to you, a true prime number among staffers. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume your long and storied career has a few more bumps, hurdles and peaks.
**It’s Santa Fe, though you probably knew that.
March 24, 2014
Think you’re the only one who really wants that Capitol Hill job? Worried that all the begging might leave you looking a bit “desperate?” Hill Navigator discusses reframing your messaging techniques below.
Q. I moved to D.C. specifically to work on the Hill, preferably in a policy area where I have some legitimate creds. After a long but very positive stint interning in all the right places on the Hill, I took a good job (again, related to my policy area) off the Hill because after what seemed like thousands of applications and coffees, I just couldn’t get hired. But now I am looking to get back to the Hill after the elections, and given some likely post-election changes, have a specific place in mind. How do I go about letting Hill staff contacts that I might be working with in my current role know that I want to leave to come to the Hill in a manner that is tactful and not too desperate?
A. Don’t call yourself desperate.
Hill Navigator can provide you with a better term: goal-oriented.
You already know it’s hard to get a job on Capitol Hill and that it takes lots of coffees and applications before anything can come to fruition. And you already have a plan to make a move post-election, which is reasonable and well thought out.
It’s your messaging we need to change.
Don’t be a “desperate” person begging for an informational interview. Rather, be someone working in a policy field alongside other Hill staffers, who presumably have a high opinion of your good work. Ask to meet for coffee without making it about your job search. It can be a simple catch-up, a recess lunch, or a “good to meet in person” conversation. Then build the relationship from there.
You are not “desperate” if you cultivate a good professional relationship with someone and then ask if they know of any job opportunities in your related field.
You are not “desperate” if you seek to connect with colleagues in your field to find more ways to work together.
You are not “desperate” if you let your colleagues know of some of your long term goals — including your goal of working on the Hill —and see if there are mutually beneficial ways to help you get there. Remember, people at your policy organization stand to benefit from having one of their own working on the legislative side. You’re more likely to answer calls and emails from a former coworker.
But still worried about having desperate written on your forehead? Some things to avoid:
Mass emails. If you can’t take the time to personalize it, then no one will take the time to answer. In the era of cut and paste, there is no reason why you can’t send an email to each person individually.
Showing up unannounced. Novice move. If you know the person, send an email and set up a time. “Just stopping by!” only works if they’ve issued such an invitation previously.
Going for the big fish. That chief of staff you met might be helpful, but so will the staff assistant, who likely has more of an incentive to network with you. Don’t get caught up in labels; junior staffers don’t remain in those positions very long, and they can sometimes help in hiring their replacements.
March 18, 2014
We’ve all been there — qualified, hopeful, ready to hit the ground running but ultimately not the one picked for the job. But what happens when you aren’t even given a chance to apply? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I’m an intern in a Senate office, and I truly love my job. Lately my office has been experiencing a lot of turnover: LA’s and LC’s moving on, and one of our old staff assistants moved back to the state to work in the state office. Instead of hiring a new staff assistant, the Chief of Staff and HR person decided to pick an interim from within the intern pool. They just decided to go with the oldest, (not me), and I was a little frustrated with the situation. If it would have been an interview process and I lost I would be fine with that, but the fact it was just a pick seems unfair.
I also got stuck with all of the other interns tasks, which I am going to nail because I want to prove they made a mistake in not hiring me. I don’t really want to mention it to anyone in the office, because I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who complains about not getting the job. The other intern is a good friend, but I would have killed for that job as a way to further prove myself and I just don’t know what to do now.
A. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Hill Navigator has heard of a lot of unusual hiring practices — picking someone who is the “oldest” might be a new one. It is not unusual to give a promotion based on length of tenure or seniority, if that is what you’re referring to. But let’s assume this was an arbitrary hiring decision, and had you been born in January and not July, the job could have been yours.
You’re correct; don’t be “that guy” who complains. But do take the time to connect with your direct supervisor about more ways you can position yourself for a full-time, paid job. It is no secret, nor is it unusual, that someone who interns on Capitol Hill will want to work on Capitol Hill. That pipeline exists for a reason.
Pick a time to talk with your supervisor and frame the conversation about your goals and the best way for you to get there. As you said, you don’t need to lambast the office for its unusual hiring practices. It’s also possible there are forces at work behind the scenes that helped your friend get the job. He might have earned it through sheer hard work, or the senator could have taken a particular liking to him, or his father could be a major campaign donor back home. (Don’t look so shocked. It happens.)
And take the time to work closely with your friend in his new post. At the rate the office turnover is happening, he could move up much faster than either of you anticipate. And then there will be another staff assistant opening, one you are well suited to be selected for.
February 19, 2014
Few things hold more promise than that coveted Washington, D.C., internship. Whether it’s on Capitol Hill, K Street, or even the White House, your internship badge often marks the foray into the much-discussed, overly analyzed, and difficult-to-access world of Washington politics. But what if your internship isn’t taking you where you want to go? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I’m currently in my last semester of college and I’m spending it interning at a lobbying firm in DC. It’s always been my plan to move to DC after graduation and work in a Congressional office or something. The firm had made it sound like they would be able to help me find a job in a Congressional office, but now that I’m actually here it appears as though that may not be the case. I keep being told that if I want a job in a Congressional office that I’m going to have to intern in one first. Do you think this is accurate or do you think that I might be able to at least get an entry level position?
A. Hmm, a lobbying firm making promises they aren’t able to keep?
So without knowing the details of your internship or your lobbying firm, I can’t exactly break down what went wrong if you had thought you’d get help with your Hill job quest and now it’s not the case. But Hill Navigator can give you some steps for making the best of your situation, which include: Full story
January 23, 2014
Thinking about graduate school? Sure, you could join the ranks of the JDs seeking employment, but what if you want something less traditional for government, like an MBA? Hill Navigator discusses below.
Q. I am a former campaign staffer who is going back to school for my MBA. Will this help me secure employment on the Hill or other institutions in DC?
A. Short answer: No. Pursuing an MBA will provide lots of things: a valuable education, an expanded network, a better chance at landing a business-related job. It won’t hurt your chances of getting a job on Capitol Hill — where there are a handful of MBAs — but it’s not the straightest route to Capitol Hill.
(For that path, the campaign experience you mentioned might help, as would an internship or fellowship on the Hill).
But if you’re pursuing your MBA, presumably it’s because of your interest in business, not government. Perhaps both are your passions; perhaps you want to put your MBA to great work on Capitol Hill. Start networking now. See if your graduate program offers opportunities to connect with government offices in D.C. If you worked on a winning campaign and have some friends in Congress, reach out to them and see what opportunities you can take on while in school, so that when you graduate you’ll have a better understanding of the job landscape.
Hill Navigator is a strong proponent of grad school: you can learn a great deal, you can expand your network and you can increase your professional qualifications. You cannot, however, go to grad school as a means to guarantee a Hill job. There is no such guarantee. Not now, not ever.
January 21, 2014
Nothing says Capitol Hill like young people in suits. The speaker’s announced policy for the 113th Congress states that staffers must be in “appropriate business attire” on the House floor, so this ups the ante on how staffers dress on a daily basis. Confused about what to wear? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I will be starting a Hill internship soon and I wanted to know what I should expect to wear on a regular day. Will it be a suit 5 days a week?
A. Good news for you, inquiring intern. Most offices have dress codes and will happily answer the question for you about what to wear. Some stellar offices even have intern handbooks that address this directly. But just in case you aren’t sure or are reluctant to ask, here are some general guidelines that can help get you off to a good start.
- Wear a suit the first day of work. Even if it’s recess. Or Friday. Or hot outside. Your first day sets the tone of your internship, and a suit shows you’re taking it seriously.
- Wear a suit (or jacket and tie, or blazer/slacks/skirt for ladies) every day Congress is in session.
- Dress up every day the boss is in town. Most offices have a relaxed dress code when Congress is out of session, but if the boss is there, take the extra time to dress in business clothing.
- Follow the office’s lead. Don’t be the first one to wear jeans or break out into casual Friday polo shirts unless you see your co-workers doing the same thing. And by co-workers, I don’t mean other interns. Take the cues from the higher-ups in the office.
- Stay away from: jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, yoga pants. No matter how casual your office Fridays get, you’re better off in khakis or dress pants than something more comfortable. Wait for the weekends to wear whatever you want. Or wait until your internship is over.