The World-Weary Staff Assistant
Posted at 1:51 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2014
Is there no end to the joys of being a staff assistant? Apparently not, for the entry-level job soon wears out its welcome, even for the most patient and loyal of staffers. So how do you decide when it’s time to leave? And how do you go about making that leap as smoothly as possible?
Q. I’m a Staff Assistant who is approaching a year in my office. I love my office and would love to stay, but I don’t think I can do much more time as a Staff Assistant. It’s time for me to move onto work that teaches me new skills and doesn’t require me getting screamed at multiple times a day.
What is your advice about whether I should share that I am looking for new work? As you have said yourself many times, finding a job in D.C. requires asking your friends and colleagues to keep their ears open for positions and to put in kind words for you when you have an application in somewhere.
My best contacts are the people in my current office. What is the polite/wise way to ask for their help in my job search? Is it appropriate to do so? Should I ask just one or two people, or make it widely known?
A. There are a few universal truths to being a staff assistant. The first: You aren’t expected to have the job forever (According to the Congressional Management Foundation, the average staff assistant tenure is under two years). The second: If you’ve done your job well, your office will help you find a bigger and better job — either a promotion in-office or a position elsewhere.
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that you’ve done a good job. Your bosses are pleased, you’ve cheerily greeted everyone who graces your front door and the back-room staff finds you indispensable. Let’s also assume that you’ve been there a reasonable amount of time, somewhere between six months and a year. How do you get to the next step?
You talk to your office. Bring it up during your annual review. If your office does not do staff evaluations, ask to schedule one. Reiterate that you want to stay in your current office but you want to expand your role. See if there are side projects you can take on that will broaden your area of expertise. Every single Hill office needs some help writing constituent mail; perhaps you can pitch in. Or if it’s the press secretary or scheduler position you’re after, develop a relationship with the people holding those roles. Tell them of your interest and see if they need help with their work. Be willing to do menial tasks. If you can make the lives of your co-workers easier, they have a vested interest in getting you to hang around — preferably in an expanded role.