Many fresh-faced ideological young Republicans and Democrats make the big move to Washington, D.C. with grand dreams of working for their Member of Congress, only to find it’s pretty hard to break in on the Hill. Most offices want you to intern for little or no pay for weeks before possibly being offered a position. And if nothing opens up, then you’re tasked with networking your way to a Staff Assistant or Legislative Correspondent job somewhere else. Maybe.
But perhaps the Hill isn’t for you. Admittedly, it’s something I thought I wanted to do last year after finishing work on a campaign, but it takes a different kind of person to work in Congress. For instance, I’m a little more opinionated and a little too idealistic to work in an office for a Member who has an “R” or “D” next to their name. While I tend to vote for candidates of one Party over another, I’m hesitant to carry their water, especially if I disagree with the policy. And believe me, I disagree a lot.
But what are the other options? There are countless associations, nonprofits, advocacy organizations, and other places for prospective young jobseekers, and turnover is sometimes pretty high. People move on or move up frequently.
Use resources like ConservativeJobs, Brad Traverse, the Heritage Job bank, and others to find work. And most importantly, network and develop contacts. Being successful in Washington – on or off the Hill – requires a tremendous level of networking.
And certainly don’t think the Hill is your only option. I’ve worked in three different jobs since I moved to Washington: the nonprofit sector, a political campaign, and now in the private sector. I love the hours and the work.
There is no shortage of opportunities here. While many people move to Washington to work on the Hill for a Member of Congress, there are countless other political and government careers in D.C.