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Network with Congressman Frank!

Posted By GAIN STAFF, Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Looking for a great event to network at this July?

Hoping to get out of the heat and get inspired by a great Democratic leader?

Then check out the 21st Century Democrats Youth Leadership Speaker Series next Tuesday, July 12th featuring Congressman Barney Frank. Hear this distinguished leader speak about the future of American politics and the importance of youth involvement.

This is a great opportunity to network with fellow interns and young professionals who share your passions and commitment to social and political change.

Open to the Public
ADMISSION IS FREE
For more information and to register visit www.21stcenturydems.org

Tags:  capitol hill  networking 

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Staff turnover on the Hill

Posted By Alexandra Acker Lyons, Monday, November 15, 2010
Politico has a good but sad article about the upcoming staff turnover on Capitol Hill as a result of the 2010 elections.  They estimate that 1,800 people lost their jobs.  Don't forget that GAIN is here to help with the transition!

Tags:  capitol hill  job seeking 

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Interview with C.R. Wooters

Posted By Nikki Enfield, Friday, October 23, 2009
We continue our "Bubbles of Politics" interview series with another interview from a Hill staffer.  This time, we get some great advice from C.R. Wooters, the Director of Member Services in the Office of the Assistant to the Speaker.

1. Please give us a quick biography. Touch on how you got your first job in politics and why you decided to stick with politics as a profession.

My first job in politics was working in New Hampshire for Al Gore’s Presidential campaign. I started interning for the campaign while I was still in college and after I graduated they needed folks for the early states. I stayed with the campaign through its historic ending in Florida. I have spent most of my time in politics on the campaign side. I have done a couple tours at the DNC and the DCCC working on races all over the country. I have worked at a DC non-profit and on the Hill.  My first job on the Hill was to be Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. I left Mrs. Slaughter’s office and went back to the DCCC to run the Incumbent Retention operation for the 2008 cycle. After a successful cycle my boss Rep. Chris Van Hollen asked me to come back to the official side. I am currently the Director of Member Service in the Office of the Assistant to the Speaker working with the vulnerable Members for Mr. Van Hollen. I am leaving out a lot of details here but suffice it to say I have worked in dozens of states and DC over the past 10 or so years and like most political folks my resume looks like I can’t keep a job. 

2. Did you begin your career thinking that Capitol Hill was where you wanted to end up?
 
Well I did to some extent. I grew up in the DC area so my family is here. I figured at some point I wanted to work on the Hill so that I could settle down and live here in the city. When I started out I knew I enjoyed politics and had no real idea how to make it a career so I jumped on a campaign and began the ride.   I did, however, always keep my eye out for opportunities on the Hill. 

3. What do you like most and hate most about it?
 
The Hill is fascinating to me. These days I work with Democrats, both staff and Members, who are working like crazy to do what's best for the people they represent and the country. The people I work with are from very tough districts (most carried by McCain) so how they do things and how they talk about what they are doing is critical. I really love learning from these offices and racking my brain for new ideas to help them. It's crazy to think that the things we work on everyday can change people's lives. People talk about helping folks when they run for office but the legislative process is where it actually happens.  

I don't really hate anything but I do wish there could be more bi-partisanship in Washington. It’s a little annoying that Democrats and Republicans cannot find more ways to work together but I guess we've got to keep plugging away.  (I, of course, only blame the Republicans!!) 

4. In general, do you recommend starting a successful Hill career on a political campaign or rather beginning a career on the Hill at the entry-level?
 
People ask me this all the time and it really depends on what you want to do.  Most folks on the Hill work their way up the food chain.  That is what I recommend for folks who want to work directly with legislation.  You need to understand how the LC job works before you can be an LA and you need to be and LA for a while before you can be the Legislative Director. 
I took a different route.  My first job on the hill was as a Chief of Staff so I am not typical.   

That said, I do think the campaign experience is great for almost anyone who wants to go into senior management or press.  I also think that you cannot duplicate the pressure and speed of a campaign. 

5. Should one have a different approach to looking on the Senate vs. the House? What are the major differences between the two bodies when it comes to working there?
 
The Senate offices are bigger and tend to be more senior. Interaction with the Senators can sometimes be limited to a few staffers.  Since there are fewer of them each Senator has a role in most pieces of legislation. 

In the House there is a lot more turnover in offices.  Staff tends to be smaller and younger.  There is usually more interaction with the Members.  Members tend to have a couple of issues that they spend a ton of time on with other issues only percolating when they are relevant.  In the House re-election is always on folks mind. 

6. Has there been a difference between how you expected the Hill to be and how it is in reality?

Not really.  Folks up here work long hours for not a ton of money.  Members travel back and forth from the district almost every week.  We joke that this is the biggest collection of "type A” personalities on earth.  You throw the politics on top and it’s really exciting.   

7. What is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you were first starting out in your career?
 
Personal relationships are the most important.  You need to focus on your job but get to know the folks around you.  Washington is a small town.  Folks you meet interning and early in your career you will more than likely run into down the road.   

8. Do you have any parting thoughts that haven’t been covered?
 
Politics is a very hard but very fun business.  It provides the ability to learn a ton and actually help regular people.  It’s a cliché but elected officials want to change the world and it’s our job to help them do that.  Washington and the Hill specifically, is the center of the political world so it’s a great place to learn.

Tags:  capitol hill  career advice  learn from pros 

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Interview with Matt Thornton

Posted By Nikki Enfield, Tuesday, October 13, 2009
We continue our interview series exploring the various career paths of working in politics.  Check out our recent article, "The Bubbles of Working in Politics" for an overview and to check out other interviews.

Today, we interview Matt Thornton,  Communications Director for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).  Like many, Matt started in politics working on campaigns and has been working on the hill for two years.  

1) Please give us a quick biography. Touch on how you got your first job in politics and why you decided to stick with politics as a profession.

I don’t remember the exact moment that I decided I wanted to be involved in politics, but it was at some point in high school.  I grew up in Kansas where I became progressively aware of the fact that I was a Democrat – not an easy position to take in Kansas in those days.  It was an easy decision to study political science and history in college and government administration in grad school.

After finishing my education, I hit the campaign trail, getting my start as an operations guy for Allyson Schwartz for Congress (PA-13) in ’04.  I then went on to head up the online communications for Jim Davis for Governor (FL) in ’06.

From there, I started on Capitol Hill as the Press Secretary then Communications Director for Congressman Zack Space (OH-18) then to my current position as Communications Director for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).

2)  Did you begin your career thinking the federal legislature was where you wanted to end up?

I began with an eye toward national politics.  I always expected that I would end up in Washington at some point.  Early on, I expected that working in Congress would be an exciting experience, but I had no idea just how thrilling it would be.  After two and a half years on Capitol Hill, I still get chills walking into the Capitol Building.

3) What do you like most and hate most about it? 

What’s not to like?  I get the opportunity to be in the middle of the great debates of our time.  History is made every day around here, and in a very small way, I play a part in that.
I wouldn’t say that I particularly hate anything about the job.  I suppose I could point to the high stress levels on the Hill, but, to be quite honest, I think that is part of what makes this place so exciting.

4) In general, do you recommend starting a successful Hill career on a political campaign or rather beginning a career on the Hill at the entry-level?

I always encourage people just starting out in this business to take an honest assessment of what they really want to do in their careers.  If the end goal is definitely working on the Hill, then that is where they should focus their attention.  There are a number of people who start out in the campaign world expecting to transition to the Hill only to find out that there are actually very few campaign jobs that have equivalents on the Hill (communications being one of them).  People make the jump, but it is tough.

5) Should one have a different approach to looking on the Senate vs. the House?  What are the major differences between the two bodies when it comes to working there?

In transitioning to the Senate, the main difference that struck me was the pace is a lot different over here than on the House side.  Representatives are frequently competing with each other for coverage and attention, and the nature of the body is much faster.  Senators do not have to deal with that quite as much, so it is much less rough-and-tumble. 

6) Has there been a difference between how you expected the Hill to be and how it is in reality?

Growing up, I always had the impression that Congress was an abstract place full of smart, faceless people that you read about in books.  It was impersonal, remote, and austere.  The thing that struck me was just how diverse and interesting the staffers are.

7) What is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you were first starting out in your career?

This is not an easy business.  You really need to make sure this is what you want to do before throwing caution to the wind and jumping in.

8) Do you have any parting thoughts that haven’t been covered?

Network.  There is nothing more valuable in this town than the personal connections you make with people.  If you have a job in mind, call a few people who have similar jobs, ask them to give you an informational interview, and get their ideas on how to get the position.


Tags:  capitol hill  career advice  career development  learn from pros 

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How to get a job on the Hill

Posted By Democratic Job Placement Initiative, Thursday, January 15, 2009
The Democratic Job Placement Initiative submitted this post about with advice for those looking for a job on the Capitol Hill.
 
Believe it or not you have a chance to work for the Senate.  I have heard people say that ‘you have to know someone’ or ‘they only hire ivy leaguers’. Both of which are common fallacies that should not prevent you from submitting your resume.  The hill is populated with hard working type A hair on fire staffers from everywhere in America, who all have one thing in common, they want to make a difference.   Below is a list of suggestions intended to increase your chances of obtaining a Hill job. 
 
Do your Research
 
Prior to applying you should take a look at the Senate Employment Brochure available free of charge on line at www.senate.gov/employment or call Placement Office at (202) 224-9167 for more information.  The Senate Placement Office is a free invaluable source of information regarding the types of positions available at the Senate.  The Senate has an age old structure for positions such as staff assistants, legislative correspondents, legislative assistants, staff directors, administrative directors, chiefs of staffs, and counsels.  (These titles are not exhaustive but the most common.)  In order to know where your skill set fits, you will need to do your research with the Senate Placement Office.

While on this topic, if you already have an informational interview or an interview lined up you should familiarize yourself with the Senator’s recent legislative activities.  Although this suggestion may be a no brainer to some of you - to others the excitement of the opportunity may cause you to forget to do your research. You should know their State, their Causes, and the Committees on which they serve.
 
Have an Impeccable Resume

We tend to think that the in person meeting is the first impression, not so on the Hill.  For every one opening, a hiring manager can receive 100 or more resumes.  Your resume is the real first impression. It is your first chance to distinguish yourself. Therefore, it should be concise, crisp, and easy to read.  Font at 12, and your name and contact information easy to spot. 

Be Specific about your Interests

Time and time again, eager prospective staffers say ‘I want to work on policy’, okay what policy?  You should stay focused on policy areas where your skill sets are best suited.  If you are interested in Healthcare Policy be specific; cost of medication policy, preventative care policy, domestic healthcare policy, or foreign healthcare policy?  Be specific.
 
Humility

You want a Senior Level position or even a Chief of Staff position?  Right?  You feel you have experience, education, all the right qualifications but those positions are coveted positions usually earned by people who have prior hill experience.  The reality is that you may have to start with an entry or mid level position. For some of you, that may be too much of a sacrifice.  For others it may be a sacrifice worth making.    That’s a decision you will have to make - just keep in mind that public service is an honor, and getting your foot in the door even in an entry level position may be the start on your path towards a Senior level or Chief of Staff position.

Remain Optimistic

Each Senate Office is autonomous.  Some offices are quicker at responding to staffing needs than others.  If you have sent in a resume and have not heard - remain optimistic. Some offices hire three to six months after interviewing, some will hire on the spot.   There is no way of knowing how rapidly an office will respond or if an office will respond to your resume.  It really has nothing to do with your effort.  So keep applying to various offices.

I hope these suggestions assist you in your job search.  If you have the desire to become a staffer, do not give up.  Be prepared and persevere, the Senate does have opportunities.

Tags:  advice  capitol hill  job seeking 

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Being on the list

Posted By Seth Tanner, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Politico wrote a great piece on finding Hill Jobs.

But if you want to actually land the job, you’ll almost certainly have to subscribe to one of the unofficial e-mail vacancy lists run by staffers themselves.

“You have to know of these e-mail lists to know where the positions are on the Hill,” said one former Democratic legislative assistant. “They’re not posted anywhere in the public sphere. When you get to D.C., you have to have these lists to find a vacancy on the Hill.”

At least a half-dozen House staffers maintain e-mail lists to which they send vacancy announcements. The e-mails, with hundreds or, in one case, nearly 2,000, subscribers, are sent weekly, daily or as soon as the listserv owner hears about a job.

Our job board has many job posts for campaign-centric jobs (we do accept jobs from official offices). One of the ones mentioned in this article is the Tom Manatos list. If you are looking to work on the hill, make sure to sign up!

Tags:  capitol hill  job seeking 

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