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Working on the Hill
The Hill is populated with hard working staffers from everywhere in America. Most are in their 20s but you will find people of all ages and experiences in Congressional and Senate offices. While there are many ways to land a job on the Hill, most staffers got their start working for free--either as interns or campaign volunteers. It is public service after all.

Like any organization, the Hill has different departments. The staff in individual offices work directly for a Senator or Representative and focus on the priorities of their boss and their constituents. The staff on Committees focus on key legislative topics such as defense, energy or education. The staff in leadership offices help coordinate the strategy and actions of the party as a whole.

Within each office, staff work in four areas--administration (secretaries, schedulers, letter writers and receptionists), legislation (legislative assistants and legislative directors), constituent services (staff who help constituents with all manner of issues; in committee or leadership offices, the "constituents" are members of Congress), and communications (communications directors, press secretaries, new media coordinators). Staff report to a Chief of Staff (usually based in Washington). However, every office has its own way of organizing staff.

What are employers looking for in staff?

Top characteristics include loyalty, a team player, writing ability and political experience.

You can improve your odds of finding a job with three tools: Job Lists, Informational Interviews, and Unpaid Work.
  • Job Lists: There are a number of job posting listservs out there (click here for a list, and don't forget the one on GAIN). Join several and read them every day. Sometimes postings last only a few days.
  • Informational Interviews: Set up informational interviews with as many people on the Hill as you can--ask friends and friends of friends if you can talk with them for 10 minutes about what they do and for advice about getting a job on the Hill. Come prepared with good questions and your resume. You want to make a good impression with everyone you meet. This will help you build your network of people who may refer you to one of those "unlisted" jobs.
  • Unpaid Work: Whether interning in a Congressional office or volunteering on a campaign, unpaid political experience is a prerequisite for nearly any job. Try to find an office or campaign in which you have an interest because many interns are hired down the road, so it's a great way to get your foot in the door.

Interviews with Hill Professionals

"How to Get a Job on the Hill" is a great advice column courtesy of the Democratic Job Placement Initiative.
Matt Thorton, Communications Director for Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) shares his career story and advice for working in politics.
C.R. Wooters, Director of Member Services in the Office of the Assistant to the Speaker offers his advice on working in politics and on the Hill.