Tips: Finding Jobs & Internships

11 Networking Tips For Your DC Job Hunt by Tom Manatos 

How to Get A Job In DC - The Insiders Take On How To Network In DC - Podcast with Georgetown Institute of Politics' Mo Elleithee, former Bush White Hous staffer Matt McDonald & Tom Manatos

Political Careers During COVID-19Tom Manatos Q&A with Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service

Staff Assistants and Legislative Correspondents Best Practices Guide - Modernization Staff Association

 

Coming off a campaign? Finding Your Next Job - White House, Administration, Political Parties, etc.

By Peter La Fountain

There are many good people coming off campaigns and looking for jobs. The process can be intense, so I’ve collected some thoughts for those coming off the campaign trail and bridging between political jobs, with a special focus on PPO in a new administration and how to best be prepared for that process.

Some supportive affirmations off the top: lots of people are going through what you're going through, or have done so in the past. Your desire to transition your energy from campaign work to its next conduit totally makes sense. And it's normal to feel a bit bewildered.

The job search process can have lots of noise. So remember to boil it down to fundamentals:

1. Identify what you're good at.

2. Identify what you would like to do.

3. Identify where opportunities might exist.

You'll revisit and revise these core ideas throughout the search process. Spend some time reflecting on that first point particularly. We can get caught up in the ambition of the job search, without fully having a grasp of what we do best. Think about your past experiences and what you get done expeditiously. That can become your calling card for a new position that will, in turn, unlock other doors.

White House & Administration Jobs

With that said, let's start with PPO (Presidential Personnel Office at the White House). For those less familiar, PPO is the office of the White House tasked with filling political appointments at agencies across the administration. If you submitted your application during the transition, PPO has your application now.

PPO compiles and sorts through a digital database of resumes; they prioritize certain placements and recruitment; and they conduct initial interviews to bring people into the placement process. They also do other things like appointee retention and some whole-of-government coordination.

The timeline of filling political appointments takes several months at the start of a new administration. Principal level roles and immediate needs are often filled first, and then the org chart for each office is built out from there. PPO serves rotating needs as it staffs the administration.

At some point, you'll likely have one of those initial interviews with a PPO staffer, for 30 or 45 minutes. Use the time wisely, pitch yourself, and make it a two-way street. They're making notes to identify which agencies or roles you're qualified for (and interested in).

Prepare a "personal narrative," which is likely similar to pitches in volunteer recruitment you're used to from field. Spend 2-3 minutes telling the story of your motivations. Where you come from, why you want to be a part of it. As with all storytelling, be vivid and memorable. Also prepare to talk about what agencies you might like to work in. It's OK if you don't know all the minutiae of every agency, but it should tie in with your motivations. You're trying to give the PPO staffer some inspiration.

The Plum Book comes out every four years, and it can give you thoughts on political roles that exist. Though be aware that specific titles, roles, and responsibilities will likely shift around. Many people coming off a campaign will qualify as a "confidential assistant" or something similar. Specific titles and office structure will depend on the needs of the particular agency in the coming months.

Even if you've never worked in government, you are likely qualified somehow. The idea is this: you were a part of the success of getting the President elected. You've done work to carry out his message and help him connect with others. That is the bridge between campaign work and official side work. You're not interviewing for a position with the civil service, though you will be working with them in these roles. You're interviewing to carry out the mission and message of the President.

Understanding your skills from past roles may bring some relief. It's easy to see all of Washington as being about connections. There is some of that, which we'll get to in a second. But clearly knowing your skills will help you project with confidence, regardless of the opportunity or venue.

Don't worry too much about specific titles. You're here to get experience. There will be career routes for you. I know someone who came off the campaign, found a confidential assistant role at USTR, and built a whole trade career from there. But you need to find the right fit.

If there is someone in the admin you know personally and who you'd like to work with, don't be afraid to touch base with them. But always work with PPO, as they will be in charge of your candidacy. You should never try to work around them. Also share any relevant information with PPO related to diversity (broadly defined) and lived experience. Again, some of this can come out in your personal narrative.

Timeline. This can be a difficult thing to digest. The PPO process can often seem endless, but you should not take it personally. PPO staff are trying to find people who will thrive in roles where they are placed. It will often take months. That shouldn't throw ice water on your search: it should frame your expectations, and stave off immediate disappointment. Some people will work a different job in the meantime, to be called by PPO in the following months. Again, that's normal.

You may also hear about White House Liaisons along the way. WHLs are a kind of shared staffer between agencies and the White House, specifically PPO. They are tasked with being aware of current personnel and other needs at each agency, and they coordinate with the White House as necessary.

Finally, in the words of a friend who overlapped with me at PPO: staff at PPO are supposed to be matchmakers, not gatekeepers. If you have a passion, share it with them. If you want to work with a specific principal, highlight that. The PPO process can feel opaque from the outside, but it should ideally work to place people in a role where they will be prepared, motivated, and serve the administration well.

Jobs: Campaign Committees, Capitol Hill and Private Sector

So with that, let's pivot to some general advice and non-PPO directions.

When organizing every aspect of your search: you must use a spreadsheet. Doing this can feel like a drag, or overly intimidating. But it will help you considerably in seeing your progress—what you've checked off and what you can fill in next.

Balance your time. Make sure you clear hurdles for specific applications. You'll feel better having done so. Put in some networking hours to give you new ideas, to find out about opportunities, to commiserate with others in similar job searches. But don't let it be everything.

Revise the resume, and re-revise the resume. As with all writing, it is iterative. And, as you are able, it should be geared for a specific audience. Think of it as the movie trailer to inspire an interview.

Let's talk about the DNC/RNC. Every four years, it's likely that about 75% of the DNC/RNC staff turn over. These are often good positions coming off the campaign, for those who want to work for the party and/or live in DC. The choice of who gets hired at the party committees is influenced by the Chair, the ED, and the department heads. They're all directed by a strategic vision laid out for the next cycle. That strategy determines needs, and those needs determine who is hired.

The departments roughly comport to the types of activity on a campaign. Organizing, research, comms, tech, etc. There will also be specialized directions based on specific strategic goals. If you know people well who are heading to the DNC/RNC, or who just came from there, don't be afraid to be in touch with them. They can be your liaisons.

I served at the DNC for four years, and I found it to be eye-opening. You see how parts of the party interrelate, formally and informally. You get a picture of the politics of the moment. You can sometimes see around the corner, before things change. You might like it.

The DSCC/NRSC and DCCC/NRCC are smaller operations, more targeted on specific races and often with a greater degree of interaction with electeds and candidates. You might enjoy that experience, too. Network there as above. Capitol Hill work is another direction, either through home state offices or openings as they come about on the Tom Manatos website and other listservs. Hill offices can be quite small, and the work is different than campaigns. But you might enjoy it.

Then there are consulting and comms firms, 2021 (and 2022) campaigns, state parties, nonprofits, c4's, c3's, etc. etc. Each morning you might find something new in the job leads that you’d never considered before. Go after the best fits first, but keep an open door.

Most of all in your job search, stay centered, and stay inspired. Go for walks. Think about the moments that most inspired you on the campaign. Stay in touch with people, while not trying to compare yourself with others. This can be challenging.

Also take comfort that lots of people go through multiple job searches and gaps in their career, especially in politics. And it's always...an adventure. The people who have been through it are likely to help connect you with others. What you've already accomplished is valuable, and don't forget that. Remember the skills you have, and the conviction that brought you to this work. And know you will find a home for that conviction in the near future.

 

Networking Dos & Don'ts by Tom Manatos

Finding out about jobs and internships is only half the battle and we've got you covered there. Networking your way into those jobs is equally if not more important. Here are some dos and don'ts that we've learned over the years:

Always

-  Always be quick to respond to an email when arranging a time to meet or when someone is helping you with a job. Waiting days to respond leaves a bad taste in people's mouth.

- Always set up a informational meeting with clear goals in mind - like general advice, discuss a specific opportunity, or learn more about the person's career path.  Be prepared with questions.

- Always send a thank you email with your resume attached. A handwritten note is a nice touch, but a thank you email (with resume) is a must.

- Always email people with news of your new job before it's public. Be sure to email everyone you've met with for informational coffees/meetings or have helped you in any way in the jobs seeking process thanking them for the help and offering to help in the future. Keep in mind, they want you to succeed so letting them know in a personalized email and thanking them for the help will make them even more invested in your success down the road.

Don't

- Don't be late for a networking coffee or informational meeting when someone is giving you some of their time to help you. Being late shows you don't value the time they are giving you.

- Don't make people work around your schedule when asking them to do an informational meeting/coffee/call. Try to be as accommodating as possible and when a time doesn't work for you be very apologetic and explain the reason you can't make it work.

- Don't assume that the person you are meeting with will have read your resume. Be prepared with your "elevator pitch" about who you are and how you got there.

 

Ten Tips On Turning an Internship into Permanent a Position by Bernard Coleman III, DNC Human Resouces Director
 
The job market is rocky at best, especially for new entrants to the workforce.  College grads, the underemployed and others are all looking for ways to increase their chances in starting or re-starting their respective careers.  An internship can be a great way to gain meaningful skills, receive training in your preferred profession and most importantly, an internship can transition into a permanent position.
 
1.       Be on Time (so be early) – being early or on time speaks volumes to your work ethic. Employers appreciate someone who will go above and beyond, and I guarantee it will not go unnoticed.

2.       Stay Late (finish the work and don't leave it for the next day) – If you work this hard as an intern, you’ve demonstrated your level of rigor and the type of employee you could be.  Not only do you arrive early, you also stay late to get the job done and see how you can help your colleagues.  Show the potential organization that you are committed and ready to tackle any challenge.

3.       Ask for Work – After you complete your assigned tasks, ask for more work. Ask your colleagues or manager if they need any help on their projects.  Create tasks that add value and revisit projects that can be improved.  You’ll make a lasting impression because of your contributions and you convey you are a team player.

4.       Produce an Excellent Product – The quality of work you put forward again shows the type of work ethic you would bring to the organization.  It also allows you to create a portfolio of work (writing samples, white papers, etc.) for other opportunities that may serve in securing a permanent position.

5.       Network – Create meaningful relationships with staff and other interns.  This is a prime opportunity to get to know everyone.  It should not be self-serving and opportunistic but a sincere effort to grow your network.  Go to happy hours, mixers, volunteer events as well use social media to grow your connections.  The connections made today are the groundwork for where you may venture later in life, so make every networking event count.

6.       Be Nice – While this point should generally be a forgone conclusion, people forget about the soft skills and the treatment of others is paramount.  How you perform in the role is important but the true, lasting impact is how you worked with others.  Are you a team player? Do you pitch in and help your colleagues? People naturally want to help someone who was nice or helpful to them, not the converse.

7.       Take Advantage of All Opportunities – There may be numerous opportunities afforded to you during the internship and you should attempt to partake in them all.  It may be mentorship, a tour, trainings or workshops – each and every offering is an opportunity to grow your skills, expand your network and lays the foundation for your career.

8.       Be a Contributor (add value) – An internship is a mutually beneficial relationship where an intern learns real world skills and you contribute to the overall organization.  You can’t dispute value and importance of contributing to the betterment of a task, project or organization.

9.       Express Interest – put feelers out there that you're interested in roles at the organization.  While at the internship seek out informational interviews to learn more about the department, talk with staffers to understand what their respective role is and most importantly let people know you’d love to be part of the organization (not in a heavy handed way though).  Finally, peruse the organization’s job site to see if there are any open roles or roles soon to become available so that you may submit your resume for consideration.

10.   Know Your Purpose – You’ve got to crawl before you walk.  On numerous occasions I’ve encountered interns who feel they should be doing more executive level work such as writing a press release for distribution, HTML coding the company website or working with executive leadership.  While eagerness is certainly appreciated, the purpose of the internship is learn, apply your practical knowledge and pitch in. 
 
Good luck out there and hold fast.  If you apply the above, you’ll increase your odds of acquiring your dream job and securing a great skill set for success.
 


What is it like to be a Communications Director on Capitol Hill by Adam Sharon

The Communications Director in a Capitol Hill office must always be ‘on,’ constantly following the news and public policy debates, with an ability to translate those developments into a coherent, concise and simplified message.  Success in this role requires a blend of creativity to break through the clutter of competing news interests dominating Capitol Hill, but also patience mixed with doggedness to seize media opportunities and help push your Member’s agenda forward. Legislation and policy debates, framed of course in a political context, drive the agenda on Capitol Hill. In many ways, you are the Member’s biggest promoter and cheerleader, their agent really, to help push them and their priorities forward. Be savvy and selective, for your Member’s time is limited.  What may be a priority for you may not be felt similarly by your Member, so be prepared to make a compelling argument for why media exposure on a given issue is in your Member’s interests.

An effective Communications Director must play a role in the formulation of policy, be it the introduction of a bill by your Member or a sweeping initiative put forth by your party’s leadership. The success (or failure) of that legislation often hinges upon the ability of communicators to convey the positives (or negatives) and to effectively work with your Member to message that plan. Taking a massive bill, and boiling that down into a message, sound bite, or talking point may seem trivial in comparison, but in many ways, it is the most essential component of that legislative effort. Always remind yourself that your broader audience is not Capitol Hill insiders who understand policy nuances, but the larger public with busy lives who need to understand how a public policy initiative affects them, personally.

Capitol Hill offices are notoriously fast paced and demanding places. It is easy to get sidetracked by competing interests that push and pull at any office, from the most junior Member to the most senior. A steady Communications Director must maintain on all things media-related, the strategic vision of the office’s press goals, be armed with a media plan that lays out those directives, and be focused on implementation. Of course news is never predictable and knowing when and how to recalibrate a message or deviate from a communications plan is necessary too.

Communicating your Member’s priorities or your party’s agenda also requires effective writing, an ability to capture your principal’s voice in a press release, blog, Facebook update, tweet, op-ed, or letter to the editor. Know that this process is a collaborative one; there is no pride in ownership and ultimately your job is to serve the Member ably and wholeheartedly. As is often heard on Capitol Hill, your Member’s name is on the door, not yours, and when a message plan is being crafted and implemented, it’s being done for the betterment of the elected official and their constituents.

For a Communications Director, no day is like the previous one. With constant developments in the news and an evolving legislative agenda, there is a rush to always be at the forefront of these events. This unpredictable and rapidly changing state of affairs makes the Communications Director role exciting, rewarding and never dull.



Resume Tip & Interview Tips from the Director of Human Resources at the Democratic National Committee, Bernard Coleman III
 
A Resume Tip –
 
A good resume should be impactful, powerful and succinct at the same time. Ideally, you should shoot for one page.  If your resume spans two or more pages, you should sit down and figure out what is fluff and what is fact.
 
The Interview –

1. Be On Time – First impressions count and sets the stage for everything else
2. Eye Contact – Good eye contact shows confidence and that you can follow along in a conversation
3. Preparation – Research the role beforehand, learn about the office/organization, what the organization does, what’s important, etc.  This allows you to ask great questions during the interview.  It also shows the interviewer that you are serious about the opportunity and that you will be prepared if hired.
4. Sit on the Edge of Your Seat – This shows the interviewer your interest and that you're engaged and ready to work.  Slouching or bad posture sends a message that you are lax and not serious.
5. Smile – People want to work with pleasant people, coming off uptight or overly rigid demonstrates that you may not be a team player. So smile and show the hiring manager you would be an added benefit to the office or organization.



What is it like to be an LD or Legislative Director on Capitol Hill by Rosalyn Kumar

A Legislative Director (LD) is a person who has to wear many hats. This person works closely with the Member of Congress, the Chief of Staff and the district staff. The LD manages the legislative assistants and legislative correspondents (the “leg team”). He or she will assist in developing policy positions and goals for the Member and ensure that those goals are met.

Ideally, an LD will have hill experience. An LD should have excellent communication skills and the ability to juggle different personalities in the office. An LD should be a role model for the staff on how to conduct oneself when representing the Member.  An LD can be involved in the hiring and recruiting of staff. Many LDs will review resumes and will be a key part of the interview process, especially if it is a legislative hire. When a new hire begins the LD will be responsible for training them and introducing them to the internal procedures of the office.

Part of being an LD is developing legislative initiatives for the office, delegating assignments to the relevant staff, and vetting ideas brought to them by the staff or the Member. It is the LD’s job to encourage and motivate the legislative staff and help them grow. An LD should know the House or Senate floor procedures, rules in the respective Chambers, and committee processes and advises staff on these matters.  Depending on the office an LD may also handle a legislative portfolio. Responsibilities might include taking meetings, writing legislative memos, preparing for hearings and markups, drafting speeches, and making policy recommendations.

The roles of a House and Senate LD are in many cases similar, but depending on the office there are a few differences. On the House side many LDs will generally handle a larger legislative portfolio as well as supervise a smaller legislative staff. While a Senate LD will often oversee a larger legislative staff and typically handle a smaller legislative portfolio. Being a legislative director on Capitol Hill is a great opportunity to build on one’s legislative and managerial skills while serving the public.



What is it like to be a Staff Assistant (Staff Asst/SA) on Capitol Hill by Nadir Vissanjy
 
A Congressional Staff Assistant is the 'front-line' position in a Congressional office.  The SA is the first point of contact for all guests, constituents, advocates, lobbyists, principals, etc. Since the SA is located in the front of the office, SAs must be very customer service oriented, and enjoy interacting with visitors. Most SAs manage, recruit and train the interns that cycle in and out of the office. The SA ensures that the office is running smoothly, from opening and closing the office, answering the phones, acting as gatekeeper to the Scheduler (who is the gatekeeper to the Congressmember and Chief of Staff), various writing projects, and special projects to support the Chief of Staff, Congressmember, and the remainder of the staff. The SA may be the only interaction constituents will have with their Congressmember, therefore, it is important that a Staff Assistant be friendly and welcoming. Additionally, the Staff Assistant coordinates tours for constituents, manages flag requests and ensures that constituents are happy and pleased with their Congressional office experience. 



What is it like to be an LC or Legislative Correspondent on Capitol Hill by Liz Shepherd

The primary function of the Legislative Correspondent (LC) in a Congressional office is to read, sort, and respond to constituent mail. Some offices have multiple LCs assigned to particular issue areas, while other offices might only have one. Senate offices tend to have several LCs, as they have a far higher volume of mail to respond to. On the House side, the number of LCs in any given office tends to be commensurate with the level of correspondence activity of that particular Congressional district. Desired qualities in an LC include strong writing skills, organization, time management, interest in legislative issues, and attention to detail. In many offices, interns assist the LC with sorting the mail and in some cases drafting responses as well. LCs work closely with the Legislative Assistants when writing correspondence related to their issue areas. Though considered a relatively junior position, the LC plays a critical role in the office. It is the LCs’ job to flag correspondence for their boss to see, to keep their boss informed of constituent feedback, and to communicate their boss’ positions, achievements, and voting record to their constituents. In many offices, the LC is involved in outreach and communications strategy. Many LCs write constituent e-newsletters, targeted mailings, and content for their office’s website. Being an LC is excellent preparation for someone who eventually would like to be a Legislative Assistant or work in press, as the position is a great combination of legislative and communications work.



What is canvassing on a campaign or what does a canvasser do?  What does GOTV mean? By Treva Ross
 
Historically, the most effective political campaigns have had a well executed GOTV (Get Out the Vote) operations which include field deployment or canvassing. The main role of a canvasser is to raise public visibility, identify supporters, and sometimes raise funds for the campaign. Odds are, if you have joined a campaign for the first time, you started as a canvasser. This is because your campaign wants you to become comfortable with speaking to the public. Some campaigns use telephone canvassing to achieve GOTV goals, while others use stationary, and door-to-door canvassing.
 
Stationary canvassing consists of going to an area of high pedestrian traffic to speak to the public. Your campaign will usually prepare a “hook line” attract pedestrians. Door-to-door canvassing consists of going to the homes of targeted communities where your campaign wants to build and maintain support. It has been my experience that the more experienced or extroverted campaigners enjoy stationary canvassing, and the campaigners who like to connect with individuals on a more intimate level tend to enjoy door-to-door canvassing. Here are some tips to consider when deployed to the field:

1. Read the campaign material before distribution. Make sure you are well versed on your cause or candidate’s policies before trying to convey them to the public.

2. Never be antagonistic when engaging in political discussion. Retain a professional demeanor and be open to the fact that others may not identify with your cause.

3. After your deployment, make sure you report the overall public reception to the campaign. This will allow the campaign to plan deployments accordingly.