Insight into Capitol Hill

11 Networking Tips For Your DC Job Hunt by Tom Manatos on 202Works - How to Accelerate Your Career Through Networking in Washington DC and Avoid Common Mistakes Along the Way

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

Working for Speaker Pelosi, Spotify, and More with Tom Manatos - The Political Life Podcast

 

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:
 

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