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Back in the Beltway and Looking for a Capitol Hill Job

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sometimes it takes time away from D.C. to realize this is where you want to be. But how do you get back on the job market after you return? Hill Navigator discusses.  

Q. During college I spent a lot of time on campaigns and did two full time internships in D.C., one on the Hill and the other at the [White House.] I joined the Army and have been out of the loop for a couple years, but I am interested in moving back and going to work on the Hill. Does my time away from the Hill help or hurt my chances of joining a staff? Should I be looking at entry level positions? A. Welcome back. The shiny lure of the Capitol is hard to resist, isn’t it?  

As a general guideline, Capitol Hill hiring does tend to favor the straight-shot, college-to-intern-to-staffer line. But not everyone goes that route, nor is it best suited for all cases. There are ways to get back on the Hill even after time away. It just might require some more focus and patience on your end.  

Some tips that might help you:  

— Start local. Call your local members of Congress and ask for an informational interview. If you find a staffer willing to take time and offer an honest assessment, she can suggest what positions might be ideal for you. Ask for ways you can get involved and if there might be opportunities to put your current skills to work.  

— Build up your expertise. Is there an area of policy you’re interested in? Maybe you’ve got a knack for foreign affairs, or want to work on behalf of veterans. It can be tricky to jump straight to the Hill without direct experience, but if you have a level of expertise, you can work in that field and make stronger contacts who can attest to what an asset you’d be in any office.  

— Use your existing network . If there were ever a star “excused absence” from politics, it would be the military. Many offices give preferences to veterans while hiring.  

— Separate “coming to D.C.” with “working on the Hill.” There are ways to do both simultaneously, but it might be wiser to find an opportunity that is a better fit for you now and maximizes your potential to work on the Hill later. Keep “working on the Hill” as a goal, but recognize there are different ways to get there, just as your own story illustrates.  

Have a question for Hill Navigator? Email hillnavigator@rollcall.com. All submissions will be treated anonymously.