Looking to make a switch from law firm life? Maybe you’d like to be more of an Erin Brockovich and less of an Ally McBeal. But how does time at a law firm — especially one outside of D.C. — affect your Capitol Hill job search? Hill Navigator discusses.
Q. I graduated from college in 2012 and have been employed at a law firm full time since then. During my senior year of college I interned in the district office of a very prominent senator. I almost went to D.C. to work for one of the senators from my home state, but unfortunately it did not all work out. I've realized that I really want to be on the Hill. I've loved working at a law firm and have been thinking of applying to internships on the Hill. Will I get looked down upon for being so far out of school? I really want to be in D.C. And know that an internship on the Hill would be extremely beneficial.
A. So by my math, you’ve been out of school for two years and working full time — you’re not too late to make a move. But really, if you have been out of school for 10 years and still wanted to make a move, you could, it just would take more time and possibly a different route.
It is very hard to get hired on Capitol Hill without being in D.C. One longtime legislative director says he separates résumés for job openings into three stacks: those with a connection to the member’s home state, those in D.C. and those not in D.C. He’s never hired from the third pile.
But people outside of D.C. get hired to work for members of Congress in their state and district offices, which often leads to greater opportunities in Washington. I don’t know what went down with the office you interned in, but that’s the ideal place to start your search. Even if they don’t have openings, they can likely introduce you to the other Senate and local offices which might.
But say you’re sick of local politics and it’s the Capitol Dome or bust for you. In that case, consider moving to Washington, D.C., and working part time until you can land another Hill internship. That kind of work will expand your network and open up all sorts of options. But moving to D.C. can be daunting, and working part time while interning can be grueling, especially given that many internships are unpaid. If you have the opportunity to start at home, I’d recommend you do so. Now that you’ve had a few years in the workforce, perhaps the move to the senator’s D.C. office could work out this time around.
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