When Will 'SOMETHING' Come Up?

Ask a staffer how she or he got that first job on Capitol Hill, and most have a colorful story to tell.

Some started as interns, which led to full-time work. Some pounded the pavement handing out résumés until they landed an interview. And some went about it the old-fashioned job-bank route.

But for those still looking, the wait for a job can seem endless. Today’s Hill Navigator will tackle some tips on how to make the job-searching process work the best for you.

Q: I have been eyeing a job on the Hill because I want the opportunity to see our government function and the legislative process.

I've been having coffee/beer dates with the coms director and counsel to this senator frequently and they've been passing around my résumé. The last time I met with them, the counsel [said], "Something may open up."

Do you think that being crystal clear with my intentions and the fact that he mentioned that "something may open up" means anything?

In addition, [an organization] sends out their "Job bank list," which shows vacancies on the Hill, and [I] frequently apply for the ones that make sense to me and then let my insiders know that I've applied for a position and to keep their ears open.

Do you think that I am overdoing it with my insiders? Do elected officials actually pull from these advertisements or do most of the jobs get filled by people already on the Hill?

But searching for a job can have its discouraging moments, especially as it seems that despite all of your hard work, that “something” has still not come up.

Some things to keep in mind on your job search:

1. Very few people get a Hill job easily. Sure, there are people plucked from college for an entry-level job in D.C., but most people had to pound the pavement to get where they are. The same people who are meeting you for coffee once had their résumés passed around, tossed in the trash, resurrected and were given unpaid intern positions before they landed the coveted full-time job. If Capitol Hill is where you want to work, you should keep doing what you are doing. Be gracious and patient, all the while staying focused on your goal.

2. I, too, was skeptical of job banks, or the anonymous “WESTERN SENATOR SEEKS STAFF ASSISTANT” job postings that float around Capitol Hill. The chance of getting a job through the job banks is likely less than landing a job through regular informational interviews or an internship. But that does not mean you should give up. On the contrary, the job banks and job postings exist because offices are still interested in outside talent. And while I wouldn’t rely solely on the job boards, I wouldn’t ignore them, either. Even landing an interview is a good step toward networking further. And keep in mind the golden rule of Washington, D.C.: Even if you don’t get the exact job you’re interviewing for, it doesn’t mean there won’t be another job for you in that same office that is a better fit.

3. When you hear, “something may open up,” it is maddeningly vague, yes, but yet it is entirely true. A job opening could sprout up. Someone could be just days away from giving two weeks’ notice, and you might be the ideal candidate. So while that is not giving you any promises — and it is certainly not enough for you to hang your hat on and slow your own job search down — it’s accurate. What you can do is stay in touch with those contacts, reiterate your own interest and keep them up to date on your job search. Your motivation and drive can leave a strong impression — so when something DOES open up, they’re more likely to remember you.