Alexander Laska says he discovered his interest in politics while watching the 2006 election returns in his Connecticut home as part of an assignment for his AP Government class.
Recognizing how rare it was to be excited about homework, Laska decided then and there that he was going to Capitol Hill. He described the journey to his current position as a legislative correspondent in the office of Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) as a series of “trials by fire.”
At George Washington University, Laska majored in political communications. While he remembers certain classes and professors fondly, he recommends gaining experience outside the classroom as an undergraduate.
As he learned through press internships at the Peace Corps and the Department of Justice, Laska prefers to be thrown into the ring rather than watch from the sidelines. He could not overstate the importance of internships to a career on the Hill.
“Almost all of the stuff I’m doing as a press assistant, I was doing as an intern,” Laska said.
After his internship at the DOJ, Laska applied for a press internship in the office of his Representative, Himes. He has been there ever since. Having first been promoted to press assistant, he assumed the responsibilities of legislative correspondent this May.
“When we’re confronted with something difficult, not helping someone isn’t an option,” Laska said. “Helping constituents is the most important thing we can do.”
Laughing is right up there, too.
A sense of humor is crucial to working on the Hill, said Laska. The life of a Congressional staffer, or even a Member, is destined to be much bleaker “if you can’t laugh when it’s called for.”
A colleague who recently left Himes’ office left a note for Laska, which he says is one of his most treasured possessions. It read: “I always appreciated your ability to make people laugh.”
Social media makes up a large part of Laska’s current position, and he highly recommends the “very funny” tweets Himes produces.
Although Laska acknowledges that “a lot of people find it to be very concerning, social media allows us to connect with people in a way that we couldn’t before.” This part of his job is an “ongoing experiment.”
“There’s no model. Most social media platforms aren’t intended for Members of Congress, so we have to ask, ‘How can we stay on their newsfeeds and on their minds?’” he said.