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Hill Climbers: How to Climb Up Capitol Hill’s Employment Ladder

Career Started: First job on the Hill was with the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in 2001. Started working for Barton, who also comes from Texas, in 2002

Career Notes/Advice: “If you really want to be here, there is no job that’s insignificant,” Thompson said. “Starting out at the bottom row of the ladder isn’t a bad thing because you are still on the ladder.”
He described Capitol Hill as a place of “go-getters, full of A-type personalities.” Thompson is considering returning to school eventually, but he said he does not think a master’s degree is a prerequisite for working on the Hill.

Ashley Etienne | May 9 Hill Climber

Communications director for Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Education: Earned a bachelor’s in political science from Sam Houston State University and a master’s in political communications from Johns Hopkins University

Internship: Did not hold any internships; instead, got a job in the Texas state Legislature after earning her bachelor’s degree

Career Started: Began her career on the Hill as a staff assistant for then-Rep. Kenneth Bentsen (D), who represented her home state of Texas

Career Notes/Advice: Etienne was methodical about getting to the Hill. “I targeted mostly Texas Members and Democratic legislators, so that made sense because I worked in the Texas state Legislature,” she said. “I was really strategic about who I targeted, and I think that’s where people go wrong too often is they blanket the Hill with their résumé.” She advised making yourself indispensable and reading everything. “I found myself in a position where I could speak intelligently about an issue that other staffers couldn’t,” she said.

Stephen Lassiter | July 12 Hill Climber

Legislative assistant for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

Education: Earned a bachelor’s in journalism and political science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Internship: First internship was with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), his second was with then-Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.)

Career Started: Taught for two years in the Middle East; first Hill job was as staff assistant for Sen. Kay Hagan (D) of North Carolina, Lassiter’s home state

Career Notes/Advice: “It was no accident that the first job I got on the Hill was with my home-state Senator,” Lassiter said. He now works for Ellison of Minnesota but said it was not a difficult adjustment — he simply spent time getting to know the district. He recommended starting a Hill career with a home-state lawmaker, saying experience will allow you to venture out. Lassiter highly recommended the book “Vault Guide to Capitol Hill Careers” by William McCarthy about getting a job on the Hill.

Amanda Maddox | July 18 Hill Climber

Deputy press secretary for Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.)

Education: Earned a bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from the University of Georgia and is attending graduate school at Georgetown University

Internship: Was a press intern for Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R), who represents Maddox’s home state of Georgia

Career Started: Internship turned into a job after three weeks; later found the position she now holds with Hayworth, a freshman Member

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