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Javier Martinez learned firsthand that getting a job on Capitol Hill is all about making connections with the right people.
The newly hired deputy director for member services and outreach adviser in the office of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) purchased a one-way ticket to Washington, D.C., in 2003 with the hopes of finding a job on Capitol Hill.
After applying for many Hill jobs with no success, a woman he met while purchasing furniture from a Craigslist ad finally connected him to Rep. Silvestre Reyes’ (D-Texas) office, where he was hired as a staff assistant.
Martinez said he originally came to Capitol Hill with dreams of one day being an elected official, but after working behind the scenes, he realized he didn’t need to be a public figure to be an effective public servant.
“You have to be prepared and open to constituents approaching you and saying, ‘Congressman, I need your help on this issue,’ or, ‘Thank you for this,’ or, ‘Can you give me some guidance?’ and if you’re not prepared to do that, that job is probably not the best for you,” Martinez said. “And so, while I love public service, I also enjoy going home and leaving work behind and spending time with my family.”
Since arriving on the Hill, Martinez has moved through the ranks, spending four years in Reyes’ office as a staff assistant, legislative correspondent and finally legislative assistant before heading to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Working for the committee as a legislative expert, he was able to use his experience as an Army veteran (he served for four years in the Army’s medical division and another two as a member of the Army Reserves while attending college at the University of Arizona) to work on issues pertaining to the military and veteran communities, including an expansion of the post-9/11 GI bill.
“We had a strong bipartisan group of Members that wanted to help out military veterans, and I really enjoyed that,” Martinez said of his four years with the panel. “We made a lot of progress, and a lot of ideas are now law.”
When Republicans won control of the House in 2010, Martinez left the Hill to work as a deputy director of legislative affairs for the National Council of La Raza. He spent a year and a half working on strategic planning and outreach to the House, Senate and White House before hearing about the opening in Hoyer’s office.
“I got back here three weeks ago, and I got to my desk and I started working and everything just clicked,” Martinez said. “It just seemed right. I was coming home, and I just consider myself to be very, very fortunate.”
For others looking to make it on Capitol Hill, Martinez, who is a mentor in the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, says connections are the key.
“If you meet someone at an event or a reception, keep in contact with these people and ask them for guidance because I’ve learned that a lot of these folks have gone through the same experiences as you and they want to help,” Martinez said.
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