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Job Switching: Better to Jump Around or Sit Still?

How do you know when it's time to go? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

You can’t go a week without getting one of those “Moving on…” emails from staffers detailing their latest job switch, usually something more glamorous than their last position (which they will bemoan leaving behind , along with an outstanding boss and set of co-workers, as any good staffer should). But how many emails can you read without questioning whether YOU should make the job hop as well? Hill Navigator discusses.  

Q: Is it better to get a wider range of office experiences or rejoin/extend with one office. I assume the former to make more contacts and get a feel for different offices. I know someone who was recently hired after spending six months in one office due to a departure. I will most likely be moving on to another more senior office (does that even matter: you're still just an intern) Your take?
A. There are two sides to every job story, so let’s take a look at both angles, shall we?  

Spending a lot of time in one office can have tremendous benefits: familiarity with a member, the district, the office policies, even the constituents. If it’s an office that invests in its staff, you may have opportunities to work on issues you care a great deal about, and take advantage of professional development opportunities. You stand to be promoted and become a trusted adviser.  

Job switching also has its benefits: a wider understanding of office cultures, a chance to find a role that is the best fit for you, and the experience of working for different districts and understand various parts of the country (or even parts of the same state). Switching jobs is an effective time to negotiate a raise; most office-to-office moves come with a salary bump that tends to be higher than the annual cost of living adjustment.  

So, which is it: Stay or go?  

There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer on how long to stay in a current role before accepting another position. The best option is to maximize your opportunity in your current role and speak with a trusted mentor as to what else might be available for you. Someone with a wealth of Capitol Hill experience will know if you’re in a position well suited to your current capabilities, or should keep an eye out for more.  

And if you don’t have that mentor? Try doing some research on your own. Staff salaries are public, you can compare your current salary to others and see how your compensation stacks up. Go on some informational interviews, see what else might be out there and what you’re qualified to apply for. In the end it’s up to you. But take heart in knowing even the most seasoned and savvy staffers go through the stay-or-go dilemma. The pendulum swings a long way between the complacent and antsy staffers. The trick is to find your balance. It just may take you years to do so.  

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