Members-elect are given little time to get an office up and running. Even after the frenetic pace of a campaign, moving to D.C. to set up shop is daunting, and members-elect may have a tendency to try to please everyone. Fitch stresses the importance of learning how to say “no” as one of the crucial skills necessary for success.
“Constituents expect them to be everything for everybody. Politicians, it is in their DNA to please everyone,” Fitch said. “They want to say ‘yes’ to everybody. The first thing they have to do is learn to say ‘no.’ They need to focus and build a brand for themselves.”
Do: Enjoy the Ride
At the end of the day, this is a spot in history, and members-elect are encouraged to keep in mind the honor that comes with serving as a member of Congress. “We tell them first that this is a great adventure and they should never lose sight of the fact that this is a pretty exciting time,” Fitch said.
Orientation is one of the first steps in what might be a long career — or a two-year stopover. And even after everything the House Administration Committee and the CMF bestows on members-elect and staff, the decision on how to run their office is ultimately up to them.
“There are about 435 different ways to do this job,” Hawkings said.
And it will be another two years before the members see the results of how well they’ve done.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.