July 30, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hill Navigator: Career Change

What’s the next step when you’re ready to move on?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
If you’ve decided the Hill is no longer the place you want to be, how do you tailor your departure to make sure you’ve gotten everything you can out of your job, your contacts and your experience?

So you think you want to leave the Hill?

Maybe the hours have gotten too long for you. Maybe you want your own office with an expense account and espresso machine. Or maybe you’re just sick of the foot traffic at Union Station.

Whatever the reason, there comes a time in every staffer’s life when he or she thinks about leaving Capitol Hill to join the ranks of the many lobbyists, consultants and policy and government affairs specialists inside the Beltway.

This week’s Hill Navigator is dedicated to advice for departing staffers. Capitol Hill might be the greatest place to work, but as with many high-stress and low-paying jobs, there’s often an expiration date. So keep these items in mind when planning your exit.

1. Leave on the best terms possible.

All your current co-workers — from the crazy one you complain about to Hill Navigator to the one who eats tuna for lunch at a desk 4 inches from your own — will become valuable contacts once you turn in your keys and BlackBerry.

And contacts matter if you want your calls and emails returned. Once you’re outside the marble walls of Congress, you’re competing with every other former Joe Staffer for their attention, and people prefer familiar faces.

How do you accomplish the congressional office coup de grace? Pretend leaving is the last thing you want to do. “I hate to be leaving this office; I can’t imagine working for a better boss. These are some of the smartest, most dedicated people I have ever worked with, and I will miss them so much.” Copy and paste these lines into your goodbye email if you have to. Be gracious for the opportunity and generous with the praise. No one needs to know what you really think, and no one wants to hear you justify your decision. Your actions speak louder than words; you wouldn’t be leaving if you didn’t have a better job waiting for you.

2. Don’t be a D.C.-centric fool.

Washington sits on a very small swamp on a very large map. Take time to say goodbye to your district staff, your state staff and your local reporters, and make sincere efforts to keep in touch. These people have a way of making it back to D.C. or being valuable contacts in their home regions. If you leave with a breezy goodbye (or no goodbye at all), you’re snubbing some of the hardest-working staff and hurting your own contact list.

3. Keep bragging to a minimum.

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