March 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hill Navigator: Career Change

Whats the next step when youre ready to move on?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
If youve decided the Hill is no longer the place you want to be, how do you tailor your departure to make sure youve 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 youre just sick of the foot traffic at Union Station.

Whatever the reason, there comes a time in every staffers 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 weeks 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, theres 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 youre outside the marble walls of Congress, youre 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 cant 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 wouldnt be leaving if you didnt have a better job waiting for you.

2. Dont 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), youre snubbing some of the hardest-working staff and hurting your own contact list.

3. Keep bragging to a minimum.

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