The bad news is that title changes don’t mean that much outside your own office. Senior LA, senior policy adviser, deputy legislative director — what people tend to look for is what you do, whom you worked with and what you can bring to the table. So if you’re a top energy staffer for a member active on that issue and serving on the relevant committee, it shouldn’t matter if your title is policy adviser extraordinaire or plain old legislative assistant. If a future employer is looking for an energy expert, your cover letter and résumé can position you as such.
And as for your own office, withholding a title change is unusual, but I’ve heard of situations where they are “saving” it up to reward an accomplishment or as an end-of-year promotion. See if it’s an option down the line. Or at the very least, talk to the former senior LA and see what that person had to do to make it happen.
Q. Many Hill offices promote from within, but some do not. If I’m an intern or a staff assistant in an office that doesn’t promote from within, how do I go about getting that coveted LA job in another office when I’m competing with other applicants that are already LAs?
A. I hate to tell you this — but you’ve got to get promoted. You won’t be able to make the leap from staff assistant to LA very easily — there may be some exceptions out there, usually they involve a fellowship or master’s degree or some nontraditional role.
If your office won’t promote from within, talk to your direct supervisor and ask to take on more LA-like responsibilities and learn the skills that way. If they’re reluctant to let you do anything out of your lane, you may need to find another office or work environment that is going to help you grow. Capitol Hill can be a fantastic place to work, but if you don’t have an opportunity for growth and improvement, then you’re better off elsewhere.
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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.