Heard on the Hill

Your Job in Politics Will Probably Last Less Than 10 Years

So make the most of it, Hill veterans say in new advice manual

Jaime Harrison and Amos Snead have some advice to share with would-be Hill staffers. (Bian Elkhatib/CQ Roll Call)

In politics, work can come at you fast. “A decade or less is the length of your typical Hill staffer career,” write Republican Amos Snead and Democrat Jaime Harrison in a new advice manual.

The two former aides rose through the Capitol ranks in half that time. So how did they do it?

“If you read ‘Climbing the Hill,’ you’ll notice, we’re not preaching. We’re not trying to say one side’s right, the other side’s wrong … this is a bipartisan call to service,” Snead said of the new book, which he bills as a how-to guide.

“We want more people to look at this and say, ‘This is not something I see on TV or something I see on the evening news. I can play a role here.’”

Neither of them were originally from the so-called D.C. bubble, nor did they get their start in politics because of connections.

Want to Climb the Hill? Former Staffers Give Advice in New Book

“The one thing that Amos and I talk about quite often is that yes, we might take different paths but the destination is always the same. We believe in making this the best place so that regardless of your background and where you come from [you] can live the American dream,” Harrison said.

Snead is from Alabama and moved to D.C. 16 years ago without a job. A year later, he landed a staff assistant role for the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“My responsibilities were answering the phone and making sure there were water pitchers out on the dais before committee hearings and pencils and paper,” he said. “But if you asked my grandmother at the time, I think she told everybody I was advising the president.”

Snead rose to press secretary and spokesperson for Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri when he was in leadership in the House. He is now a partner at S3 public affairs, which is a bipartisan public affairs firm, and co-founded FamousDC.

Harrison is from South Carolina and landed an internship with former Sen. Ernest Frederick ‘Fritz’ Hollings. He also interned with Rep. James E. Clyburn through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s internship program.

“When doors open, a lot of doors can open but you need to be in the right place, you need to position yourself and you just need to put your head down and work hard,” Harrison said.

He rose to floor director and counselor for the majority whip, which was Clyburn at the time. He is now the associate chair and counselor for the Democratic National Committee.

The book includes interviews with both of their former bosses, as well as Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, just to name a few.

As staffers, reaching across the aisle gave them a boost.

“The ‘make a difference’ part of this book is probably the most important part that we want to emphasis,” Harrison said. “You can make a difference particularly when you can find some community and common ground, even with people with different politic beliefs.”

Snead added, “If you think about it, most people come to Capitol Hill and they’re congressional staffers because they believe in this country and they believe in Democracy.”

“My hope is someone reads this and says, ‘I’m going to go for it, I’m going to try,’” he said.

“Climbing the Hill: How to Build a Career in Politics and Make a Difference” will be released from Ten Speed Press on Sept. 25. Snead and Harrison will hold a launch event at Politics and Prose that day.

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