A: Members often want to handle staff decisions (hiring, firing, salary, etc.), when they should focus on a chief, then let the chief handle the icky — and constant — staffing matters. They should review, but not adjudicate, dinky staff stuff. They get pulled so many ways on policy and politics, it’s best to let the chief deal with staff issues.
There are so many rookie mistakes for new staffers; but primarily the mistakes are substituting their judgment for their boss’s (or for the chief or [legislative director]), and talking out of school. Remember the political axiom “those who talk don’t know, and those who know don’t talk.”
The motivation behind “Manifesto: Staffing Capitol Hill” was entirely to help new staffers avoid obvious mistakes.
Q. Final piece of advice for someone who wants to get a job on Capitol Hill?
A: Understand the essence of the job, the backbreaking hours, the delicacy of the work. Be willing to take an unpaid position as a fellow or intern in an office to get valuable experience as you look for a paying job. That experience can make all the difference in competing for jobs in other offices, or the office where you work for free.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.