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The Best Member of Congress for Your Job

A "focused and driven" member of Congress: Then-Sen. Barack Obama talks to media in his temporary office space in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Office in 2005. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Best job ever? Maybe, but how valuable could a job be without a promotion in sight? And what happens if another office comes a-courting, with a hefty raise attached? Hill Navigator discusses.

Q. I have a job I love with a wonderful member and great co-workers that I get along with. I feel secure in my position, but I don't see room for moving up any time soon. I'm being considered for a higher-up job in another office that would offer far more pay than what my office pays my immediate boss for that same position. But that member isn't as focused and driven as mine is, and the issue portfolio isn't what I want to do long term. Do I take the title and pay and hope to find a way long term to get back into the issue area I want to pursue? How do I stay current and keep my résumé focused for that field while working elsewhere?
A. So you like your job, your work, your co-workers and your member of Congress, and you’re considering a jump for a pay raise?  

Most Capitol Hill staffers will make more money the moment they walk out the office door. But that doesn’t mean it’s always a wise move to go where the pay is greater, especially when there are other factors to consider.  

Two factors in particular are: 1) your affinity for the “focused and driven” member of Congress you currently work for and 2) the issue area you want to pursue.  

If you like the member of Congress you work for, and you believe he or she has a strong future ahead, it is worth staying in that office for as long as you find the work to be challenging and meaningful.  

Even when you outgrow your current position, if you still have the gumption for working on Capitol Hill, it is worth speaking with your office to find ways to continue your current employment.  

President Barack Obama took many of his freshman office Senate staffers to the White House, and there are longtime staffers to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who have been around long enough to see their boss’s fortune rise, fall and rise again. Political fortunes do change quickly , but a “focused and driven” rising star is worth hanging on to, at least for a little while longer.  

Second, if you know which issue areas you want to work on, which the proffered portfolio does not include, then this is likely not the job for you. Flip the situation around and it’s a bit different: If you like your current boss and prefer a different issue portfolio, it might be worth a conversation with your office on how to expand your responsibilities. But it’s far more difficult to renegotiate a situation when you’ve already signed up to jump in headfirst.  

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t familiarize yourself with other opportunities. Go to the interview, learn about the position, meet with the member, but be straightforward that you are happy in your current position and not eager to leave. Committee assignments change, members lose unexpectedly  and once-backbenchers can land on the leadership track. Keep as many goodwill avenues open as possible. Good luck!  

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