Graduation day is approaching. Plenty of people will arrive in Washington, D.C., diploma in hand and with a starry gaze toward the Capitol Dome. But wanting a job in public service isn’t enough. How do you find one? And then, how do you find a place to live? This week, Hill Navigator has some advice for new graduates on how to spin your credentials into a job on Capitol Hill and move here permanently. It starts — like many things in life — with lots of coffee.
Q. I am originally from the D.C. area and moved to the Midwest a few years ago with my wife. I have a year and a half of my bachelor’s degree to complete and may stay in the Midwest just long enough to finish a master’s program. Immediately following my education, we are moving back to D.C. to be back near my family. When should I start trying to network and communicate with people who may help me land a position on the Hill? I know these people are exceptionally busy. Am I bothering them wasting their time by trying to make contact from across the country and a year and a half (or more)?
A. Start now. Start the minute you think you want to move to Washington and get a job on Capitol Hill.
The Hill job process is long and cumbersome, and face-to-face informational interviews remain among the best ways to get your résumé noticed. People want to hire people whom they have met before or who have been referred to them. These are small offices, so personalities matter a great deal in finding someone who will be a good fit for an already crowded space.
In a stack of 100 résumés for a job opening (I don’t exaggerate; I’ve heard instances several times that), most of the applicants are qualified. More are over-qualified than under-qualified. Master’s degrees, law degrees, fellowships abound. How will you stand out? By putting a face with your name. And it’s hard to do when you’re far away. This means you need to start as soon as you can.
People in Washington are busy. People on Capitol Hill are even busier and will love to tell you that. But they can usually find time for a quick cup of coffee when you’re in town to meet and chat. Be willing to come to them. Set up multiple coffee meetings in one day if you can schedule it. Follow up with thank-you cards: both handwritten and email. (Handwritten because everyone loves to get mail and it shows you’re classy; email because they need to know where to forward job openings.)
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.