Heard on the Hill

Staffer Guide: Attitude Matters

Yuri Beckelman recommends being easy to work with

Yuri Beckelman is Rep. Mark Takano's legislative director and deputy chief of staff. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Never walking away from an opportunity has paid off for Yuri Beckelman, California Democratic Rep. Mark Takano’s legislative director and deputy chief of staff.

“The best career decision was moving down here and taking an internship,” Beckelman, 34, said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. There’s a disconnect [between] California and D.C. When my high school visited ‘the Capitol,’ we went to Sacramento.”

He interned for former Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in 2006 and was a staff assistant for about a year and a half to Nancy Pelosi, when she was House speaker.

When he didn’t see room to grow in Pelosi’s office, he worked on a campaign and then worked as a legislative assistant for former New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.

“I interviewed with him, his stereotypical kind of interview: We argued for a little bit and then he offered me a job,” Beckelman recalled.

He became Weiner’s legislative director and held that job for a little more than a year until Weiner’s sexting scandal went public in 2011 and forced him to resign, leaving Beckelman out of work.

He worked for the AFL-CIO in Pennsylvania during the 2012 election until he heard back from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where he had sent his résumé during the election.

“I told them I wanted to work for a freshman progressive from California,” he said. He interviewed with Takano, who had just been elected, and was hired as his first staffer with Hill experience.

He worked as a legislative director for a few months then added the title of deputy chief of staff.

Beckelman’s advice to staffers: Be easy to work with.

“Senior staff want to work with people who they’re not going to have to hold their hand the entire time,” he said.

“[As a staff assistant] you have to complete the work that’s assigned to you — but the second you have that done, you have to be asking for opportunities to write, to be involved with something,” he said.

Beckelman said he understands the anxieties associated with lower-level jobs on the Hill.

“Not knowing what your career path is going to do, not making a lot of money, you’re new to D.C. and don’t have a lot of friends — that can often feed into this feeling of needing to spend a lot of time applying for new jobs and needing to spend time decompressing and complaining about the lack of opportunity you have in your office,” he said.

“But if you can take both of those two time-wasters and focus your energy on doing more than the minimum your job requires, you will shine and you will create something and people will notice it,” he added.

While Beckelham said being a legislative director is the best job on the Hill, you have to be passionate about it.

“If you have no management experience, you’ve never worked on any other issues and aren’t interested in any other issues — you just want a bigger title, more money and more power but you want to only continue to work on that one issue — you are making the wrong decision for yourself,” he said.

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