Wondering how to get a job working for Congress? We’ve demystified the process and distilled it into 10 possible paths to take.
10 Tips to Get a Job Working for Congress
- Networking: Networking is undoubtedly the most important factor when searching for a job in Congress. According to the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), congressional offices receive thousands of resumes per month, so it is crucial that an applicant is able to stand out from the rest of the pile. The best way to ensure your resume is carefully considered is by knowing a staffer who can make recommendations to the congressional leader. Thus, landing a job on Capitol Hill is largely about connecting with the right people and mobilizing your networks.
- Create a killer resume: The hiring process for congressional interns and staff workers begins with a list of resumes organized from top to bottom, Roll Call explains. Having a strong resume is a key component in the hiring process. When writing a resume, Career Casts advises, “you need to create a resume tailored to your customers: the people in a position to hire you.” In other words, talk about relevant experiences and capabilities that could benefit the congressional leaders. Working for The Borgen Project, for instance, would be an applicable and useful experience to include.
- Start early on: Reach out not only to congressional leaders, but to potential candidates as well. Former intern Aaron Marquis notes that, “you should keep an eye out on rising political candidates. Network with these candidates early on to land a job later.”
- Build a target list: Some important questions to address when building a target list are as follows: “What is your home state? Where have you previously lived? Where did you go to school? Where do you have family?” CMF urges job searchers to use every state and district they’ve spent time in and know something about to help them build a list of target offices. Having an extensive list of congressional leaders as potential employers means having an increased likelihood of landing a job.
- Start at the bottom of the hierarchy: There is nothing wrong with fetching coffee for a congressional leader if it means getting a foot in the door. Often times, congressional interns and staff members start their career handling grunt work. CMF claims that, “working on Capitol Hill is all about paying your dues. It doesn’t matter what job you get as long as you have one in the first place. Once you accomplish that, upward mobility can happen very quickly.”
- Work for a political campaign: A fun and exciting way to meet congressional candidates is to assist them with their political campaign. Former intern Aaron Marquis says, “political campaigns need effective communicators, writers and strategic minds. You gain valuable contacts in politics whether your candidate wins or loses. If your candidate wins, you can contact the candidate later looking for positions within her office.”
- Read newspapers and check websites: Marquis suggests checking the websites for the Senate Placement Office and the House of Representatives’ Office of Human Resources to find available staff positions in Congress. It also wouldn’t hurt to look through “The Hill,” “Roll Call” and “Opportunities in Public Affairs,” three Washington newspapers covering politics, to find available positions in Congress. Notably, each paper has its own classified section with job listings.
- Work for retired congressional leaders: Even if the retired leader is no longer working for Congress, they still have all the necessary connections. Marquis recommends asking a retired congressman if he or she needs any help. Although the position may not pay or last very long, it’s possible to obtain Congress positions through the contacts made by working for a retired congressional leader.
- Attend events and meet congressmen: According to Marquis, “you should start by attending speaking engagements of the incumbent and new congressional representatives. Speak with council people and lawmakers in your home state to acquire leads that can lead to a job in Congress.” Let the representative know you’re passionate by attending events that he or she speaks at.
- Move to Washington, D.C.: CMF suggests moving to Capitol Hill because living in D.C provides the distinct advantage of being able to meet with staffers in person. Face-to-face contact is always preferable and tends to be the most effective.
All things considered, it is vital to be open to various positions when searching for a job working for Congress. Networking with the right people, having the proper credentials and letting congressional leaders know that you are determined could all lead to a job on Capitol Hill.
– Megan Hadley