The Hill Life: Making the Jump

Jan 26, 2011

 

Dear Belle,

Last week, one of our LC’s announced that she was leaving the office in March.  I’ve been interning since October, and I’m ready to become paid staff.  Any tips on how to convince the LD and Chief of Staff that they should hire me?

Sincerely,  May

First off, you need to decide that you want to work on the Hill, not just pick up the first paying job that you see.  I know that there’s a lot of pressure on unpaid interns to turn their internships into paying work.  But that doesn’t mean you have to take this job.

Over the years, I’ve watched interns fight hard to get a Staff Assistant and LC position only to learn a few months in that being an intern is MUCH different than being on salary.  The hours are longer, the rope shorter and the salary never goes as far as you think it will when you’re sitting at $0 per month.  So really take some time to make sure that you want to work on the Hill, you want to work in this office and you want to have this specific job with all the pros and cons it will entail.

Secondly, I would suggest that you take some time to speak with the current LC and ask her a few questions.  Does she like her job?  What are the best/hardest parts of her job?  Is she glad that she came to work here?  And if you have a good relationship with her, ask her if she thinks that you would be a good candidate for the LC position.

Most of the time, staffers are more than happy to offer the interns some career advice.  So don’t walk into the hiring process blind, when the best resource you could possibly have (the person leaving the job) is right in front of you.

Third, get your resume together.  Ask other Hill staffers and professionals to read it over and make suggestions.  If you don’t have anyone to look at it, then you can hire a resume writer to give you tips on what it should look like and what it should contain.  Typically, this service will set you back $50-$100, but it’s usually worth it.

Once your resume is in order, make time to talk to either the Chief of Staff or the LD (choose the one you have the most positive interactions with).  Tell him/her that you know the LC job is opening up, and that you’d like to be considered.  Talk about why you like working in that office, what skills you’ve learned since you’ve been there and why you think you’re the best candidate for the job.

Most Hill managers would rather hire from within than go through the process of choosing someone brand new from a pile of resumes.  But that isn’t to say that this job is a lock.  You need to be prepared to be told no, and if that happens, you don’t want your reaction to hurt your chances of getting a good recommendation down the line.

That being said, don’t just walk in to the LD’s office and ask them.  You need to be respectful of his/her time.  So send an email asking if he/she has time to talk to you about your professional advancement later that day or week.  Most of the time, he/she will be happy to give you a few minutes.

Also, if they don’t hire you, don’t be afraid to ask why.  They already turned you down, so finding out how you can improve for your next job or next interview is the only thing left to gain here.  And if you ask in a deferential and respectful manner, it actually might improve your chances of getting a good recommendation.  Being gracious in defeat is a rare quality in a person.

Our former LD once told me, “The most important thing in life is to ask for what you want,” and I couldn’t agree with her more.  Don’t just sit at your desk hoping that the people above you will notice you and offer you the job.  That is not how it works.  If you want the job, you need to take the steps necessary to get that job and the first and most important step, is to ask to be considered. I know this is hard for some women, but expressing an interest in an open position isn’t offensive, it’s a professionally necessity.

Ask The Edit, Style

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  1. mw says:

    LD – Legislative Director
    LC – Legislative C…?
    COS – Chief of Staff
    SA – Staff something?

    Please clarify! Sadly, I'm pre-intern.

  2. mw says:

    LD – Legislative Director
    LC – Legislative C…?
    COS – Chief of Staff
    SA – Staff something?

    Please clarify! Sadly, I'm pre-intern.

  3. EG says:

    Great advice. I was so nervous about to talking to my superiors about making the SA-LC jump, but once I finally did it, I was SO glad I did. I also watched our LD walk by my desk 20343 times before realizing I would never ask him for the time, so I did it by email, and he made the time in a second. Good luck!

  4. TA says:

    I like this post too–I just wished I had that advice when facing the same dilemma. Currently, I'm a newly promoted LC and was a SA. Weeks ago, I heard that our COS was looking for a LC. I was nervous to talk to my COS but I spoke to my LD and he told me I should go for it and tell the COS. I gathered enough courage to tell the COS that I am interested in the LC position. Three weeks later, my COS called me into his office and he offered my the LC position and I accepted it. Sometimes it's best to let others know what's on your mind, especially when it comes to professional advancement, because they'll just pass you by thinking you're satisfied with what you have.

  5. mw says:

    LD – Legislative Director
    LC – Legislative C…?
    COS – Chief of Staff
    SA – Staff something?

    Please clarify! Sadly, I'm pre-intern.

  6. garethforshort says:

    As an LD who has been in this position many times in the past, I generally already have a sense of whether or not an intern will make a good hire for our office. I would imagine that since you've been interning since October your CoS and LD by now already know the quality of your work. As such I would agree that the most important thing is to make it known in the most professional way possible that you're interested in the position. The greatest part of convincing them to hire you is not showing that you're capable. But rather, as Belle said, that you understand the differences between interning and the rigors of being a permanent staffer and are ready to take on those additional challenges and responsibilities.

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