The Hill Life: Collateral Damage

For most politicos, the morning after the election means a hangover.  But for some Hill staffers, and most campaign workers, the morning after the polls close means the end of the line.  So your Boss lost, now what?

Don’t Panic. Post-Election is a time of high turnover in this industry.  People retire, move home, take another job, move into the private sector–in short, jobs become available.  So unless you’re in the hinterlands where political jobs are in short supply, try to think of this as an opportunity to find something else.

Update Your Resume.  You should have already done this, since no politico’s job is ever safe (sex scandal, early retirement, anyone?), but if your resume is out of date, update it right now.  Make sure to have other people—mentors, friends, professional resume writers–look at it and make suggestions.

Break Out Your Rolodex.  Haven’t seen Joe Smith from the committee in awhile?  Grab a coffee.  Know the Chief of Staff for Rep. Jones?  Ask her if she wants to have a drink.  Now is the time to be out and about because 90% of the jobs in this town will be filled through networking. 

Don’t be afraid to be shameless.  Send an email to your close friends asking for aid.  Get on The Brad Traverse Job List.  Talk to your Chief, your LD and your Boss.  Talk to friends who work for committees, for the leadership, for the party, for firms in the private sector, for associations you work with regularly.  You have contacts…contact them.

If you’re sitting in your office sending resumes, you are only doing half the job.

Go Out.  Similar to contacting your network, you also need to be seen out on the town.  How many people can you run into at Capital Grille on a Friday night?  How many people will be at Bullfeather’s for lunch?  Figure out where people are and go there. 

Make a Financial Plan.  Financial wizards will tell you that you should have enough money in your savings to cover three months of expenses.  Most staffers, I’d be willing to wager, don’t have that.

First, ask yourself how you can cut expenses–no Netflix, cheaper cell phone plan, etc.  Second, figure out ways you can bring in extra money–selling clothes on eBay or a consigment store, babysitting, taking a part-time job, etc.  Talk to your office manager about the rules regarding signing up for unemployment (I don’t know how this might vary for the Hill, but if someone does, please comment.).

This is Not a Vacation.  When Bosses lose, some staffers will stop putting in 100%.  Some will even stop putting in 50%.  Don’t do this. 

Years ago, after her Boss lost, my friend B came in every day to help pack up the office, answer phones and finish up work.  Most of her colleagues didn’t.  Guess whose end of year bonus was significantly larger than everyone else’s?  Guess whose Boss helped her find a job in the Administration so she was never out of work one day? 

So until you find something else, put in the effort, you don’t know who might be watching.

Examine Other Opportunities.  If you’re not happy working in politics, if you’re not sure this is what you want to be doing in two or four or ten years, take this opportunity to get out of show business.  Capitol Hill and political experience is valuable in a number of industries, so this might be a good time to seek employment elsewhere.  Just because this is what you have been doing, does not mean it is what you should keep doing.

It’s Okay to Be Emotional.  It’s okay to be angry, to be hurt and to be sad.  Your Boss lost, you lost, you may feel like your district/state/country lost.  You’re allowed to be upset.  But don’t share your upset so freely, someone who looks bitter and on the verge of a breakdown isn’t putting their best foot forward.  So be careful who you choose to share your emotions with and in what measure.

If anyone else has tips to offer those whose Wednesday started off on a bad note, leave them in the comments.  And if any of you want me to just take a glance at your resume, I can offer you a note or two if you send it to capitolhillstyle (at) gmail (dot) com.  I may not get to all of them, but I’ll make a good faith effort.



  1. AD says:

    Awesome post Belle. I wasn't really affected as a lowly state worker in a Southern state, but thanks for this. We should all remember to be on our toes when we work in this business.

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  2. r says:

    Great advice all around, Belle. If your boss won his/her election, do what you can to help your friends and colleagues who weren't so lucky.

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  3. JT says:

    Great part on being emotional – “You're allowed to be upset. But don't share your upset so freely, someone who looks bitter and on the verge of a breakdown isn't putting their best foot forward. So be careful who you choose to share your emotions with and in what measure.” That holds true for those of us not in politics as well. Chin up – as it does not belong in the workplace!

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  4. Shannon says:

    I think excessive emotion on either side is natural, but should be tamped down a bit for the sake of decorum.

    My Facebook feed is littered with some of the most juvenile sore loser rants I can ever remember seeing. Then again, I'm also seeing too much gloating. I don't think either reflects well on the individual, and it won't help them with their career prospects. Who wants to hire someone for political work who can't handle the ups and downs of that lifestyle? It would be like hiring an ER nurse who is afraid of blood.

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  5. Kim says:

    Love Shannon's comment the most. I was lucky that my boss won his election. I'm a local government worker and while it didn't mean necessarily I would be out the door it did mean less funding for our already strapped department had his opposition won. I'm thankful and also humble today, unlike some of my coworkers who were hooping and hollering this morning.

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  6. MM says:

    A new resource for job-hunting Democrats – there is a brand new resume bank that will be used by Dem House offices. Info here: It's open to the public, so job-hunting campaign staffers and volunteers can upload their resumes too.

    In addition to Brad Traverse, since becoming a fee-based website, the Tom Manatos list has become bi-partisan and has both D & R jobs –

    Good luck, everyone!

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  7. Belle says:

    Shannon's absolutely right. When you gloat like a drooling hyena, it's gross and unprofessional. Don't forget, you could just as easily be on the losing side next time.

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  8. Allison @ In the Queen City says:

    Great advice! Especially the note about continuing to come into work and help wrap things up. I worked on a losing campaign a couple years ago and I know the candidate and campaign manger definitely took note of who stuck around and who didn't. If nothing else you will get an excellent recommendation!

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  9. Rebecca says:

    Anyone have thoughts of contacting successful campaigns about staffing? I'm interested in a working in the offices of a couple of new Members.

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  10. Cara says:

    In 1992, my mother lost her job when the Democratic House Rep she worked for lost her bid for re-election. It's tough to realize that the way your friends or family voted caused you to lose your job. I still have a grudge against Jim DeMint for that since he worked for the winner at the time and it was an ugly campaign. ­čÖé

    Anyway, my thoughts and sympathies go out to anyone who was affected by last night's results. I hope you all find new jobs that you love quickly.

    November 7, 2012/Reply
  11. Carrie says:

    Great post!

    November 8, 2012/Reply
  12. jes says:

    i second rebecca's question!

    November 8, 2012/Reply
  13. Anna says:

    Thirded! I took a look at the resume bank on DemCom and was a little put off by the fact that anyone can go on there and read people's resumes and cover letters. I mean, it was great for me to see what other staffers' docs looked like, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with every Democratic staffer on the Hill having access to my stuff, whether they're the ones doing the hiring or not.

    November 8, 2012/Reply
  14. Belle says:

    Rebecca: Pick up a phone, call their office. Call NRCC, ask if they're collecting. Go down to the longworth basement and ask to add yours to the resume bank. Get on linkedin see if you know anyone in common, ask around, search long enough and you'll find someone who knows someone.

    Anna: Your resume isn't a sacred text, it's a sales pitch, an advertisement, a billboard. If you're going to hide it away like the Watergate tapes, you're not going to find work. You should be proud and confident to share your resume.

    Mine was passed around so much back in the day, and then one day, a friend called and said a colleague had a brother who needed a temporary secretary. Then that led to an internship and a real job and so on.

    November 8, 2012/Reply
  15. mkat says:

    Agree with Shannon — need to keep it professional, and realize that like life, politics has its ups and downs, wins and losses. Obviously these can translate into real impacts on real people, but still important to maintain perspective and composure. Plus, no one wants to be around a Debbie Downer!

    Belle, I think you can add for people to try to streamline whatever services they use to save money. For example, it actually may be cheaper each month to belong to Netflix and Hulu than to be on a traditional cable/Internet plan. Just surfing the web for how to cut down on bills can be huge. Selling old items can be smart, but remember that includes selling old technology too — computers, phones, etc.

    Finally, I also agree with sticking around and helping out/staying involved until the very end. And don't be shy about what you need when talking to others. Even times where I felt like I was being direct, I realized I needed to be unafraid to ask specifically for whatever I needed, or tell someone very clearly what I am looking for and why. It's a good time to prep that simple but clear and direct elevator pitch for anyone you may run across!

    November 8, 2012/Reply
  16. Kristina says:

    Belle – Feel free to delete this post if it is inappropriate here, but I'm former-BigLaw-associate-turned-legal-headhunter who's looking for an attorney with at least five years' Hill experience. If any of your readers are interested in joining a firm (and they earned good grades in law school), they should contact me directly at Thanks – and good luck to all those looking post-election!

    November 9, 2012/Reply