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already done this, since no politico’s job is ever safe (sex scandal, early retirement, anyone?), but if your resume is out of date, update it right now.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.