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Anyone in government?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Does anyone here work in a government-related job, down in D.C.? Lobbyist, Capitol Hill staffer, aide, etc.

I'm trying to get some info on what it's like to work in D.C. and, more particularly, in a career with ties to politics. How's the money? Do you enjoy your job?

Thanks.
post #2 of 25
I don't anymore, but I used to work on the Hill for a member of Congress. The pay was terrible, but the experience I gained was great. It was my first job out of school, I was what is now affectionately known as a "Staff Ass" (Staff Assistant), and was paid the grand sum of $17.7k per year. Mind you, this was about 15 years ago.
post #3 of 25
As GFM implies, you'd normally start as a low-level assistant, answering phones and constituent mail. Pay is still low, but should be more than 20,000.

Staff Asst: office gofer/answer phones. Might do leg correspondence in some offices. Entry level
Scheduler: not an easy job, and somewhat off the legislative track
Leg Correspondent: a typical House office would only have one of these. This person drafts responses to legislative inquiries (as compared with "where is my Social Security check?" inquiries). A good foot in the door.
Leg Aide: usually need some experience or particular expertise
Committee Aide: to do substantive policy, you'd need experience or advanced degree or both. The committee might also have a staff asst/gofer too.
Administrative asst.: this is the chief of staff, not a secretary.
Press secy: usually not entry-level

Many exceptions apply.
You would normally need some angle to get in, even as a staff asst (prior internship, worked on campaigns, active in college politics).

Are you a Democrat, Republican, or independent?
post #4 of 25
Whig?
post #5 of 25
I don't have my own personal experience with it but my best friend has been on capital hill for more than 10 years now--first in an NGO and then in the Senate for the last 7 or so years. She has risen to deputy chief of staff.

go to http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/vis...itors_home.htm and go down to the weekly employment bulletin for examples of job openings.

I have seen at least her office with a number of LCs and LAs. LC is for the right-out-of-college. LA's typically have an MS/MA or a JD.

I will warn you, however, that the hours are very very long and bosses can be, shall we say, full of themselves. Hours are better if you work for a committee from what I hear and the pay is better, but it requires far more expertise.

But the experience is invaluable, as GFM says.

bob
post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdawson808
I don't have my own personal experience with it but my best friend has been on capital hill for more than 10 years now--first in an NGO and then in the Senate for the last 7 or so years. She has risen to deputy chief of staff.

go to http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/vis...itors_home.htm and go down to the weekly employment bulletin for examples of job openings.

I have seen at least her office with a number of LCs and LAs. LC is for the right-out-of-college. LA's typically have an MS/MA or a JD.

I will warn you, however, that the hours are very very long and bosses can be, shall we say, full of themselves. Hours are better if you work for a committee from what I hear and the pay is better, but it requires far more expertise.

But the experience is invaluable, as GFM says.

bob

Most House LAs I know only have BAs. As Bob notes, the Senate LAs would tend to have advanced degrees. If you only have a BA, that's usually fine to get into an entry level position, and then you'll be judged on your work.
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
As GFM implies, you'd normally start as a low-level assistant, answering phones and constituent mail. Pay is still low, but should be more than 20,000.

Staff Asst: office gofer/answer phones. Might do leg correspondence in some offices. Entry level
Scheduler: not an easy job, and somewhat off the legislative track
Leg Correspondent: a typical House office would only have one of these. This person drafts responses to legislative inquiries (as compared with "where is my Social Security check?" inquiries). A good foot in the door.
Leg Aide: usually need some experience or particular expertise
Committee Aide: to do substantive policy, you'd need experience or advanced degree or both. The committee might also have a staff asst/gofer too.
Administrative asst.: this is the chief of staff, not a secretary.
Press secy: usually not entry-level

Many exceptions apply.
You would normally need some angle to get in, even as a staff asst (prior internship, worked on campaigns, active in college politics).

Are you a Democrat, Republican, or independent?


I'm a Democrat, although I am not registered as such.

As I understand it, jobs like these provide the perfect opportunity for a future in lobbying. I assume that pay is dramatically greater for a lobbyist working in D.C., correct?
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Connemara
I'm a Democrat, although I am not registered as such.

As I understand it, jobs like these provide the perfect opportunity for a future in lobbying. I assume that pay is dramatically greater for a lobbyist working in D.C., correct?

Yes, the higher level jobs are a perfect opporunity for a future in lobbying. See the Jack Abrahamoff case for evidence of that. Lobbyists can make great money. But you're going to have to spend some time on the Hill and make all of the necessary contact before moving over to K St.

It helps to be involved in party politics, be it as a volunteer for a local party or with a campaign. You can contact your local representative to see if she or he has openings in the district or DC offices. But know that competition for these kinds of jobs is keen, even with the low pay.

I can't say I've ever met anyone who aspired to be a lobbyist! Especially not a Dem.
post #9 of 25
Just thought I'd throw this in there, food for thought or something for ya...

In Europe, lobbyists are very respected.
post #10 of 25
I'm not in government. I've got goverment (microchips) in me.
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by javyn
Just thought I'd throw this in there, food for thought or something for ya...

In Europe, lobbyists are very respected.

Very true...IIRC, lobbying began in England a few centuries ago. Citizens would gather in Westminster's lobby and voice their opinions to MP's.
post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
As GFM implies, you'd normally start as a low-level assistant, answering phones and constituent mail. Pay is still low, but should be more than 20,000.

Is it even possible to live on $20K in D.C.? Do these jobs offer things like subsidized housing or some sort of benefits?
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Connemara
Is it even possible to live on $20K in D.C.? Do these jobs offer things like subsidized housing or some sort of benefits?

No, that benefit does not exist. And why should it? There are many people who want these jobs.

Many Hill staffers have roommates.
post #14 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyFlannelMan
No, that benefit does not exist. And why should it? There are many people who want these jobs.

Many Hill staffers have roommates.

I suppose that makes sense. Does it take a long time to work your way up from staff assistant to, say, deputy chief of staff?

Sorry for all the questions, it's just difficult finding information on this stuff.
post #15 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Connemara
I suppose that makes sense. Does it take a long time to work your way up from staff assistant to, say, deputy chief of staff?

Sorry for all the questions, it's just difficult finding information on this stuff.

I'd say it's fairly difficult. I don know someone I worked with who started out where I did and eventually became the member's Chief of Staff and then became chief of staff of the committee my boss chaired.

Frankly, most people don't aspire to that; they are there to get experience and then to move on. Plus, you've got to deal with the prospect that your boss may be voted out of office (it can happen), or chooses to run for other office, or retires.
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