New members, new staff – it’s that time of year when the hill sees a lot of turn over and a bunch of fresh faces crop up among the seasoned veterans. Having been in your shoes and made several of these mistakes, FamousDC thought we’d share a few choice pieces of advice to help you navigate your first week on the hill. If it’s your second week in the halls of power, this will be a refresher course.
First Week on the Hill? 10 Rules to Live By:
1. There are reporters who have dreams about finding a Member of Congress caught in a scandal. Remember this – you never know who’s watching your actions. Never forget that you represent a Member of Congress. Do you really want that @mail.house.gov email in the Washington Post? How about on Twitter or Facebook? Think twice before you hit send (Or reply all for that matter – not always a good thing to land on the front page of Buzzfeed).
2. Unless you have a title of Press Secretary or Communications Director, don’t spend much time chatting with reporters about the office, the Member or how he spends his time. Please refer to #1.
3. You work for someone who had MILLIONS of dollars spent against her in the primary and the general election. This also included opposition researchers. There are lots of people watching what you do as a staffer. Again, refer to #1.
4. There may be days or constituent calls that don’t make it feel like such, but this is a serious job. This isn’t a college fraternity. Remain professional and treat colleagues with respect and remain professional. Did we mention remain professional? Your next job in leadership or downtown will come from a meeting you have while you’re in this office. We promise.
5. YOUR INTERN TODAY WILL PROBABLY BE YOUR BOSS ONE DAY. This happens all the time. Seriously. So only send them for coffee when it’s a top priority.
6. Your colleagues will likely want to go out drinking. Don’t be the first one there – or the last one to leave. Don’t forget, there are reporters and opposition researchers who like to hang around nearby tables when certain offices get drunk and start loudly complaining about their boss, colleagues or other offices. Again, we cannot stress #1 enough. Also, be the first one into the office the morning after a night out with the staff – or at least beat your boss into the office. (For those heavy hangover days we also suggest keeping a packet of Emergen-c in your desk along with some advil. Have a stacked office drawer and you’ll make plenty of friends with your fellow staffers).
7. The Member’s spouse is more important than the Chief of Staff, Legislative Director and Communications Director combined. Don’t forget it.
8. If one of your colleagues starts sleeping with the boss, don’t start a blog about it. Just update your resume and look for the next move. Again, have we talked about #1?
9. Learn it, live it, love it. Working on Capitol Hill will teach you more about government than a Master’s degree on the same subject. Soak it up.
10. You have an incredible job and one that lots of people would love to have. Enjoy it. Everything passes through Capitol Hill: declarations of war, humanitarian aid, famous athletes, and global celebrities. We live in a great country. There are days when it won’t feel like that, in which case, take a step back, go stand outside, look down the National Mall and remember that you’re living on the front lines of history.
If you run into a situation we didn’t cover, we hear Rebecca Gale is handing out some good hill advice on the regular.