There may be more Type-A men and women working on Capitol Hill than anywhere else in the world, except perhaps in Silicon Valley in California and on Wall Street in Manhattan.
But the identification of self-worth with one’s job is especially common among those working for senators, representatives and congressional committees.
For one thing, virtually all those senators and representatives are ego-driven Type-A’s, otherwise, how did they ever get elected in the first place and then keep getting re-elected?
And whether we like it or not, there is a pecking order on the Hill: Being a legislative director for a senator, for example, has more perceived “prestige” and better pay than that accorded a case-worker for a representative or a press assistant for a committee.
If that reality troubles you, or violates your well-honed egalitarian sensibilities, just remember that “pecking order” is a less-delicate way of saying “career path.”
Position, prestige and pay are all wrapped up in one ball of wax on the Hill and it creates a tremendous temptation to measure one’s self-worth according to those three Ps.
J. Warner Wallace, the NBC “Dateline” cold-case detective and author of “Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels,” offered some thoughts on this area in a recent post:
“I had the great fortune of being able to work my last day with my son, Jimmy. My department hired him in 2011, nearly 50 years to the month after my father was hired in 1961. Jimmy continues a legacy of three Jim Wallace’s, all of whom have contributed to our agency as police officers.
“On my last day, I got back in uniform (as a detective, I typically wear a suit) and I worked one last shift with my son in a patrol car. What a day. It was the last time I got the chance to view the streets of our city from the inside of a patrol car.
“I was blessed to have Jimmy at my side (and in charge). It had been so many years since I drove a unit through the city that I didn’t even try to do much more than enjoy the day and assist Jimmy in whatever small way I could.”
I realized that this job, my career in law enforcement, had become the source of who I really am.
A little further on, Wallace admits that at the end of that day “as I walked to my car, I realized that this job, my career in law enforcement, had become the source of who I really am. Walking away for the last time, it seemed like a significant part of me was lost.
“My error, over the last several years as a detective, was in finding my identity in my work. As a man, that’s not an uncommon thing, really. If you are also a guy, you know that the topic of your occupation is one of the first things that men want to talk about. ‘So, what do you do for a living?’ is one of the first questions asked when two men meet each other at a party.”
I would only add that I’ve known more than a few women Type-As on the Hill for whom their work defines them just as much as guys.
Wallace has the antidote and I can assure you from my own experience on the Hill and elsewhere in Washington, D.C. that it’s well-worth you giving it serious attention, whether you plan to stay on the Hill for decades or use it as a springboard to something else.