By Bret Bernhardt
Conventional wisdom may say the best path to a good job on the Hill is through the hiring manager. That may be a chief of staff, legislative director, or state/district director.
However, there’s a surprise twist. More often than not, I have seen the best job leads for young and junior staff come not through senior staff, but rather their own peers.
As believers, we should know that community is very important. How often in the Scriptures is the fellowship of believers emphasized? This is no less true for you as you navigate, work, and live on and around Capitol Hill.
To this end, you will probably find the job you are seeking through a contact or connection with someone in your own age range or peer group. Take a look around and find out how your peers actually ended up in their first job on the Hill.
In many, if not most, cases, you will find that the original lead came through a friend, co-worker, roommate, or a friend of a friend. Why is this so?
In any Hill office, the hiring manager will certainly know about jobs in their purview. However, I find that senior staff, such as chiefs of staff, less often know about jobs in other offices to the same degree of younger staff.
As a former chief of staff, I would often meet with young prospective staffers looking for a job. I’m sure their belief was that, in addition to having hiring responsibility in my office, I was also a good source of job information elsewhere.
“Think of it, your peers are the ones who are in community with people similarly situated in offices throughout Capitol Hill.”
While the former was true, I was far from the best in terms of other job leads. This is the case for most senior staff, with few exceptions.
Think of it, your peers are the ones who are in community with people similarly situated in offices throughout Capitol Hill. When circumstances change among their peers, such as a staffer deciding to move back to their home state or district, the first person to know will be a friend, roommate, etc.
Just last week, I met with an intern looking for a job. As we talked, I threw out this idea of leaning on his peer group. He said he had done so and it has been very helpful. In fact, his roommate had given him nearly a half dozen solid leads. One of them is likely to end up as a job.
So, how do you go about this? I’ve never liked the term “network.” But there is a healthy way to network that doesn’t require imposing for your own personal gain.
As I stated earlier, the community of believers and community in general is very important in one’s life. How you nurture this community for yourself is very important.
We are probably too familiar with people who have turned us off with their “networking.” And, we don’t want to be that guy. So, a healthy network of peers and friends requires a two-way relationship. This means that having friends requires being a friend.
“There is a healthy way to network that doesn’t require imposing for your own personal gain.”
For example, in a job search, you can help others who are also seeking. There are often times jobs that are not suited for you or that perhaps were offered but turned down.
If a particular job opening isn’t for you, it probably is for someone else. You can throw a valuable lifeline to someone and help them out, even though you’re looking for a job yourself.
And, once you land your job, remember that others will need the same help that you received. So, take the time and go out of your way to help those who are looking.
Remember, we are all just one day away from looking for a new job ourselves, so always be available to your friends and others who are looking. It will pay valuable dividends for many years to come.
And, in the process of looking for a job you’ll discover a surprise bonus … a vibrant community of friends who’ll be there for each other day in and day out.
Bret Bernhardt served on the Hill as chief of staff to senators Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He is now a member of the board of directors of Faith & Law and the Conservative Partnership Institute.