Do You Really Want to Work on Capitol Hill?

Jobseekers are constantly coming to me asking for advice on how to launch a career on Capitol Hill. And I always tell them something they don't want to hear...take an internship. Even if it's unpaid. In almost every job description I see for a Hill staffer position (even the entry-level ones) Hill experience is required. Understanding of how Capitol Hill operates is more important to many offices than state ties are. So how do you get the all-important experience? Intern. 

I understand that many jobseekers can't afford to take unpaid internships, but that does not change the fact that Hill experience is almost always required for paid positions. And if a jobseeker is truly passionate about and committed to working for a Member of Congress, they should be prepared to intern for free and work a second job to pay the bills. Many veteran Hill staffers got their start interning while waiting tables, bartending or working at a department store. They truly wanted their dream job and worked hard to get it. They paid their dues and are now Legislative Directors or Chiefs of Staff. If those are titles you want someday, consider an internship. Many offices are flexible with hours, especially if the internship is unpaid, so a second job should be reasonable.

And once you do obtain that internship, make the most of it. Be a diligent, hardworking member of the team. Network as much as possible. Make friends in other offices. Schedule meetings with veteran staffers. Send your resume to hiring managers of Members with whom you'd like a full time position . Go to meetings. Attend trainings. Turn the internship into your stepping stone to a staff position. 

Many offices are looking for Fall interns. Check out all the listings on and take the first steps toward your career on Capitol Hill.