Like many young Washingtonians, I often daydream of waking up in Frank Underwood’s life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all scheme our way to the top with little to no repercussions? No? Okay maybe you’re right, hard work is probably a better way to get to the top. But how exactly does one go about making a good impression on Capitol Hill? We sat down with Matthias Struble, Staff Assistant for Congressman Mike Pompeo, to find out.
Behind the Staffer
Struble spends most of his time making the staff, and ultimately the Congressman’s lives easier. As a result, he wears many hats and does everything from setting up White House tours to responding to constituent inquires via mail, email and phone. Essentially, Struble is the middle man for constituents and the Congressman’s office. He handles and routes every call that comes in and helps constituents get to whatever resources they need.
While the job itself sounds relatively straight forward, Struble explained that getting it was not. “It’s really difficult to get a job on Capitol Hill, my predecessor told me that they looked at over 100 resumes for my job and went through over six interviews,” he said. While the staff assistant position is basically entry level for the Hill, offices need to find a good fit because the individual interacts with the members of congress and constituents on a daily basis.
These interactions are what Struble finds most valuable about his job. “With the current political climate, it is really important to find ways to reconnect people with their government,” he explained. “My favorite part of my job is talking on the phone with someone from the district and connecting constituents who come into the office with the Congressman.”
Myths and Facts of the Public Sector
Myth: Working on the Hill means your work will be shrouded in secrecy and lack transparency.
Fact: Hill leaders are incredibly transparent and want their constituents to know what they’re doing.
“I think people outside of the government believe that government isn’t transparent and that a lot of what happens on Capitol Hill goes on behind closed doors and through side deals that don’t involve the average person or constituents,” Struble explained. He emphasized that in reality, “Congress essentially runs like a fishbowl under a spotlight. Everything is recorded and analyzed and completely accessible to anyone who wishes to view it.”
Myth: The government is not invested in millennials’ professional development.
Fact: There are a multitude of resources available on the Hill to help staffers do their jobs better.
Struble emphasize that there are abundant programs in his office and also more broadly across Congress. In his office there is a robust mentorship program to help new staffers acclimate. Additionally, there are training sessions on Capitol Hill on things like ethics, software, CPR, and job transitioning. “There is a million different programs on the Hill designed to help employees out and it’s just an added bonus that I have a great team behind me ready to answer questions and help me serve the office better,” he said.
Advice to Millennials
Think you’re ready to start a career on the Hill? Struble concluded with a few final thoughts on how you can prepare:
Be prepared to manage your time. “Time is a premium on the Hill,” Struble explained. He continued, “saying ‘I’m sorry I was busy and didn’t have the time’ is not an acceptable excuse because everyone has a steady stream of work all the time.” The key to overcoming the lack of hours in the day is prioritizing your tasks and knowing what needs to get done immediately and what can wait until tomorrow. Having good judgement and learning how to plan your day while remaining flexible is a key attribute to working on the Hill.
Be prepared for a fast-paced work environment. Struble emphasized, “we are a very fast-paced office as we are usually here from 8 in the morning until 7 or 8 in the evening and that is just to be expected.” He continued that his office wants their constituents to get their money’s worth and receive quality service and products. “If we are not there and working hard for our constituents when they need us to be at the office then they are not getting a return on investment from the taxes they pay,” Struble explained.
Be prepared to be a public servant. “You should not be on the Hill for the power or the prestige, you should be on the Hill because you recognized your obligation to your community and country and want to work hard to serve them,” Struble stressed. Getting involved with public service means that you will work hard and fast for not a lot of return. Struble concluded, “there are really just two components essential to getting involved in government: have the right attitude and the right work ethic. If you’re willing and in it for the right reasons, a public service career is one of the most fulfilling things.”
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This post is part of GovLoop’s millennial blog series, First 5.