Hey Big Daddy,
I am a Capitol intern in the office of a member who I truly respect. Also, the staff I work with is great, and I’m learning a lot. I’ve only been here a few months. I recently received an offer to be a leg aide in another office, but it is with a member that is not very well respected. Also, I’ve heard some horror stories from the member’s staff. Even so, I know I would learn a lot, and I would be able to pay my bills – a definite plus. Should I stay where I am where there’s no glory, but I enjoy the people, or go where I can boost my resume, but won’t be as happy?
– Conflicted, Yet Ambitous
Your situation probably isn’t as black and white as you’ve painted it. There’s a bigger picture that you’re missing. Try to look at the political landscape from the 30,000-foot level rather than in the rut you’re currently stuck in. You’re an intern who needs a job and a paycheck, so let Big Daddy help you focus in on what you want and how to get it.
Job requirements. What sort of job are you willing to take? You mention a position as a leg aide. Are you willing to take a job outside the Capitol that would offer a similar experience such as working in a lobbyist’s office or for an association? Keep in mind that you can always go back to the Capitol. In fact, if your pay requirement doesn’t match the job offer, leaving the building might be the best way to boost your pay. But if you leave for the private sector, be sure to keep that job for at least three months so that you can establish a salary history, which becomes a new bar for future pay in the building.
Professional requirements. Getting a job is one thing. Establishing a career is entirely different. Here are a couple of paths that lofty young interns often dream of while fetching frozen yogurt from Tootsie’s:
Partner in a lobbying firm. If getting your name etched on the doorplate is your aim, you better learn how a bill really becomes a law. Leg aide is a good place to start. If you don’t already work for a Democrat, then try to get into the office of a moderate Republican where there’s a slightly less likelihood that your boss’s bills will die in committee. Make friends on both sides of the aisle, no matter which political team you play for. Always remember, lobbyists are loyal only to the person who signs the check. (Witness the latest political ad with former Gov. Wilson’s director of finance opposing Arnold’s initiative.)
Fundraiser to the stars. Fancy yourself shaking down special interests for cash donations to rubber chicken dinners? Then start working your way into a leadership office and ingratiate yourself with the man in charge. (Hey, Harriet Miers may have broken the glass ceiling, but women in the state Legislature still have their faces pressed against the pane that separates them from the big office and control of caucus payroll.) Notorious fundraisers like Dan Weitzman, Darius Anderson and Jeff Miller didn’t get where they are today by working 9-5 jobs for no-name legislators. Unless your dad’s last name is bookended with an “F” and an “N” you’re going to have to schlep for politicos the likes of Willie Brown, Jim Brulte or Fabian Nu