How to get a job in the power corridors of Washington

How to get a job in the power corridors of Washington
The nation's capital offers lots of career paths including in politics and policyPhoto by Al Drago/Getty Images
  • There's no shortage of career paths to take to find work in the power corridors of Washington, DC.
  • Jobs can be found working for lawmakers in Congress, as a lobbyist in the sprawling influence industry, or for the new Biden administration.
  • Landing a job in DC is not always easy, but Insider has compiled tips to help you on your resume, with networking and for interviews.

So, you want to work in Washington, DC?

The nation's capital offers lots of career paths including in politics and policy, working as a lobbyist in the sprawling influence industry or landing a job with the latest administration.

Good old-fashioned job applications work, but there are things you can do to give yourself an edge and get your resume to the top of the pile.
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Snag a job in the Biden administration

You're in luck if you want to work for the Joe Biden administration. The new Democratic president is filling up roughly 4,000 political jobs that change hands when a new president arrives.

But you'll have to move quickly as Biden is anxious to get up to full strength as he races to replace former Trump administration staffers with his own people. And there might be some stiff competition.

Read more: Here's the new government document that might help you land a job in the Biden administration
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Of course, it helps if you have powerful connections who can vouch for you before the right people. But don't despair if you don't count political insiders among your family and friends. You might still land your dream job at the State Department, the National Park Service or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Biden's team has even put together a job portal where you can apply directly for everything from White House jobs to obscure posts like a seat on the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission or the US-Russia Polar Bear Commission. The Biden administration is also promising to build its team from a big talent pool that "looks like America and works for all Americans." Before you fire off your résumé, here are some tips from three federal employment experts.
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Read more: Joe Biden is hiring about 4,000 political staffers to work in his administration. Here's how 3 experts say you can boost your chances of getting one of those jobs.

Read more: Here's the new government document that might help you land a job in the Biden administration

Work on Capitol Hill as a staffer for a lawmaker

The odds of landing a job on Capitol Hill are in your favor. You just need to know how to look - because chances are, the best gigs aren't going to get posted publicly.
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First, let's explain the universe of possibilities: 435 members' offices in the House, 100 in the Senate, and dozens of committees.

Lawmakers need a cadre of staff to help them with a series of tasks, including researching and tracking legislation, communicating with the media and the outside world, writing their speeches, responding to calls and letters from their constituents, or coordinating with the White House and federal agencies. The committees are where the grunt work happens for turning bills into law and conducting oversight on the rest of the US government.

While there are a few job boards you absolutely must know, nothing beats good old-fashioned networking - the art of getting to know people who know people who can hire you. As in any career, seeking out experts who have your dream job, arranging informal interviews, and leaning on your school's alumni network will help you learn of job opportunities on the Hill.
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"For people that want to work in the political, public affairs, or business world, they will not have an opportunity to work anywhere that has more impact," said Margaret Gottlieb, the career director at the George Washington School of Political Management.

Read more: How to get a job working for a member of Congress

Influence policy and politics as a lobbyist on K Street

Now that Democrats have taken full control of Congress and Joe Biden is in the White House, lots of people, corporations, trade associations, and other groups will be clamoring for access to sway things their way.
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The prospects are prime for pursuing a job as a professional lobbyist tasked with influencing politicians and policymakers in Washington. Lobbyists represent almost every conceivable special interest: big corporations and labor unions; conservative and liberal activist organizations; trade groups for marijuana, music, even packaged ice.

While lobbying scandals still haunt the industry, it has evolved in recent years and is a more appealing career path than ever, including for women and people of color, several veteran lobbyists tell Insider. "It's not sitting in smoky rooms sipping cognac in the dark," said Courtney Snowden, who's opening her own firm after spending the last decade as DC's deputy mayor for economic opportunity. "You can deeply impact people's lives."
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Even the most modest, entry-level lobbying jobs can score salaries in the high five-figures. The most experienced and well-connected lobbyists can earn well into the six-figures.

Before blindly diving into a lobbying job hunt, here are several tips from five professional lobbyists on how to become a paid political influencer.

Read more: How to get a six-figure job as a political influencer, according to 5 lobbyists
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