ASK FRASER: How do I return to politics and policy after a few years in different jobs?

QUESTION: I loved my past work in politics and policy, and I’d like to get back in the game. I’ve been doing other types of jobs for several years, so my experience isn’t recent and I’m not sure how to break back in. – Jeff, advancement professional

Ask any Washingtonian if they worked on the Hill or for the federal government, and the answer is more than likely YES. An unscientific search on LinkedIn found nearly 100,000 people in the DMV who list the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, or a U.S. federal agency as their former employer. The actual number is likely at least double or triple that, since we also know that roughly 350,000 people currently work for the federal government here.

But have they all stayed in the game? No. Not even close. A lot of people (including yours truly) did their time and had enough. But then, after a few years away from it, they find themselves itching to get back in (not yours truly). To get back in the game:

First, prove you are really interested in politics and policy by showing that you are engaged on LinkedIn and Twitter. It doesn’t have to be partisan or overly firebrand, but show that you are a thoughtful observer of the news and the issues you know well and care about. Share and re-tweet content you find valid and helpful.

Second, look at what government affairs employers are looking for in their job descriptions. Most likely you will find: “issue experts,” “team players,” “congenial and relational extroverts,” and “people who can synthesize complex issues into a few understandable bullet points,” plus “in depth knowledge of the legislative process” and “some experience on the Hill or at a federal agency.”

In Jeff’s case, he’s been working in higher education for six years. He’s an expert in that industry. And he’s been raising money for universities — a highly desirable skill valued by firms that need to close deals with clients and constantly work to find new business. So between having an issue area expertise and exceptional relational skills, Jeff is actually quite well positioned to get back in the game. It will come as no surprise to me when he tells me his dream to work in policy again comes true!


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