Washington Talent is Up for Grabs

By Staff Report

Sep. 17, 2004

With many senators and members of Congress retiring or facing tough campaigns, a bounty of employees in Washington, D.C. is ripe for the picking. The Washington Post reports that many key players on Capitol Hill are looking for jobs now, even before the election, knowing their bosses either are bowing out of politics or may lose the campaign. A similar trend is going on within the Bush Administration.

Jackie Arends is a consultant for the executive-search firm Spencer Stuart, and is a former special assistant to both President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. While “in any election year you’re going to have high turnover,” Arends tells Workforce Management that even some Bush Administration employees who are confident of victory are looking for jobs. “When the incumbent wins, people who have been there for four years are tired,” Arends says. Contrary to what people might think, government employees “work really hard,” she says. Fifteen-hour days are common, and Arends says that people start saying to themselves, “For (only) a hundred thousand a year, I should be doing something else.”

Arends says that the type of employers who covet Capitol Hill employees vary by industry. Defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin like people who have experience working on armed services committees. Health-care companies prefer those who have health policy experience. Also in high demand: people who have worked on the appropriations committees, the powerful panels that dole out money. General Motors, Arends says, will court people who have worked for Michigan senators. An agricultural company like Cargill will prefer people who, by virtue of having worked for North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, have farm-state insights. Of course, their access to a former boss doesn’t hurt, either.

Arends says that companies will evaluate people by position. A chief of staff for a member of Congress is likely to have good managerial skills. A press secretary understands the media. Fortune 100 companies, she says, are looking at the most powerful players on the Hill right now and asking themselves, “Can we get that person?”

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