Work on the Hill

Working on "The Hill" refers to Capitol Hill, the area around the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., where Senators and members of Congress hold offices. People working on the Hill come from many different backgrounds and experience levels. There are interns working side by side with senior staff members and elected officials. The pace is fast, especially when Congress is in session. Work on the Hill by utilizing your contacts and professional networks, and paying attention to the political culture that encompasses the area.


  1. Get a job in a congressional office. Working on the Hill begins with having a job there, either paid or unpaid.
    • Find a paying job if you are experienced working in politics and government, the media, specific campaign fields or if you have interned on the Hill previously. Specific Capitol Hill publications such as The Hill and Roll Call publish job listings weekly.
    • Look for jobs you are qualified for. You can work in legislation, either as a legislative assistant or a legislative director. You can work in the office's press department, as a press secretary or communications director. There are opportunities in specific policy issues as well and you can be a policy assistant or policy director.
    • Intern in a congressional office. While most interns on the Hill are unpaid, the exposure and experience you receive will be invaluable to finding paying work on the Hill.
    • Answer phones, talk to constituents and attend hearings and meetings as an intern. There will be plenty of opportunities to assist staff members in the Congressional offices.
  2. Pay attention to current events. The Hill is the most political place in the world. You will need to do more than scan the headlines every morning. Get to know as much as you can about political topics, and follow every detail of breaking stories.
    • Learn relevant names. Regardless of who on the Hill you are working for, you must be able to identify the leaders of both major political parties, as well as the members of Congress spearheading the pertinent issues of the day. Get to know the names of reporters as well.
    • Read newspapers and blogs. At a minimum, check out The Washington Post, The New York Times, Roll Call, Congressional Quarterly and Politico ( Find out what other people in your office are reading, and follow their example.
  3. Dress conservatively. Men and women are expected to dress appropriately on the Hill, which means ties and sports coats for men and jackets and high necklines for women. Comfortable shoes are also important.
  4. Arrive to work on time. Whether you walk, drive or take public transportation to work, getting to the Hill means battling major metropolitan traffic.
    • Leave your house early. This will give you extra time in case there are accidents, the metro or train is late, or it starts raining or snowing.
  5. Plan on long hours. Working on the Hill is not a 9 to 5 job, especially when Congress is in session. There will be late nights, weekend work and phone calls at home.
  6. Network as much as you can. The Hill operates on relationships. Attend as many networking events as you can fit into your schedule. Get to know your colleagues on the Hill, and introduce yourself to people at meetings, hearings and other events.
  7. Prepare for a shared workspace. Unless you are a Chief of Staff for a Senator, you will likely not have the luxury of your own office. You will work in close proximity to others, and if you are an intern, you may have to share a desk and a computer.
  8. Work outside of your job description. Get as much experience as you can, and volunteer to take on extra projects when your own work is caught up. Demonstrating initiative and motivation will keep people coming back to you, which will further your career on the Hill.


  • Keep looking for opportunities to grow into another position on the Hill. Turnover is high, so offices and committees will often be looking for staff members pretty regularly. Use your relationships to find out about the openings before they are advertised.


  • Remember the importance of confidentiality. You are in a unique position when you work on the Hill, and leaking or sharing information that should not be public will destroy your career instantly.


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