U.S. Senate Committee Staff Assistant
Sam Armocido '08 IPE Major; Studio Art Minor
Life as a Staff Assistant
CES: What are your duties and responsibilities as a Staff Assistant for the United States Senate Committee on the Budget (aside from unpacking the bound Budget of the U.S. Government in front of a media swarm)?
SA: A typical day at work for me means doing a number administrative and IT tasks. I am somewhat of an oddity because I serve as both an assistant to the chief clerk and as our Systems Administrator's back-up.
I sit in the front office greeting guests, answering phones, directing calls, managing the office supply budget and purchases, assisting with logistics for hearings, and act as one of the office's emergency action plan coordinators.
However, I often am called away from my administrative functions to provide tech support including BlackBerry support, A/V, computer and printer issue resolution, and to act as an administrator of the new SharePoint site.
CES: How did you make the decision to pursue this career path?
SA: How I got here is somewhat of a fluke in my opinion. I started my senior fall semester scared silly about what I would do after graduation. I realized that all of my friends who had been doing internships for the last year or two had not only a much better idea of what their career goals were, but also had built up work experience to get them there.
I ran to CES looking for last minute internship opportunities and didn't really find any left in the political field. At that point it was suggested that I try to find a Senator or House member who had internships. I applied for a position in Senator Murray's Seattle office and was lucky enough to be offered a spring internship. The state office was all about constituent services and I realized that what I really wanted was more of a policy focus like the DC office offered. I applied for an internship in Senator Murray's DC office and with a strong recommendation from my intern supervisor, was accepted for the DC summer program.
I moved out to DC three days after graduation not sure what would come of it. Turns out that it was exactly what I wanted. I loved every minute of it and realized I wanted to find a position on the Hill when my internship was up. After the internship I worked at temp jobs while searching for Hill staff assistant openings. Senator Murray's chief of staff was kind enough to help me with my job hunt and recommend me to the offices I was applying with.
In November I got a call from the chief clerk of the Senate Committee on the Budget and after three interviews in the office, was hired as a non-partisan staff assistant for the administrative staff (it probably didn't hurt that I had just interned with the second highest ranking Democrat on the committee).
The point of all of this is that I didn't start off knowing what I wanted. Just jumping into something and getting work experience helped me clarify my career goals and the connections/professional relationships I made helped me get to the next step.
CES: What advice do you have for students considering a career in this area?
SA: My advice to someone looking to break into the political world is to intern with either a member of Congress or government relations firm. Almost everyone I work with started out at an intern and then worked their way up. Another thing that I didn't realize was such a plus to employers was volunteer work on a political campaign. I personally didn't work on a campaign, but I have heard from both public and private sector hiring managers that they absolutely love to see that experience on a candidate's resume.
Finally, there is a lot of truth to the saying "It's not what you know, but who you know." Especially in an economy where there are sometimes dozens of candidates for every job, it is extremely important to get noticed. Professional and personal connections won't guarantee you the job, but they can help move your resume to the top of the pile where it can get the attention it deserves. Never burn a bridge and always keep up your network.