New majority, new jobs? How a power shift in Congress affects the job market

With the new Democratic majority in Congress, some young conservatives may be wondering how the change will affect their chances of getting an internship or job on Capitol Hill.

Most professionals and experienced students close to the issue agree there are plenty of opportunities for everyone.

“I don’t think Republican students will have any trouble finding jobs on the Hill,” said Andrew Palczewski, a College Republican who interned in a subcommittee before the power shift in Congress. “It all depends on who’s taking on interns, and that largely depends on the individual member, not their party, from what I’ve seen.”

Palczewski, a sophomore, said for most competitive internships on Capitol Hill, offices are more interested in whether or not an intern is from the same district or state as the Congressman. He said that it isn’t as uncommon as most think to see a student cross party lines when looking for internships, making the opportunities party-neutral for the most part.

“There are several Democrats and Independents that I would work for if they might consider hiring me,” Palczewski said.

Although the Republicans lost 28 seats in the House of Representatives and six seats in the Senate to the Democrats, College Republicans’ Public Relations Director Peter Glessing stressed that the GOP still occupies hundreds of seats in both houses.

“Keep in mind that there are still 202 Republicans in the House and 49 Republicans in the Senate,” Glessing, a junior, said.

James Murray, interim director of the GW Career Center, said party affiliation shouldn’t be the determining factor in any application. He added that he does advise students to be aware of what they list on their resumes, especially party affiliations.

“Of course, in order to be convincing, a student needs to be able to demonstrate why they want to work in that congressional office or with that lobbyist firm,” Murray said. “If they worked for John Kerry or Ted Kennedy and then apply for a job at the (National Rifle Association), there will be some head-scratching there. They’ll be asking ‘Why do they want this?'”

The NRA is traditionally a Republican organization that lobbies for gun owners’ rights.

Murray said being a College Democrat or a College Republican will not prevent a student from getting an internship or job on the Hill because there are many opportunities for both parties. He said it’s usually an issue of eligibility, not affiliation.

“If a student is having difficulty finding success on the Hill, it is not for political reasons,” Murray said. “A successful application depends on the student’s skill sets and experience.”

Michael Weil, communications director for the GW College Democrats, said he too felt there were more than enough opportunities for students on each side of the political spectrum. He said there are other more important factors employers consider.

“First and foremost, congressional offices look for strong political sense and personal intellect,” Weil, a junior, said. “Offices also look for people who are loyal, have strong communications skills and are personable.”

Political science professor Christopher Deering stressed that being from a congressman’s district is the most significant factor in getting a job on the Hill.

“The more moderate the member is, the less simple party ID will matter,” he said.

Deering added that if students cannot get a job across party lines it is probably because they don’t want to look.

Junior Laura Graham said working in an office that lost an election was a hard experience for the employees and interns. Graham was working for U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) when he lost his bid for re-election.

“After the election, the office was very sober as everyone looked for other employment,” she said.

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