The political and PR job market in Washington, DC the past few months is unlike any we’ve seen since Brad Traverse Jobs began more than two decades ago. There are near record numbers of jobs available and not enough people to fill them. Whether you work in DC or want to work in DC, now is the time to consider your next career move.
With unemployment low in our region, employers are asking us what they can do to help their job stand out from the others to attract qualified candidates. This is particularly the case in the public relations and government affairs space. Both categories of jobs on our site have increased more than 20 and 30 percent, respectively, during the past month. And, due to the accumulation of openings (job that have gone unfilled for more than a month), aggregate numbers on our site are at an all-time high—which is great news for job seekers.
With the midterm election coming, these numbers are likely to climb even higher. Any shift of power in the House or Senate will have a trickle-down effect throughout the entire city. Lobbying shops and PR firms will be looking to hire people from different sides of the aisle. They will need experts from different policy areas to address potential new priorities in Congress. And there will be the usual competition to recruit those prized staffers coming off the Hill due to Congressional member retirement or seat loss, committee turnover, or just plain burnout.
What does all this mean for the person looking to take the next step in his/her DC career?
- Choices. There are a lot of job opportunities, but that also requires that you do your homework to find the ones that are right for you. As we say to our teenagers, “DO IT NOW!” Before the election, spend time on our job board reviewing listings from the past three months to see what skills employers are looking for. Tailor your resume to highlight those skills. Apply judiciously. You should not be sending out 40 resumes a week to any and all job leads. Apply to jobs that you a) are honestly interested in, b) have enough experience to be successful in, c) think you have a real shot at landing the job, and d) have some sort of connection to the organization or someone who works there (more on this below).
- Leverage. One thing we haven’t seen yet is any significant rise in salaries in the political and PR market. Hopefully this will change and it usually can’t hurt to ask for what you deserve. In an already expensive market to live in, DC isn’t being helped by rising mortgage rates, gas prices, and an alluring restaurant scene. But employers have started to add benefits, and job descriptions are now spiced up with information about workplace culture. Highlights from one firm (with several job openings listed on our site if you are interested in communications/digital media!) include:
- - Unlimited snacks and drinks
- - Generous paid leave policies
- - Tuition reimbursement program
- - Spontaneous dance parties
- Networking. You may be an introvert, but networking is a must. There are practically unlimited numbers of pre-election briefings (i.e., opportunities to engage with influentials), and, of course, election day parties. Find them. Attend them. Work them. And don’t forget to have your elevator speech ready — a one-minute summary of what you’ve done and where you want to get to. Finally, small talk is big talk. Making personal connections with people will often yield the best results. People who play tennis love meeting other tennis players. College alumni immediately have a common history. Shared food passions can not only lead to a new job, but sometimes love, as was the case with now-married friends who took a DC tater tot tour as one of their first dates.
The bottom line is that nowhere in the world are elections felt more deeply than in Washington, DC. Job seekers need to be prepared for the inevitable changes in power and policy. The market is overflowing with more choices, leverage, and networking opportunities than ever. Now go do your homework!
* Subscriptions to Brad Traverse Jobs are $5/month, plus a one-time registration fee of $10. Our database currently has more than 5,000 jobs posted, none more than 90 days old. www.bradtraversejobs.com