Welcome to the Hill: A Survival Guide for New Staff & Members

Dear New Staff and Members of the 114th Congress,

Congratulations on a well fought campaign, and welcome to Capitol Hill!! It’s a great place to work. Everyone back home thinks you’re a boss, and are very proud of you. (“My son works in Washington!!”) You’re probably just getting your first tours of the complex and feel as lost as (but a little richer than) a new intern.

While you get settled into your new cube putting up those photos, campaign buttons and bobbleheads, let me give you a little helpful light reading. The rules of the road here on the Hill and in DC, if you will.

1. Stand on the right, walk on the left.

Don’t be that person who blocks everyone on the esclator. I can promise you, you will be remembered. Karma will be back to bite you. Oh, and I hate you.

2. Don’t wear your badge off the complex.

You walk out that door to the real world, that badge better be in your purse, wallet, or pocket. Congrats on the job, but don’t advertise it to the whole world.

3. Don’t send personal emails from your work blackberry.

Or do, just so we all have something to read in the paper. Nothing stays private forever around here. See: This Town. One day, all your emails will get archived, and history will see how much you hated your boss, staff assistant, chief of staff, or worse, your constituents. Don’t mess it up.

4. Reporters are everywhere.

Don’t say or do anything in the hall, cafeteria, coffee shop, or on the metro that you don’t want to end up in one of the hill rags.

5. Don’t date your interns.

Again, thanks for the entertainment. I’m not saying it doesn’t work out in the long run or anything–well, yes I am. There are exceptions to every rule, but you and your 19 year old intern here for the next 6 weeks is probably not it. Good luck finding someone who will serve him or her a drink at happy hour.

6. Put away your ego.

Again, congrats on the win. I remember my first bar. But there are people who have been here a lot longer than you, and the best way to make friends is to learn from those who’ve already been here for a bit.

7. Respect the lower-level staff.

Terrifyingly enough, your intern could be in a position to hire you some day. We’ve all had our first jobs, and remember those who treated us like crap just as well as those who helped us. So treat your staff assistants, etc. with respect, and they might be able to help you one day! #NetWerrrrk

8. Free food is your friend, and it’s everywhere.

It crosses all socioeconomic, gender, and racial barriers. Everyone loves free cookies. Male or female, if you bring in baked goods, or let anyone know where the free food & drink reception is that day, you’ll be everyone’s go-to best friend.

9. Yes, they’re real cops.

This mistake has been made by tourists and seasoned staffers alike. They’re real cops. You can’t bring weapons or drugs in here. They’ll find them, take them, and arrest you. Makes a great story for everyone else at work the next day. And oh yeah, they keep you, and everyone else safe. So make sure and thank them at least once a day. Your life, literally, depends on it.

10. Don’t be boring, learn to converse about DC.

When all else fails, there are certain tried and true conversation fillers here in DC:

  • “Can you believe how high the rent is here??” DC rent is the highest in America. Mazel Tov.
  • “I know this great wine bar in Dupont” We have the highest per capita wine consumption in America. Drink up.
  • “Traffic sucks.”
  • “The Redskins suck.”
  • “The Nationals are awesome.”
  • “The Wizards?”

11. Brunch & Happy Hour often.

Go early and often. It’s the Washingtonian way. There are great specials everywhere. Bottomless brunch is real and legal in DC (not legal in other places. Because some states hate freedom I guess).  I’m not telling you my favorite secret spots, you can find them on your own 😉

Welcome to town, nouveau Washingtonians, see you out there. Or, if you do it right, I’ll never know if you’re the new kid on the block

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