By Debbie Siegelbaum - 01/24/12 01:07 AM EST
Brad Traverse knows how hard it is to find a job on Capitol Hill.
The lobbyist first came to Washington in the mid-1980s as a congressional intern, moving his way up to legislative coordinator for then-Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), then later as a legislative assistant for then-Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.).
“I’ve worked for two senators who retired,” he said. “Like anybody in this town, we’ve all been without a job … I’ve been out there and I know how difficult it is.”
It’s that experience that spurred him to begin sending out job leads to friends and colleagues via email in the mid-1990s. Soon Traverse was compiling a weekly list of job opportunities that would span 30 pages and go out to 1,500 people on a listserv.
Given slow Internet speeds and email limitations at the time, it would take Traverse an average of four hours to send out the job leads.
“Eventually, to make it more user-friendly and to justify the time, I went viral on it in 2006,” he said. “That’s when I made it Web-based and subscription-based.”
Today, bradtraverse.com has grown into one of the most popular Internet job boards in Washington, with more than 3,000 listings and up to 1,000 visitors a day.
Brad and his wife, Fraser, run the website, charging a $5-a-month subscription fee to cover expenses.
“I just did it as a service for friends and colleagues,” said Traverse, recalling the humble origins of his expanding enterprise.
“I started it because, like a lot of people who had worked on the Hill, you’d get phone calls from folks who would say, ‘My brother just graduated from college — can you visit with him and help him find a job?’ ” he said. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know what I can tell him.’ So I started putting together this list so that when people asked that question or asked my friends that question, they could just say, ‘Here, here’s a bunch of jobs that are available.’ ”
Tom Manatos, creator of Internet job board tommanatosjobs.com, has a similar tale.
Manatos came to Congress in 2002 as an intern, then transitioned to staff assistant for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), then the House minority whip. When Pelosi became minority leader, Manatos started doing youth outreach and met countless people looking for work on Capitol Hill.
What began as an Excel spreadsheet of Democratic job leads he would email to people grew into an automated service in 2007 that included a daily email update to thousands of job seekers.
In October 2010, Manatos and his wife, Dana Edwards Manatos, launched a bipartisan website and continue to send out a daily jobs listing email that goes to nearly 20,000 subscribers.
For Edwards Manatos, a Republican, expanding the list to include jobs on both sides of the aisle was key.
“I told [Manatos], ‘There are so many people who want jobs on the Republican side, and no matter what party you’re affiliated with, this country needs jobs,’ ” she said.
The former associate director of the Office of Public Liaison at the White House wishes such a resource had been available when she first came to Washington looking for work after college.
“It would have been nice if the Republicans had something like Tom’s list as I was coming to D.C.,” Edwards Manatos said with a laugh.
It’s those memories of struggling to find employment that motivate the couple, who dedicate two to three hours a day of their time, and often their own money, to the online endeavor.
“In politics, we all got in this game because of public service,” said Manatos, now senior adviser to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in her capacity as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Sometimes “you sort of lose sight of the public-service aspect, and Dana and I think this is a really good way to serve in some capacity, of just trying to help people find jobs in the business we both love,” he said.
But “it really is hours and hours of work. … It’s something you really want to do to help other people,” Edwards Manatos said. “I think that’s maybe why you don’t see [similar Capitol Hill job boards] more, because it’s just a lot of effort that has to go into it.”
Oscar Urteaga is fully aware of the time and energy required to run a popular job board. The legislative assistant to Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) has seen the effectiveness of sites like Traverse’s and Manatos’s, and is creating his own site focused on jobs available on the West Coast.
“Ever since I started my career in 2008, I’ve always kind of been the contact for people who are looking for jobs,” he said. “A lot of people are interested in the political scene, and they would contact me, saying, ‘Hey, I heard you’re on a campaign, how do I get involved?’ ”
Originally from San Diego, Urteaga has established a wide network of connections with people in many industries in California through his work on Capitol Hill.
To that end, Urteaga’s subscription-based website will include jobs in California industries beyond just politics. With a launch slated for late February, the site could help constituents find jobs in a tough economy.
“All of our bosses are talking about creating jobs and so forth, but one of the most important things that we can do right now is get people employed for the jobs that are available now,” Urteaga said.
And Urteaga has definitely seen unemployment during his tenure on Capitol Hill.
“It really sometimes breaks my heart when I see these extremely qualified people — interns especially — who are working for free right now, who, after working and paying their dues, aren’t able to get a job that they deserve,” he said.
Demand for work in Congress can be so great, according to Traverse, that many positions are never widely advertised online because congressional offices don’t want to be overwhelmed with job seekers. It’s left to in-the-know job boards like his to post such opportunities.
“There’s a reason why there’s sometimes exclusivity on the listing of jobs, because some folks just don’t want it out there and they don’t want to get inundated with thousands of resumes,” he said.
Manatos has heard that once an entry-level job posting goes up on his list, congressional offices typically get from 200 to 300 resumes within the first 24 hours.
“That’s always been the case just because the amount of people looking for jobs on the Hill is so much greater than the jobs on there,” he said.
It’s that insatiable demand for Capitol Hill employment that continuously reminds Traverse of the importance of what he does.
“A lot of folks want to work on the Hill,” he said. “I always keep that in mind, remembering what it was like for me and how help from other people and getting access to jobs that weren’t out there in the general public was very helpful.”