In The Know

Bipartisan pair offers advice on ‘Climbing the Hill’

A bipartisan pair of Capitol Hill veterans is teaming up to dish on the best way for political newcomers to come together and climb the career ladder in Washington.

"There are books about what is the executive branch, what is the legislative branch, what is the judiciary branch of our democracy," says Amos Snead, who along with co-author Jaime Harrison penned the forthcoming "Climbing the Hill: How to Build a Career in Politics and Make a Difference."

"There was not one that said hey, here's how you go get a job, here's how you navigate the Hill, here's the route you would go if you're a scheduler, or a policy person, or a communicator," explains Snead.

So, nearly five years ago, Snead, a founding partner at S-3 Public Affairs and a former communications director for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Harrison got cracking on creating one. Harrison is the associate chairman and counselor for the Democratic National Committee.

"It's not as challenging or as daunting a task to get involved in American politics as you think it is," says Snead, the co-founder of FamousDC.com. "A lot of this can be done in the relationships you forge on Capitol Hill."

Pressing the need for working with colleagues across the aisle, Snead recommends, "Spend some time focusing on the relationships and the people, rather than just the climb."

One piece of advice the public affairs pro offers is make an impression from the get-go: "You may think 'I have some mundane task in the office' or 'I'm the lowest person in the office,' but people are paying attention."

Snead says he learned that lesson firsthand in 2004, when he was a lowly staff assistant on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who had to help set up for a hearing on mental health issues.

"This was a pretty thankless task. I was setting up the water pitchers and making sure the mic stands were down for the cameras on the dais," Snead, 38, recalls.

What wasn't publicized was that boxing legend Muhammad Ali would be there as a witness.

"Another staff assistant and I were able to meet Ali and shake his hand because we were there early and we thought we were doing the work nobody was paying attention to but had to be done."

"If you're doing the right thing and putting in the extra hours before the day starts people notice and you're going to create opportunities for yourself by going the extra mile," Snead says.

Snead says he's hoping "Climbing the Hill" - which is poised for release on Sept. 25 - shows that working in Washington isn't just mudslinging and partisan food fights.

"I've had conversations with some senior people on Capitol Hill and I've had more than one kind of explain or lament the fact that there are not as many young people who want to come work on Capitol Hill," says Snead.

"I do think the hyperpartisanship that we're experiencing now and that we see play out every day in the media could and is discouraging young people from getting involved in politics," he says. "What Jaime and I are trying to do is say, hey, there's a different way. You can get involved in politics. You can work on Capitol Hill. And you do not have to hate the other person on the other team - you can actually work together with them."

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