How do you find a job in conservative Washington? If the panelists at today’s jobs panel at CPAC are to be believed, the answer is simple: wiles, persistence, and thank you cards.
“Your resume alone will not get you there,” said Laura Chambers from the podium. Chambers, as the moderator put it, “has been able to move through the circles of DC with a lot of grace and charm,” all the way up to serving as communications director for South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney. (Though she doesn’t work there anymore.) So what will get you there? “Always ask for that informational interview,” get your face in front of people. Also, “send a handwritten note. Because it’s old-fashioned and gone by the wayside, it really stands out.”
Amos Sneed, who was once a House communications officer and founder of FamousDC.com, is, like Chambers, from Alabama. Not surprisingly, he had a similarly Southern bit of advice. “Buy a stack of thank you cards,” Sneed twanged and twinkled at the spare crowd. “I mean, a big stack of thank you cards. And send them to whomever you meet.” Now, “because of anthrax,” it’s hard to mail them to Congress, so, Sneed advised, “physically walk that over there and hand off the card.” Apparently, in the Southern quarters it works. Sneed’s office was once considering two candidates for a job, and, though Sneed was ready to make a decision, Sneed’s boss wasn’t sure. “You know what?” he said, in Sneed’s retelling, “I’m going to give the job to whomever sends a thank you card first.” Sneed’s favored candidate was first: he walked a thank you card over to hand it off in person. For this awkward ritual, he was rewarded with the job.
Sneed had some other advice. Like Chambers—“I just walked into an office and wouldn’t leave until they gave me a job” -- he advised getting yourself out there, but in sneakier, more cinematic ways. Be the guy at the party who asks who’s responsible for hiring around here, then meet that person and bring her drinks all evening. When you do get that informational interview, ask for two other people to call. “Now,” said Sneed. “DC is a very ego-driven town, so they’ll probably give you six or eight.” Then, follow up by email. Then, a couple weeks later, email them with updates on your job search. “Now you’ve touched this person in four times in 30 days,” Sneed said.
“True story: I once applied for a job, and had all my people calling to make sure I got it,” Sneed said. “And they were like, hey, we’ll give Amos the job if he’ll tell his people to stop calling!” The lesson for the young DC striver? “Now, I may have been annoying and crossed the line, but, hey, I got the job.”
Somewhere in the audience, sounded a woman’s voice, twangy and tart. “Do NOT do that,” she said. “I will delete your shit.”