Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Positioning yourself during the transition: Advice from a top headhunter

February 2, 2017Bloomberg Government

As director of presidential personnel at the White House, Liza Wright was responsible for recommending individuals to fill critical positions including cabinet secretaries and ambassadors. She now brings that experience to Lochlin Partners, where she shared her tips with us for positioning yourself during this time of transition.

This is an excerpt from our latest report on compensation trends in the government relations industry. Download the full report. 

How do you see the change in administration affecting government affairs professional’s career paths?

More opportunities for top government affairs talent: Presidential transitions are a natural time for significant movement and churn in the Washington, D.C. jobs market. The incoming president has well over 4,000 political appointments to fill. As individuals leave their roles to take on positions in the administration, and vice versa, this naturally creates vacancies in government and the private sector. In recent months, we have seen a lower number of overall government affairs opportunities, but the change in administration will increase that number significantly. Those looking to serve in the Trump administration should keep in mind that political appointments turn over about every 18 months (on average), so there will be multiple opportunities to serve over the upcoming years.

Lobbying ban: For government affairs professionals looking to serve in the incoming administration, one change they must consider relates to the lobbying ban. Days after the election, President-elect Trump announced that he will enact a much stricter lobbying ban that prohibits anyone working in the Trump administration from lobbying for five years after leaving the public sector. Anyone considering a position in the Trump administration will need to weigh the impact that this restriction will have on their career.

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What advice would you give a Democratic lobbyist as they prepare to navigate a Republican-controlled Congress and administration?

There will be a premium for those individuals who have already existing strong relationships with Republicans on the Hill and in the administration. That said, it’s not all bad news for Democrats. When we conduct government affairs searches, our clients are generally not looking for someone with an “R” or a “D” on their chest. Rather, they are looking for the most qualified candidates that have strong relationships on both sides of the political aisle, so if you are a Democratic lobbyist, it will be incumbent on you to convey your bipartisan relationships and experience. Some may say the outcome of this past election was a surprise; however, change in Washington is not. Nothing stays static in Washington, D.C. for long. Government affairs professionals should proactively manage their careers with the full understanding that the political environment will change again…and again.

What are the top pieces of advice you give to clients looking to change jobs?

Conducting a job search can be nerve-racking, but if you prepare, set a plan and develop a strategy for setting yourself apart, it will pave the way for a more seamless experience.

1. Identify your industry and functional areas of focus.

2. Prepare a thorough resume and/or narrative (bio) that can be adapted for your selected areas and thoughtfully think through what strengths you bring to an organization and what accomplishments highlight those strengths.

3. Your LinkedIn profile should be up to date and reflect your resume.

4. Identify resources available to you: professional networks; professional references; social networks; professional organizations; online job banks; and job listings.

5. Network, network, network, and ask for referrals. Approach the highest-level executive associated with the type of position you’re seeking; at the same time, don’t forget the HR person involved in filling that position—cultivate contacts at all levels.

6. Identify executive search consultants who work in your field and develop relationships with them.

7. Thoughtfully manage your social media presence.

8. Approach the job search as a full-time job with daily or weekly objectives.