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Career Corner

Hill Happenings features career advice from DC professionals of all kinds.
Read their takes on choosing a career, job hunting, and success in the workplace.


Be a Leader: Get Your Boss Some Coffee

About the Author

Mark G. Arnone is a career coach and president & CEO of AskNot LLC, where he assists clients compete for federal jobs. He also currently serves as professional staff with the House Appropriations Committee. Mark previously served as a chief of staff at the National Nuclear Security Administration and held positions at the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Senate. He is a graduate of The Catholic University of America and Johns Hopkins University. Check it out his blog for the latest federal career advice at www.AskNotLLC.com.


 

It was my second week on the job. I was a newly minted senior professional staff member with one of the committees in the House of Representatives. Don't know what that means? Don't feel bad. Until recently, neither did I. That's where this blog post begins. 

My new boss is a member of Congress who's been in the House for almost four decades. She's a politician of the "old school." Drinks her coffee black (more on that later). First in her family to go to college. Longest-serving woman in the House. A real trailblazer. The list goes on... 

With the new Congress in session, my boss was about to chair her first hearing. The team was a bit nervous, but we spent weeks preparing to make the hearing a success. Just as the hearing was about to begin, I was asked THE question. It was a question I had not been asked since I started as an intern on the hill in 2006! “Can you get me coffee?”

I froze for just one second as I processed the question. What was just one second felt like one hour. I asked myself. “Was I hired to get coffee?” “Was I hired to run errands?” I'm a former chief of staff from a federal agency, worked on the Hill before, and led a few different teams over the years. How could I be asked to get someone coffee?! After all, I was hired to think big thoughts and give my boss sound advice on politics and policy. For god’s sake, I'm "senior" professional staff! All these thoughts were going through my mind as I questioned my role and if I was adding value to my team.  

After thinking about it some more, I was reminded of some important lessons I’ve learned from my mentors and just general professional experience. Here they are: being an exceptional leader, colleague, and teammate isn't about the "flashy" assignments. Sure, we want those assignments and we want credit for when we do good work. However, a leader's worth isn't determined by their title or office. Instead, a leader's value is measured by their willingness and ability to step up to ANY task.

A leader needs to be the ultimate utility player and the best pinch hitter in the game. Leaders need to be versatile and be able to cover-down on all positions to get the job done! If the copier needs paper — they fill it. If the trash needs to be emptied —they do it. If the boss needs coffee — they get it. Whatever it takes to assist a colleague, help your boss, and support the team. No task is too great or too small. 

Are you ready to level up?

 
Mark Arnone