August in DC is a slow motion month. The air thickens up like a wet sweater. Congress is in recess. Office buildings empty out as people burn those hoarded vacation days, fleeing for cooler, less sticky pastures. And everyone who remains in town moves slowly through the streets with pained and uncomfortable expressions, as if they’re walking in a winter jacket through a locker room sauna. If there’s ever a time to not get things done in DC, it’s in August.
Yet on the other hand, and in an odd way, it is a time to get things done—the slowness of everything allows you to tackle those projects you’ve been putting off, to take quality time to do those things through which you might normally rush. For me, in a very specific sense, I’ve discovered August is a wonderful time to sit down with Hill staffers for unrushed, genial, let’s-really-get-to-know-each-other chats.
Hill staffers have such full agendas and are so pressed for time that the typical Hill meeting is a condensed and very rushed affair—no time for small talk, get down to brass tacks, what do you want please tell me now. This isn’t mean to be a criticism of Hill staffers—in fact, I generally admire their ability to juggle so many complex issues and demands. Yet such rushed meetings rarely ever leave the time to actually get to know the Hill staffer and to find out more about his or her interests and the actual interests and priorities of his or her boss.
Yet, in August, things slow down to the point that meandering meetings of the get-to-know-each-other sort can happen. It’s refreshing, and I think highly beneficial, when my dealings with staffers can be less focused on ‘what can I do for you?’ and more focused on ‘how can we work together?’
So, the point is…?
1) Your networking shouldn’t always be focused on ‘how can this person help me?’ Rather, get to know someone for who they are and how you connect with them—you never know what might come of it.
2) Make your friends before you need them. When the time comes and you need to ask something of someone, it’s always better when the relationship has already been laid and you’re not shaking their hand hello at the same time you’re asking for a favor.