Rules for Washington

A Different Kind of Rules for Washington

Residence Act of 1790. Source: Library of Congress

Many of you will seek employment within the federal government structure within Washington, DC.  In an effort to prepare you for your work in that environment (or any similar political nerve center), I would like to share several Rules for Washington, written by Dr. Andrew Exum, formerly of the Center for New American Security.*

Rules for Washington:

1. Do a good job in the job you’re in. Don’t be so focused on what your next job might be that you leave a bad taste in the mouths of those with and for whom you currently work.

2. Don’t be a jerk. As Nate Fick always says, it’s an iterative game with a limited number of players. The people you’re working with today might be the people you’re working with – or for – tomorrow.

3. Be a servant-leader. Toward the end of my less-than-stellar athletic career, I played a few seasons as a flanker in rugby. It’s not the most glorious position, but the people who do it best are the people who keep up a very high work rate doing all the ugly stuff – largely rucking and tackling – a team needs someone to do in order to win. So volunteer for the crappy work in the office. Go fetch coffee. Put together binders. Do it with a smile on your face, and keep a bottle of Old Overholt on your desk for your co-workers when times get tough.

* These rules originally appeared as “Last Post” on Dr. Exum’s blog, Abu Muquawama, and were republished in part on the blog of Charles A. Blanchard, the General Counsel of the United States Air Force.

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