Discovering Purpose: A Career Evolution from Public Relations to Capitol Hill
This week, we spoke to Quinn Slaven, Communications Director for the Office of Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO, 3).
Can you tell me about your career path that’s led you to where you are now?
Seeing the impact of my work has always been a big motivator for me. I’ve always wanted to serve in some capacity and be sure my contributions make a difference.
In college, I was worried my political science degree alone wouldn’t pay off. To me, it seemed my immediate options out of college would be attending law school or staffing congressional races. I liked campaigns, having worked on a few, but wanted to expand my skills and experiences to get more utility out of my education. That’s when I picked up public relations.
I was fortunate to learn from great professors who taught with the perspective of journalists. I fell in love with writing and as I got closer to graduation, I found myself torn between politics, journalism, and law.
Fortunately, I reached the perfect blend in public affairs and public relations. Working in the private sector, I led grassroots campaigns primarily focused on energy, financial services, and technology. I enjoyed the competitiveness of issue advocacy and had plenty of opportunities to put my writing skills into action.
Eventually, I accepted a senior-level position at a firm performing exclusively media relations services. While I certainly missed getting out in the field had a chance to develop great relationships with reporters.
After some time, I still felt called to do something bigger. So, I made the jump to Capitol Hill and could not be happier.
Which specific policy areas or legislative issues are you most passionate about, and how do you stay informed and engaged in those areas?
As a communications director, I have to stay on top of everything, so I’m constantly going back and forth with our legislative staff to tap their expertise in specific areas. It’s never a bad idea to ask questions, and I’m blessed with great coworkers who are always ready with answers and helpful context.
What do you believe sets Capitol Hill apart as a unique work environment, and how do you navigate its challenges in your everyday work?
My first few weeks on the Hill felt like going back to college. It’s a big campus with a cafeteria, you’re constantly meeting new people, note taking is critical, and they offer you pizza to attend meetings after hours.
There is an overwhelming amount of resources, offices, and events that flood your email from day one. You’ll probably also feel pressure to network, network, network, because it’s important.
Congressional staff have to be good at prioritizing. Ultimately, we’re here to serve and must put our responsibilities in order accordingly.
Some days, the responsibilities pile up and can get out of control. At that point, two things are necessary: The humility to ask for help and the grit to see things through.
Describe a challenging or rewarding project that significantly influenced your growth as a professional. How did you handle the challenge, and what did you learn from the experience?
A few years back, I was working on an initiative to highlight business owners and their companies across the Midwest. I’d go out in search of a small business with an interesting backstory, get in touch with owners or staff, write about them, then pitch the idea to local news outlets. The free publicity provided a helpful boost at a time when cities and towns were reeling from the COVID lockdowns.
It all began with trust. I was some random guy contacting them offering something “without a catch.” Once I learned how to sound less like a scam, I was able to build real connections with people.
It’s incredibly gratifying to see your skills positively affect others. It’s also a confidence booster. I think we often underestimate the impact we can have if we try.
What advice would you give to individuals who aspire to work on Capitol Hill?
First, if you want to get here you will. There is not one correct path. As long as you’re doing something (building skills, gaining experience, meeting people) you’re headed in the right direction. Don’t give up if you face rejection and keep your mind open to advice and opportunities as they become available.
Word association, what is the first word that comes to mind for each of these?
Policy – Purpose
Networking – Helpful
Writing Skills – Critical
Working on the Hill – Privilege
Leadership Connect – Resource