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Passion and Persistence: A Journey Through Capitol Waves

This week, we spoke to Joshua McGuire, Legislative Aide for the Office of Representative Tony Gonzales.

Can you tell me about your career path that you’ve taken that’s led you to where you are now?

My path to working on the Hill is probably unlike many others. I began my collegiate journey at a small private school called Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, Texas as a Secondary Education major in 2016. During my year at SAGU, and with the presidential election of that year grappling the nation, I found a passion for politics. During that time, I realized I wanted to participate in public service, and one day work on Capitol Hill. The following year I transferred to the University of North Texas, where I changed my major to Political Science, eventually graduating from the University of North Texas at Dallas with my bachelor’s degree.

During my final semester of college, I moved up to D.C. to intern for Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas in January of 2021. My first week in that office was roughly two weeks after the events of January 6th, and as the world was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—so not the most ideal time to be looking to begin a career up here. After almost a year and a half of job searching, I was fortunate enough to land my first full-time staff position as Staff Assistant for Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas’ 23rd district.

In my two years of being on the Hill as a staffer, I have held several titles outside of Staff Assistant—including Legislative Correspondent, Press Assistant, and now Legislative Aide. Each stop along the way has provided me with tools and invaluable lessons that I have used to grow my skill set in my next rung up the ladder.

Which specific policy areas or legislative issues are you most passionate about, and how do you stay informed and engaged in those areas?

My strongest areas of interest when it comes to legislative issues are strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, veterans’ issues, and fiscal responsibility policy.

Although I do not handle veterans’ issues in my current office, I have a deep passion for advocating for and promoting policies that ensure our nation’s heroes are not being left behind. I believe this particular interest comes from my father, who is a United States Navy veteran that served aboard the USS Seattle in Operation Desert Storm during the Gulf War.

I try to do my best to stay engaged with what is happening in each of these respective issue areas by keeping up with various news outlets on the latest developments and meeting with key organizations that highlight areas of concern related to these issues. I also do my best to keep an eye out for legislation relating to these issue areas that have been introduced in Congress and also align with the views and priorities of Congressman Gonzales.

What advice can you give to individuals aspiring to work on Capitol Hill stand out?

Don’t give up. Whether you are trying to land your first internship, first job on the Hill as a staffer, or are already a staffer who is looking to land that next promotion—do not give up, your opportunity is out there. It may not look how you wanted it to, and it may not happen when you want it to—but it is out there waiting for you to come across it.

I would also tell anyone aspiring to work on the Hill that whenever you do land that first opportunity, do not be above any task that gets assigned to you. It has been my experience that little things can turn into big opportunities. Furthermore, I would say that it is important to stay proactive. Look for opportunities to step out of your day-to-day responsibilities and show that you are capable of more. Some of my greatest achievements in my time on the Hill have come from me taking the initiative and not waiting on the next assignment from those above me.

The question every individual who is in any of these situations must ask themselves is, “am I willing and able to fight in the now in order to step into my future?” 

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?

My journey to working on the Hill – and the hardships that happened along the way – is something that I will always cherish and never forget—it keeps me grounded and grateful whenever the overwhelming nature of this job gets to be too much.

After a year and a half of searching, anyone should ask themselves “is this really what I am meant to do?”. I know I asked myself that very question countless times, especially when I was not having much success in getting interviews lined up. But through the trials and uncertainties that came with that period of my life, I am able to look back on it now with a sense of pride and thankfulness. Without those struggles, I may not be as dedicated to the job as I am today. I know for a fact I would not be as determined in my work had I not had those experiences.

What do you believe sets Capitol Hill apart as a unique work environment, and how do you navigate its challenges in your everyday work?

Working on Capitol Hill comes with a pre-requisite understanding that most individuals do not realize when they begin their career here—you have the opportunity to contribute in many ways to the history of this country, to make an impact on countless lives—but your accomplishments do not include your name. If you are looking for fame or glory, this is not the place to do that. Whether it’s as a legislative staffer, scheduler, or communications staffer—you have the privilege to serve the public and maybe, just maybe, make an impact through your work that in some way future generations of Americans will remember.

I would also tell those looking to work on the Hill that the unique nature and environment of the Hill should never be lost on you. Yes, these jobs can be chaotic and stressful, with little time for taking a step back and appreciating your surroundings. However, it is so important that we never forget that our day at the office is another individual’s once in a lifetime trip to see the inner workings of their government—a chance to celebrate its history. We must never forget that we are not here to serve ourselves, but to serve the American people and to honor the work of the men and women who came before us by ensuring that our national experiment lives on.

Word association, what is the first word that comes to mind for each of these?

Policy – People

Networking – Relationships

Writing Skills – Essential

Working on the Hill – Rewarding

Leadership Connect – Impactful

To be featured or learn more, reach out to Gabi Thomas, and spread the word to any colleagues who would be interested.

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Gabrielle Thomas

Gabi joined Leadership Connect as a Research Analyst and is now the Legislature Outreach Liaison.