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Scrubbing the Record Clean

Not all of us have perfect histories.

Surely there is something--an event of poor judgment, a decision of badly timed calculations, a private email sent to a larger list--which we’d rather go back in time and undo.

For some of us, these are mild mistakes, much more hideous in our own minds than on paper.  

But for others, there is a record: one that sticks to your permanent record.

I write the Hill Navigator blog for Roll Call, which dispenses workplace advice for people who work in Washington D.C., specifically Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill, as with many high-intensity fields, is a competitive place to land a job--even an entry level one answering phones and responding to mail. So when I received a question about how a previous instance of public intoxication would affect a would-be job seeker’s chances, I knew it deserved a response.

Read: Roll Call’s Hill Navigator: Ghosts of Drunk Nights Past.

The cliff notes version: a public intoxication charge might not hurt your job chances coming in, as few offices conduct thorough background checks. But the incident could come up when applying for a government security clearance later on.

But more importantly, once you’ve landed a position, any infractions --from public intoxication to something more serious--could place your job in jeopardy. “Career suicide” is the term Roll Call’s Heard on the Hill uses to describe staffer run-ins with the law. While the antics range from fist fights to poor judgment on social media, alcohol is often involved.

It’s worth asking: what role does alcohol plays in your work life? In Washington, D.C., where I’ve spent years both as a Capitol Hill staffer and a journalist, wine and cheese receptions are the norm.  A bar is a common place to meet up with friends, bosses invite staffers out for drinks to celebrate a job well done, and some offices keep beers stocked in the fridge for an impromptu happy hour.

Walking that fine line means setting limits: a beer at work is fine, but that’s assuming you can metro home. A happy hour is a great opportunity to bond with co-workers, but so is a coffee run, or a lunch break. Public intoxication is a very real offense, one that won’t reflect kindly on your workplace--particularly if a Member of Congress has their name attached.

Rebecca Gale is the author of the Hill Navigator, a workplace advice column in Roll Call. She has also worked as a press secretary and communications director for senators and members of Congress on Capitol Hill. She graduated with honors from Miami University in Ohio and has a master's degree in political communication from the Johns Hopkins University. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published by Boxfire Press, and her debut novel, "Trying," was published by Boxfire Press in December 2012.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility or any Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility member.*

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