Elizabeth Dole's departure as secretary of labor is just the start of a new round of musical chairs that could see hundreds of politicians and their aides scrambling for new federal jobs over the next few months. That means hundreds of senior government executives will have to prove themselves again to new political bosses.

The White House patronage office will be busy with job requests from defeated politicians and staff members. Many need to stay in government to keep their salaries, insurance and pension benefits intact.

Not everyone can move to bigger and better things. "A 55-year-old horse-holder with GOP credentials seeking a steady income and unrestricted health insurance isn't a hot job prospect," said an appointee who fears he may be caught in the post-election job shuffle.

Media attention is on Dole, who will do a stint as the $185,000-a-year president of the American Red Cross before, maybe, running for office in North Carolina. Official Washington likes that kind of story because she is half of our town's best-known, two-income government couple. Her husband is Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole.

Less glamorous, but more serious, is the plight of lesser-known (and lesser-paid) appointees, from chief deputies and press aides to private secretaries. Their job woes start when the boss gets a better offer. Others worry that anti-incumbent voter backlash will put them out of work too.

Some insiders think that Constance B. Newman, director of the Office of Personnel Management, has the inside track to succeed Dole. (Two previous OPM directors, Alan K. Campbell and Constance Horner, were the insider-favorites to be named secretary of education, but both fell victim to what some have called the OPM Jinx.)

If Newman goes to the Labor Department, word is she might be succeeded by Social Security Administrator Gwendolyn S. King. Newman and King are smart, are highly regarded by the White House and are the two highest-ranking black women in an administration that has taken its lumps from women and minorities.

Newman, who began as a clerk-typist, is highly respected on Capitol Hill and unusually popular (for a Republican) with federal employee unions. She has quietly fought administraton budget-cutters over plans to trim federal benefits. King has run afoul of unions in her giant agency because of actions to automate work and cut employment. Lump-Sum Update

Congress appears ready to extend the lump-sum pension option until Nov. 30. But the benefit, which is taken by 80 percent of all retirees, isn't such a good deal for everyone. For many would-be retirees, taking the lump-sum payment would be a mistake. Check this space tomorrow for the dark side of the lump-sum option. Job Mart

Housing and Urban Development wants a GS (merit pay) 15 supervisory financial systems analyst. Call Donna Richardson at 202-708-0395.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission is looking for a GS 5 through 7 personnel clerk (typing) or personnel system coordinator GS 7/9. Civil service status required. Call 202-254-3275.