Becoming a lobbyist is easy...if you know people or are willing to take as many internships and low-paying jobs as it takes. My experience? Well, I majored in Political Science after deciding against business school after my first accounting class. I never thought about why my friends thought I was weird for watching C-Span and political talk shows. I read the political stories in the news first and I thought of politics as a noble calling. (all of which was to the dismay of those around me). I distinctly remember my dad (accounting major) asking me "what are you going to do with a Political Science degree?!)
Well, my junior year, my dad helped me get a Congressional internship out in DC for a few months. He worked for a large utility who had a lobbyist and they hooked me up. The internship wasn't bad, but I quickly determined that D.C. politics was too cut-throat for me. That's not an editorial statement, just how I felt about the whole thing.
After that, I wasn't really sure what to do, but that winter, I was watching Indiana's then-Governor Evan Bayh give the State of the State address. I was a little slow on the draw, but a little light bulb flickered and I thought I'd look into state politics.
I sent a letter to Governor Bayh saying how much I liked his speech and commented on a few of the topics he raised and, much to my surprise, I was invited down to interview for a Governor's fellowship.
I'm not sure what did my in more, my complete naivete or the fact that when they asked my opinions on issues, I apparently sounded like a Republican...and probably one who had no place even interviewing for that fellowship. They were quite nice about it, but both sides of the table knew I was in the wrong place. My ding letter arrived a short time later. But I continued to have some hope that state politics was the place for me.
I was able to get an internship with the Republican State Party. I did electronic database corrections and generally grunt work around the office, but started to feel like the people around me were like-minded souls. That internship came to an end, and my boss was kind enough to get me an internship with the Indiana Senate. I ended up doing the internship in the Media Relations office for the Majority (Republican) Caucus. From the first day, I just loved it. (I'll try and remember to discuss the Senator who scared the crap out of me that day in some later posting).
That session, I wrote press releases and attended committee meeting and just loved it. I was even more excited when, half-way through session, one of the staffers left and I assumed her duties. I thought I had a job after my internship ended. Apparently not. After that internship, I was thanked and sent on my way. They hired someone else for the job.
So at this point, I've interned in DC, the state party and the state legislature and I'm still unemployed a year after graduating with my degree! I knew I loved it, but I just made the decision I couldn't afford to take another internship. Well, someone was looking out for me because after about four of five months of working a job I just hated (delivering copies of legal documents to law firms), a girl I interned with at the state party, called to say her mom (the State Treasurer) needed a media relations person and would I come in to interview. I was ecstatic! Then, lo and behold, after I set up the interview, another girl I interned with at the State Senate called and said her trade association had a media relations job open too. I set up that interview for the same day. Long story short, I took the job with the State Treasurer even though I was offered the job at the trade association for twice the money because I had accepted the Treasurer's job earlier. The President of the Association appreciated my dedication (read: stupidity) and said he'd keep me on the list for future openings.
Well, I worked for the State Treasurer for about two years, then was offered the job I did at the State Senate. I jumped at the chance to get back there. Then, a year later, the trade association called and said their media relations job was open again and I accepted. Six months into doing media relations for the trade association, one of our lobbyists left to get married and I was offered the job of filling in her role as one of our lobbyists. I didn't want to do it at first, but I thought it would be similar to pitching stories to reporters, it's just pitching positions to legislators. I lucked out and loved it.
So that's the basics of how I became a lobbyist. If anyone ever reads this and has questions, I'll be glad to answer anything I can. The long and the short of it is that if you REALLY want to get into politics/lobbying, then plan on not making money for a long time. Lobbying can be quite lucrative, but just like any other good-paying job, it can take a while to actually make a comfortable living.