Sunday, January 11, 2009

how to become a lobbyist

As I've started into this online world to focus on lobbying, I've come across several stories and questions about how to become a lobbyist.  I suppose a blog is a great place to talk about my thoughts on the matter and more specifically, how I became a lobbyist.

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.







44 comments:

  1. Wow this was very informative and was exactly what I was looking for. I am currently finishing out my first year of college. I attend Manhattan College, which is a small Catholic Liberal Arts school with a pretty decent US news ranking. My major is Government and International Studies. What I would like to ask you is, how should I embark on my journey of becoming a lobbyist during the summer months between semesters. This summer I am doing an unpaid internship in New Jersey for my districts senator. Is this a good start? Where should I go from here for next summer?

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  2. I have been a lobbyist for over 28 years. I am "The Lobbying Pro" and people know me as "the person they hire to protect them from the people they elect".
    Lobbying is a great and much needed profession. Without it the public policy of the nation would be anything but democratic.

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    Replies
    1. ...for those who can afford it.

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    2. To all who read this.... We live in a great country that goes against its original founders very constitutional writings. We live in a country of greed. To think we put in office the richest people who only care about getting richer, no one seems to care about the country and its standing as a super power. We need to hire a regular everyday person to run the country. Someone who cares about our people and solving our countries problems. Think of how powerful our country would be if it were debt free and unemployment was virtually nonexistant. Think about it as lobbyist play a very important role in pushing a country forward or in reverse.

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    3. HOW DO i GET STARTED. i HAVE BEEN A TEACHER FOR THE PAST THIRY-FIVE YEARS AND i WANT TO HELP CHILDREN. pLEAE HELP. tHANK

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    4. Do you accept any intern?

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  3. Hi,

    First off, I love your blog. I am a student at UW-Madison right now. I will be a senior this year graduating with degrees in Political Science and Philosohpy. I really want to get involved in lobbying as a future career. Any ideas on how to get started? Any ideas or sugguestions or ideas will be greatly appreciated.

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  4. For videos on how to lobby Congress effectively, I suggest www.insidelobbying.com/videos.html

    Enjoy and good luck in Washington!

    Elvis Oxley

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  5. Thanks for that site. Any help I can ever get is greatly appreciated.

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  6. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the information. I have been an elementary school teacher for the past decade. I've always enjoyed participating in campaigns at every level. I've also worked for a non-profit (managing an educational program through the Serve America Act. I'm ready to take the next step into politics. Many suggest I should become a lobbyist. Where do I start? Thank you in advance for your response. Best, Sherry
    sholland777md@aol.com

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  7. Hi Mike,

    Great blog! I have a couple questions, if you wouldn't mind:
    1. Is it possible to be a lobbylist in Los Angeles (not Sacramento)?
    2. If so, what sort of places would you be working for?
    3. Free lance or full time?
    4. I am in LA. Where do you suggest I start?

    Thank so much for your help,
    Kathleen
    krmiles@gmail.com

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  8. This helps a lot, I've been wanting to learn more about becoming a lobbyist and how it happens. So, I work full-time, not in politics, and have about 2yrs left until I have my undergraduate. I wasn't sure if I should continue, masters, is it necessary? Due to fact that I work 9-5, m-f, I am an online student, how do I network from home? How do I gain experience if I work full-time, school full-time, and family?

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  9. Hi Mike, I am a dietitian and am very concerned about the quality of food we produce here in the USA. Of specific interest, I'm deeply concerned with childhood obesity and the impact that has yet to have on our healthcare system. I've worked in hospitals and have seen the long-term effects a poor diet can have on health in later years....it is preventable.
    A lot of people suggest I lobby for such causes, but I'm apprehensive because I don't have a background in law, poly sci or even journalism.
    How do you recommend someone like me get started?

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  10. Oops, forgot to give you my e-mail. I'm the one who posted the above comment: ratherbinfrance@gmail.com. Thank you.

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  11. Totally excellent that you decided to put together this blog.

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  12. Hi Mike,

    I am a Junior at James Madison University in Virginia and I will be doing an internship program in the Spring. I was wondering if I should go with working on the Hill to make those connections or go with an actual lobbying firm? I would like to do both, any tips on managing living expenses for a summer in D.C.? My email is silvermr88@gmail.com

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  13. Mr. Chrysler,

    I appreciate your time in answering this. I have a series of questions for you. I am 32 years old, have a family and will be returning to school in January 2010 to study Political Science. I won't graduate with my BA until I am 35. I plan to pursue a graduate degree afterwards; however, I do not want to do this in vain.

    My first question is: Is it possible for me to have a successful career working in politics since I am starting so much later than most do?

    Also, internships in Congressional offices may not be an option for me during school due to my other responsibilities which also include working full time while I am in school to help support my family.

    I am a career changer. I had great success in the hospitality industry but my passion is truly politics. I plan on volunteering on campaigns in 2010 and I hope that will help me at least meet people and get my foot in the door.

    ANY help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

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  14. Great story! Thanks for taking the time to give your story to future lobbyists. I am currently in my second year of law school, and I recently just finished an internship at the Mayor's office. What advice would you give me in be becoming a lobbyist?

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  15. Hello and thanks SO much for this blog. I really appreciate it (I'm sure the other people who've read it do as well). I want to begin a job in lobbying or policy (I know they go hand in hand), I was told that I'd be a good lobbyist. I'm wondering what steps I need to take, especially with not having anyone to 'look out for me' in that respect. I'd love to know where to start. I have a degree in International Relations, should I go back and get a graduate degree or is it possible to lobby without it? Thanks!
    If you'd like you can respond to me at:
    minative08@gmail.com

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  16. Hi, I've been trying to find information on becoming a lobbyist for quite some time. I have a degree in Journalism. I am very interested in working for children, epsecially victims of sexual abuse. I have no clue where to start! I live in Southern California. Please let me know if you have any tips! Thank you so much.

    DSindlinger@gmail.com

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  17. thank you for giving some of us a ray of hope.More information in the same vein would be welcome.matsikokmaguru@yahoo.com

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  18. I really appreciate you writing this; it's nearly impossible to find any accurate or insider information on lobbyists online. I'm a high school senior currently and will attending GWU in the fall as an International Business Major but I've been vacillating over the last few months with the idea of lobbying. I just wanted to let you know I found this really helpful and insightful amidst all the junk on the internet.

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  19. I want to become a Lobbyist I have several things I would like to be addressed.e-mail address jlkeyw@yahoo.com..I hope to hear from you or anybody!!!

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  20. Rider I
    Special Library Manager
    http://rideriantieconomicwarfare.blogspot.com/

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  21. Thanks for the help!! Any advise to a woman who wants to go into environmental lobbying? I am majoring in Political Science and minoring in Philosophy. I will be graduating next fall and this whole finding a job process is really overwhelming!!!! Much luck to you and everyone else aspiring in politics(:

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  22. Thanks for the advise and insight. I am a sophomore in college and although i have not chosen my career path yet i am very interested in politics/law and public relations. I do have a few questions on the profession. It would mean a great deal to me if you had time to answer.
    1. Will grad school or law school help me in this situation ?
    2. How do i go about getting a quality internship?
    3. What makes this career worth while to you ?

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  23. The abaci comment was from me and i seem to have forgotten to put a contact email. cbsmith@hastings.edu

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  24. Hi my name is kavita yadav, citizen of India. Lobbying is not legal in india and we have recently seen the worst phase in the field because of the 2G scam. I have just started my job as a PR executive , but is very much interested in lobbying. can you guide me on the same?

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  25. Hello everyone, im glad this was created because im really passionate about politics and interested in becoming a lobbyist. I was wondering if anyone had tips for what path i should take, i am 18 years old in college and have an internship set up for this summer after my first year of college. What other things should i do to take the path to be a lobbyst?

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  26. I really, really appreciate hearing your story and would like to talk to you. However, would it be possible to email you with a question or two every now and again instead of my having to share more personal things with everyone who is able to read this? By the way, no offense to the rest of you and perhaps we should all start a contact list and help each other. So I'll go first and lay my email out there and hopefully if the rest of you do the same we can all make contact and do our best to help each other. As presently I'm one of the publication editors at the Federal Registry and prior to that I was a campaign consultant, but I'd really like to get into lobbying and would appreciate any help I can get. Ohmy email is christyler723@aol.com

    With warmest regards,

    ~ Christopher Tyler

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  27. Hi Mike, I tried sending u an e-mail, but bounced back, what's ur e-mail??

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  28. or email me asherinvestmentgroup@gmail.com

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  29. I am a current senior in high school and my dream is to become a lobbyist. I mainly want to work in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. and work with the Senate or Congress, whichever. I want to be a person that is the communicator for them and businesses. That is my dream job, I will be attending Troy University in Alabama, maybe a Political Science and Business double major (not sure yet, also thought about international relations or international buisness). I am from a SMALL town in Alabama. Then hopefully make it to Washington D.C. Any tips would be appreciated email me at taylorannepatt15@gmail.com

    Thank you! :)

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  30. I'm almost 50 years old. Would I be 'Too Old' to venture into lobbying????

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  31. I don’t know if this blog is still up and running but I would be ecstatic if this actually works. I am 25 years old, with a BA in political science I went to a small school (Saint Leo University) and I am now working on my MBA (Everest University). When I was in High school I was the recipient of a full paid ride to attend the JSA summer program (Junior Statesmen of America)- At Princeton University. I have always had a passion for politics but never really knew what I wanted to do. I am the product of a hard working single mother who kept me in private catholic school most of my adult life (even college). I know have an awakening and realize I want to be a lobbyist. It has always been a field of interest for me but always feared the hardship that comes with taking that road. I work for a for profit organization that is constantly under scrutiny and have learned a lot about life and what it means to work for what many consider the bad guy. I can do this! I feel like I am somewhat late on the lobbyist game because I am 25 and never was required to complete an internship in college- quite frankly I didn’t want to and never thought about it much. At this point in my life I have seen what the corporate America has to offer and I want to go after the big guy! I need a mentor just someone to talk to and help me get on this path. I’m considering putting everything in my life on pause to pursue this dream, I know what I want I just need to figure out how to get it. Being that I like structure I have decided that listening to someone, or seeking guidance from someone who has gone down this path would be wise. Please contact me if this is something you can offer assistance with.

    Bianli.Abreu@gmail.com

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  32. Hello, I have had 2 years of law school and i would love to become a lobbyist to help the poor people and i have been told that you must have been a senitor or a congressman in order to become one . i would like to know if this is true? im alittle confused on all the chat talk on what you can and cannot do? can you just tell me if i must have become a congressman or a senitor in order to become a lobbyist or not? thanks for any help? my email is frst1lady@aol.com my name is vickie

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  33. Hi- My name is Allison and I am 41. I have a Masters in Social Work and a state license to practice social work in CO. I have worked as a social worker on the direct services delivery side since I obtained my MSW in 2001. Even then, I thought about becoming a lobbyist, but my career took a different path. I have been out of the service delivery side of social work now for over a year and a half, but the idea of becoming a lobbyist has never completely left my mind. I am passionate about politics and love to write. However, I have never worked in government or politics. My question is the same as other people's: How do I get into lobbying? Where do I start? I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you have time to offer. My email is ab7131@yahoo.com.
    Sincerely,
    Allison Brannon, MSW, LCSW
    Denver, CO

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  34. I have been in public health for the last 10 years and to a certain degree my job has required me be to advocate for clean indoor air policy on the local and state level as well as some education and advocacy on the importance of raising the Indiana tobacco tax several years ago. I very interested in becoming a lobbyist as I have been told I have the gift of persuasion and building relationships. Im in Indiana as well. Any tips on getting started?

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  35. oops my contact email is tknichol@yahoo.com

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  36. Hello. My name is Robert. I'm a resident of South Florida. I am interested in becoming a citizen lobbyist in my state. However, after a bit of time searching the internet to find out how...I have come to the conclusion that I am lacking a few qualifications possessed by your average lobbyist. One being that I have no prior political background whatsoever. Though I do consider myself to be a quazi political activist of sorts. Two, that I am already 35 years old with a family. And Three, besides self education through extensive reading(namely history, science, religion, and politics)I am NOT a high school graduate. So what I would like to know is if any of these things would prevent from pursuing this avenue, and if not...how would I go about doing so as I can not seem to find any answers online. Any help would be greatly appreciated in this matter. I can be contacted at cancelr@yahoo.com Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you or ANYONE that may know SOMETHING I can do. Have a great day!

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  37. Hi my name is Dave and I am an Energy Policy major at the University of Delaware. I have ben looking into lobbying in the future. My Uncle is a lobbyist in NJ and I got to see what he did. I have interned with Senator Coons who sits on the Energy and Natural Resource committee. I am looking to get onto the Hill as a staffer right out of college to gain legislative experience. I was wondering if you could provide me with some advice for me going forth. My email is dlmroz@udel.edu. Thank you in advance for any advice you may give me.

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  38. Start attending board meetings in your city,county and state meetings, get appointed to boards,commissions, council advisory committees,initiatives,the local democratic or republician committees,etc along with knowing the issues and concerns in your community and register w/ the proper people most likely the Secretary of State. Get experience by researching and becoming an expert on the subject matter.

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  39. This is great! Thank you. I am quite interested in becoming a lobbyist, after years as a teacher for Head Start. Making money lobbying, while it would be nice (I do have a family to raise), is not so much the issue for me. It is advocating, making a difference for people.

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  40. This is great! Thank you. I am quite interested in becoming a successful lobbyist, after years as a entrepreneur. Making money lobbying, while it would be nice (I do have a family to raise), is not so much the issue for me. It is advocating, making a difference for people.

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