Advocacy has become such an important factor in our current political climate, more people are discovering ways to branch into careers that are positioned to make an impact. One of those careers is a lobbyist.
Let’s explore the ins and outs of becoming a lobbyist, with some hot tips on current openings in the field.
What is a lobbyist?
A lobbyist is a professionally trained advocate who works to influence policy and governmental decisions based on the wants and needs of a particular individual or organization. These advocates work tirelessly to propose amendments, new legislation, and progressive ideas that will further the greater good of their community or organization.
What does a lobbyist do?
Not all who are lobbying are lobbyists, however, every lobbyist is lobbying. Each state has its own set of rules around lobbying, what it is, and who can do it, and lobbyists are tied to those rules through their state and federal registrations. All lobbyists work side-by-side with advocacy groups, corporations, organizations, legislators, and others to achieve certain political goals.
Many things that a lobbyist or lobbying firm can do for your organization are marketing-related. For example, many firms offer public relations services, direct-mail, polling, and grassroots activism for their clients. Having a marketing mind definitely provides a leg up when approaching lobbying as a career. While many companies can benefit from a compilation of services, many top-tier companies hire in-house lobbyists to work with their own campaign teams to complete the creative work around their political campaigns.
How do you become a lobbyist?
Many people are pursuing degrees related to their lobbyist passions. Journalism, communications, political science, public relations, and economics are just a few of the common bachelor’s degrees pursued by people who later become lobbyists. It often takes an interesting factoid in a political science class or a really interesting psychology lecture to dive into the lobbying world.
Engaging in more well-rounded programs at universities that specialize in foreign policy is a more common thread these days. For example, the University of San Diego touts its Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice as both a mecca for its diverse student population and a stepping stone for its students into a rich and culturally diverse world. Schools that have peace and justice centers have a safe space to host open-minded and diverse speakers from around the world and connect students with engaging organizations and influential people in their career paths. Similarly, other schools have programs designated to restorative justice, criminal justice, conflict resolution, and more.
Whether you choose to pursue a niche degree or not, many lobbyists perfect their craft in master’s programs and with continuing education. After earning a bachelor’s degree, completing an internship, and cultivating contacts by getting involved on a local level or with particular issues, a lobbyist needs to maintain their status by registering as a lobbyist. You can register under your lobbying firm, company, or a self-employed lobbyist. Continue to do so every quarter, or as your local rules apply, to stay in good standing in the system.
A lot of modern lobbyists, however, got there through a combination of professional skills, education, non-profit work, and connections within the industry. People who spend years advocating for particular causes – or even rallying around a school board, parent, or homeowner’s association – are lobbyists to a degree, and their success in these roles can indicate their prowess in a similar paid position.
It is common to see former legislators and politicians take up lobbyist positions, as their list of contacts and existing reputation in the space can help the cause connect with more people. A little bit of influence goes a long way within this profession.
What skills do you need to become a lobbyist?
To become a lobbyist requires top-notch interpersonal skills and the desire to lead. In many lobbyist roles, you are acting as a public representative of the entity or company, so being able to present the side of the people you are representing correctly and in a professional manner is imperative.
Leading with empathy and intuition is a very large part of the role. Being able to understand the needs of the community you’re serving, asking the right questions, and doing a bit of storytelling to the masses are all linked to these two skills. Appealing to the emotions of others can be the most important tool when getting your message across. These traits, specifically, are what introduced people like Audrey Hepburn, Mia Farrow, and Selena Gomez into the fold at UNICEF.
With a schedule that is determined by legislation calendars, political movement, and specific campaigns, your day-to-day will vary so flexibility is key. Your research and analytical skills need to be up to speed, as policy can change very quickly in an array of places. With the turnover that government sectors experience, it is important to stay abreast of the decision-makers in your sector, and to have an established Rolodex of people who can contribute to the success of the cause.
What is the average salary for a lobbyist?
According to PayScale, the average base salary for a lobbyist is $74,516 per year, while Salary.com reports the average revenue for any lobbyist in the United States in 2021 as $115,555, with many making between $93,122 and $159,336.
What is the typical career path for a lobbyist?
Many lobbyists come to their profession by way of other career paths. Journalists, public relations representatives, political scientists, and C-Suite members across the board are already influential leaders by trade. When they delve into the political advocacy their company does, or are exposed to hard facts on a large scale — as many journalists are — they are driven to enact change.
Public relations specialists, communications directors, and others with an affinity for storytelling and persuasion are often drawn into political advocacy because of their demonstrated skillset. It is actually a positive to pivot into a lobbying career after years elsewhere, as you never know where your contacts, charm, and professional prowess could lead.
Many people who actively pursue this career in college begin with a big passion for several things, and then typically narrow their focus to a niche or the needs of their immediate community. This way, they can put all of their acquired knowledge and power into making a change with one particular effort – or even a handful of efforts – and dedicate themselves to noticed improvement.
Lobbying for yourself to become a lobbyist, especially in a time of career transition? That isn’t always fun. Even top-notch marketing executives cannot always advertise themselves correctly. Try some of these tips, gleaned from building a related resume, and check out jobs in this field available on Ladders currently.
And be sure to check out our free resume reviewer to help your chances at nabbing your next job.