Lobbyists are a special breed of people. They have a difficult job that requires them to be persuasive, well-spoken, educated, and comfortable with dealing with strangers. They’re typically hired by companies or organizations to represent their interests in government affairs. Their roles include monitoring legislation, influencing lawmakers, and representing the interests of their clients in the public sphere.
Lobbyists typically work on behalf of large corporations or non-profit organizations. They tend to focus on a specific policy issue or industry and use their expert knowledge to help sway lawmakers and officials to make decisions in their clients’ favor.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a lobbyist and what it takes to become one yourself.
Lobbyist Job Duties
Lobbyists are responsible for a wide range of duties, including:
- Monitoring and analyzing legislative issues and proposing solutions for clients
- Building relationships with legislators, including attending meetings and social events where possible
- Identifying key stakeholders in an industry or sector, including government members who hold the power to influence legislation or regulations that may impact the client’s goals
- Writing legislation and advocacy materials to support the client’s position
- Ensuring that all communications adhere to legal requirements
- Acting as the main point of contact between a client and government officials
- Monitoring news stories that affect one’s client or campaign, contacting reporters to provide information, and initiating efforts to correct misperceptions through interviews or letters to the editor
Lobbyist Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for lobbyists is $81,729. The highest earners make over $182,000 per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work for corporations.
The number of jobs for lobbyists is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade. This growth is due to the increasing number of government regulations in business and industry that affect lobbying efforts. These rules will result in an increase in the need for lobbyists to represent clients in their meetings with legislators and regulators.
Lobbyist Job Requirements
The requirements for lobbyists are as follows:
Education: Lobbyists generally need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as political science, public relations or business. Courses in these programs cover topics like public policy, public relations and business management.
Training: Lobbyists must be highly skilled in a variety of different areas, including public policy, public relations and business management. Their training can involve understanding the legislative process and the lobbying industry. Those who want to get started in the field may want to consider taking courses in lobbying and public policy.
Certifications & Licenses: Lobbyists are not required to hold a license but they are required to register with the state and federal government.
The following skills are required for this job:
Research skills: Lobbyists must be able to research laws, regulations, and policies in order to formulate effective arguments.
Communication skills: Lobbyists must be able to communicate in writing and verbally with elected officials and government employees.
Organizational skills: Lobbyists must be able to organize their time well in order to balance work with other responsibilities.
Negotiation skills: Successful lobbyists must possess excellent negotiation skills in order to persuade lawmakers to support their clients’ interests.
Legal knowledge: Legalists should have a basic understanding of laws that affect your client’s industry or cause. A solid grasp of legal terminology will also help them work more effectively with attorneys and legislative aides.
Self-motivation: Most lobbying jobs require long hours of hard work without much immediate reward. Successful lobbyists are self-motivated enough to continue working even when no one is looking over their shoulders.
Lobbyist Work Environment
Lobbyists are often hired by companies or trade associations to promote specific public policies that benefit their employers or members. Lobbyists work in comfortable offices, but they’re often attending meetings at multiple different locations. They may travel to state capitols and Washington, D.C., to lobby for new laws. Because they often deal with people who have opposing political views, working as a lobbyist can be stressful.
Most lobbyists hold full-time positions and work extended hours during legislative sessions in order to meet their clients’ needs.
Lobbyist Career Path
New lobbyists are expected to work long, intense hours to establish themselves in this competitive field. They research the political agenda, find clients to represent, and write speeches, letters, and position papers. Lobbyists also alert clients to pending legislation that would affect them and help them decide what action to take. There is a high degree of rejection in this career; only the most aggressive survive the first two years.
Five Years Out
Five-year lobbyists have established reputations as specialists in their fields, are highly networked, and have worked on legislation that directly affects their clients’ interests. If they choose to, they can move into policy-making positions at government agencies or elective office. Those who stay in lobbying become corporate lobbyists or lobby for associations of companies or groups of individuals. Salaries increase dramatically for people who have stayed in the field.
Ten Years Out
After ten years, lobbyists are political veterans with important contacts at every level of government. They are respected opinion leaders who can help steer legislation through Congress and help frame issues for public debate. Many are known by name to reporters and are frequently quoted in newspapers and on television news programs. Salaries are high enough to support an upscale lifestyle. The work is highly satisfying; lobbyists enjoy significant influence over government decisions that affect their clients’ lives and businesses. They sometimes go on to hold public office themselves.
Here are three trends influencing how lobbyists work. Lobbyists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Increased Transparency and Accountability
Lobbyists and government officials are increasingly expected to disclose their activities and relationships, which has led to a rise in lobbying transparency laws across the country. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 requires lobbyists to register with the Secretary of the Senate and House within 45 days of contacting a government official on behalf of a client.
In addition, lobbyists must also report certain campaign contributions they make to candidates as well as other political spending. These new requirements have resulted in increased transparency around how lobbyists interact with elected officials, but also increases accountability for those who violate the rules set by these laws.
Increasing Focus on Cause Marketing
Cause marketing is a popular trend among businesses and nonprofit organizations, with the majority of campaigns focused on helping people make an emotional connection to a cause through compelling storytelling.
According to recent research, 83% of Americans said they would support a brand’s cause if it aligned with their own beliefs. This data indicates that businesses should consider cause marketing as a way to expand their social media presence and drive up sales in the process.
Evolving Role of Lobbyists
In recent years, lobbyists have increasingly been looking for creative ways to advocate for their clients’ interests. While traditional lobbying involves political contributions and direct advocacy through legislation, there are many new avenues for this role to play in the legislative process, including campaigns to sway public opinion about an issue or organization.
This can include anything from staging events at college campuses or through media outlets like blogs and podcasts, all the way up to bringing awareness to issues related to consumer safety or environmental concerns.
How to Become a Lobbyist
1. Planning Your Career
As a lobbyist, you may work for a private company or a non-profit organization; in either case, you will need to develop strong relationships with legislators so that they will take your concerns seriously. This means not only building personal connections but also knowing the right times to reach out and when to wait patiently. In addition, lobbyists must stay informed about changes in policy so that they can keep up with the latest news.
If you’re thinking about becoming a lobbyist, consider whether your interests align with your potential employer’s goals. Though many organizations focus on issues like health care or immigration reform, some lobbying firms work with corporations to influence legislation around taxes and other financial matters. Before accepting a job offer, think about whether your values match those of the organization you will be representing.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for lobbyists should demonstrate their political connections, ability to create strong relationships with lawmakers, and experience with meeting deadlines. Be sure to provide concrete examples of these skills by detailing instances where you built up a relationship with an influential person or when you were able to move legislation through the proper channels. If you’ve received any awards or accolades from previous employers, be sure to include these as well.
In order to highlight your skills in reducing conflict and improving relationships, be sure to include any experience working with clients or employees with challenging personalities if applicable. Focusing on these skills will show employers how well you can handle difficult people even at the highest levels within an organization.
3. Applying for Jobs
Networking with others is always a great way to find a job. But since most lobbyists spend a majority of their time at the state and federal level, it may be a little more difficult to find work in your specific field.
Start by joining a professional organization related to lobbying. The Association of Government Relations Professionals is a good resource to start. You can also try following social media accounts of larger lobbying firms and reaching out to them on Twitter or LinkedIn. This could give you a leg up on the competition when jobs become available.
4. Ace the Interview
A lobbyist will be expected to advocate for a cause in front of a legislative or regulatory body. For this reason, it is important that the candidate be prepared to state their position on various topics.
Prepare your responses by researching your prospective client’s industry and competitors, so you can speak intelligently about why they are the best choice for your client. It will also be important to understand what you would need to do to get the client’s bill passed into law or regulation, including identifying who the key decision-makers are.
When these questions are asked of you during an interview, be sure to present yourself in a confident manner, but avoid being too pushy. Your goal is to present information in a persuasive manner without coming across as aggressive. As long as you know what your client wants, have evidence to back up their claims, and communicate clearly, you should not have any problems landing the job.