|"We want people, young people, to enter government affairs and to be part of the great American political process."
ALL Past President Deanna Gelak appearing on C-SPAN's Washington Journal
Because there is no prerequisite degree or training to become a lobbyist, many people believe that anyone can be a lobbyist. Technically, that is correct. There is no "entrance exam" one must pass before beginning to work in government relations. But, in some ways, that creates more of a barrier; because an individual cannot produce credentials on his or her qualifications, potential employers or clients must rely on the applicant's performance record. If a lobbyist has no record of lobbying experience, there is little to commend him or her for the work.
Most lobbyists are college graduates, and many have advanced degrees. Of these advanced degrees, the most prevalent is legal training, with other common backgrounds being communications, teaching, public relations and journalism. Lobbyists must be able to understand their clients' interests as well as the laws and policies they hope to influence. They must be able to communicate effectively with their audience, both orally and in writing. It is also necessary for them to understand the legislative and political process.
Possibly the best training for lobbying is experience in a congressional office. Even the most menial position on Capitol Hill helps provide an understanding of the process unlike anything in a classroom, and competence quickly leads to increased responsibility. Professional staffers either in personal or committee offices develop not only an understanding of congressional issues but also a valuable network of congressional contacts.
Important Note: Unfortunately, we do not have additional information available for people trying to get into the lobbying profession. The league is a membership organization dedicated to helping lobbyists perform their jobs better, rather than an employment service of any kind. The best suggestion we can make is for individuals to use the contacts they have through previous work or studies, seeking informational interviews and networking as much as possible. As indicated in the paragraph above, political or government contacts are particularly helpful in entering the field.
The Washington Representatives book referenced below is an excellent source for cold calling. It can usually be found in the reference section of a large library, and it is worthwhile spending a couple of hours with it to identify potential contacts. The Subjects index at the back is good for identifying issues with which one has familiarity or interest; these can then be cross-referenced to the front to determine names and contact information.
- Lobbyists, Brief #608, published by Chronicle Guidance Publications (1-800-622-7284), provides an indepth look at lobbying as a career choice.
- Washington Representatives, published by Columbia Books in Washington, DC (202-464-1662), provides a detailed listing of lobbyists registered at the federal level, along with the organizations they represent, addresses and phone numbers and the issues on which they work.
- The Washington Lobby, published by Congressional Quarterly in Washington, DC (800-432-2250), provides information on lobbying in general, the laws relating to lobbying, use of political action committees and congressional ratings in lobbying, and nine case studies of effective lobbying campaigns.
- Lobbying and Government Relations, published by Greenwood Publishing Group in Westport, Connecticut (203-226-3571), provides information about the origin and history of lobbying, the environments affecting lobbying, the types and techniques of lobbying and sources and resources available.
- The Lobbying Handbook is a "hands-on" guidebook for lobbyists and aspiring lobbyists. Among other things, it discusses what lobbying is, how one becomes a lobbyist, what background is necessary, how to hire a lobbyist, how a lobbyist does his work. Visit
http://www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/00593.htm to purchase this book from John Zorack.
- For information about internships, visit the Washington Center for Internships & Academic Seminars: http://www.twc.edu.
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Last updated: September 28, 2011