The Evolution of Work

The Job of a Lobbyist

The ability to “Influence” and persuade others is a skill. Alongside the capacity to gain access to be able to influence, that skill is highly prized and sought out.  Unfortunately, the general population does not understand the purpose of those who are lobbyists, or how these positions are beneficial.  If you are considering a career in this field you will be glad to know there are is no shortage of opportunities.  Those who are persuasive,  who have an understanding of the legislative process and good communication skills will excel in this career.

What are the necessary skills and/or competencies that will assist you in a career as a lobbyist?

Besides articulate strong communication skills, candidates should have in-depth understanding and knowledge of the industry you intend to represent.  Essentially, if you are a good influencer who feels you would be effective in speaking on behalf of your industry or special interest group, you would likely be an asset to the industry you choose.  Whether you choose to work for a private individual, large organisation or for the public in general, the art of persuasion is a huge factor in how successful you will be in your career. Developing a wide, proven network of Political, Business, Union and Association contacts is essential to the job.

As a lobbyist, what will your job duties/responsibilities be?

The duties or tasks you may face depend largely on the industry you choose.  Representing your group or institution effectively will be your primary responsibility.  You will need to know and understand your clients’ interests, what your client hopes to achieve and be able to develop a strategy to accomplish these goals.  It will be necessary to understand the notion of a “mandate” ensuring that your capacity to take a mandate and communicate on your achievements to your client or employer, are sacrisanct.

Additionally, lobbyists should study proposals and proposed legislation and be capable of reading White and Green papers that may become law.  The ability to decipher legal jargon is essential.  You may be responsible for coordinating meetings, conferring with legislators or even meeting with media personnel. An intimate understanding of the personalities in and working procedures of Business Associations, NEDLAC, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee’s, BSA, COSATU, FEDUSA, etc. is absolutely critical to the endeavors of a Lobbyist.

Are there any special areas of study that will assist in your efforts to secure a position as a lobbyist?

While there is no special degree required or course that must be completed in order to secure a career as a lobbyist, it is to your benefit to study the political process.  An undergraduate degree in political science or a related field will be highly beneficial, although it is not required.  Most individuals who enter this career do have law and/or master degrees, but not all. Internationally a Lobbyist is considered to be a specialized Public Relations Practitioner and hence PRISA Membership might be an advantage.

It may also work to your advantage to spend time at Parliament in Cape Town, and to devour everything you can regarding the process of how White Papers become law through reading news articles, researching online, even reading books such as “The Dance of Legislation” by author Eric Redmond.

Which industries offer careers for those who want to enter the lobbyist field?

Nearly every industry needs lobbyists to represent their interests.  From Religious Institutions, Labor Unions, Senior Citisens Organizations and other NGO’s, Environmental groups to Local and Provincial  governments, dozens of industries contract individuals to work in this capacity.

Lobbyists generally work as Independent Contractors although some are employed in-house.

The top industries which offer lobbyist positions include Insurance and Banking, Electric and Water Utilities, Education, Health/Pharmaceutical services and products, Entertainment (movies/television), Computer/Internet, Hospitals and Nursing Homes, Manufacturing and Distribution, and Business Associations.

Is a career as a lobbyist best suited to an individual just entering the job market, or someone with past experience?  It all depends on your level of knowledge concerning law making and legislation, your communication skills and ability to persuade.  New entrants into the job market as well as older, more experienced individuals who have worked as lobbyists before can enjoy success in this career.