Lobbyists are a big part of the modern political process. They exist between the government and the public, influencing changes in congress, and representing the interests of the people and of businesses. While some view lobbying as a dirty word, lobbyists are actually bound by strict legal and moral guidelines, and a good lobbyist stays on the right side of those guidelines at all times.

But how do you become a lobbyist? How do you make your voice heard in the corridors of power? As with any career choice, there is no sure-fire ladder to success, but there are ways to make your climb to the top a little easier.

Get the Right Degree

Image via Flickr by smaedli

Becoming a political lobbyist requires determination and an abundance of hard work, but it also requires an appropriate education. Lobbyists must know the political world inside and out to understand just how much pressure they must exert and where. For this reason, a bachelor’s degree or, preferably, a master’s in political science is vital.

What’s more, you need to be up to speed with all the current legal developments in your field. As mentioned above, lobbyists have to adhere to a strict code of conduct, so legal training and qualifications help prepare you for the challenges you’ll face.

Schmooze Your Way Through Your Work Experience

An internship is a great way to learn the ropes of the business and get some experience under your belt. An internship in a political organization looks great on your resume and is likely to be the first real step on your lobbying career path. It’s best to do this as early as possible, preferably while still studying for your political science degree.

Once you’ve landed your internship, put your social skills into action. In the world of political lobbying, being well-connected is not simply an asset; it’s a must-have weapon in your arsenal. Meet as many people as you can, charm them, tell them your ideas and then, when you graduate, you’ve already got a flourishing professional network that will help you to get ahead.

Keep Those Social Wheels Turning

A political lobbyist must be a social butterfly. Learn to feel at ease with everyone you meet as well as how to make others comfortable in your presence. This doesn’t stop after your internship; successful lobbyists throw parties, hold dinners, and set up meet-and-greet events outside of the office, giving you a platform to talk business — and politics — in a more relaxed setting.

Lobbying is, at its core, a proper and ethical form of persuasion. Practice your persuasive argument skills, keep in close contact with colleagues and associates, and continue to build your network of contacts.

Be Prepared to Work Hard

Lobbying is a competitive and relentless business. Don’t think that the hard work is over when you graduate school and complete an internship; the professional world holds more obstacles and opportunities for education. The lives of lobbyists are characterized by long hours, constant paperwork, and dogged tenacity.

If this sounds like your dream job, take the first step toward becoming a lobbyist. The faster you get in the game, the sooner you’ll find yourself on the front steps of the Capital Building.