My first job in politics was working for Congressman Sander Levin as a community liaison. It was there I learned the process of making legislation and the influential role a lobbyist played. I remember asking mentors how I could become a lobbyist and their response, “it’s a tap on the shoulder kind of job.”
My tap came in September of 2017. Even though for the better part of a decade I worked closely with lobbyists, it has been a transition. As a former legislator and caucus leader, I played an active role in setting the agenda and in crafting policy. I was a hard worker who valued relationships. However, I wouldn’t be transparent if I didn’t admit to having an awesome staff who were committed to ensuring my constituents had the best service possible, were dedicated to keeping me abreast of the details of major pieces of policy moving through the legislature, and most importantly, organizing my time to allow for maximum efficiency.
In lobbying, you are the staff for your client. You must be the eyes, ears, and the strategic thinker. As a lobbyist, I have to embrace the importance of being the initiator when building relationships. I recognize that I am one of many voices competing for decision makers’ time and support. Having the relationship with decision makers is half the battle to becoming a good lobbyist. In the past, I never had to work hard to develop those relationships, but now that I am on the other side, I have to make a major adjustment in facilitating them.
One skill that is critical in lobbying is an attention to detail. As a legislator I would focus on the big picture of policy development and there were many people around to help with the details of a proposal. However, as a lobbyist I am the one who must pay attention to the details. One phrase in legislation can determine whether they are doing business in Michigan or not.
Overall, my transition has been awesome and that is directly attributed to my co-workers. They mentor when needed, provide a gentle push when necessary, and understand when mistakes happen. That’s all a new lobbyist and a former legislator can ask for.
Michigan Legislative Consultants is a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, Michigan. Our team of lobbyists and procurement specialists provide a wide range of services for some of the most respected companies in America. For more on MLC, visit www.mlcmi.com or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.