When Mark Buzan came to me he was about to receive his political science degree and wasn’t really clear about what he wanted to do. “It was pretty scary,” he admitted. The only thing he knew for sure was that he was interested in politics or journalism.
During our first conversation it became apparent that working for a Member of Parliament (MP) had strong appeal, but he had no idea on how to get a job on Parliament Hill.
As far as he was concerned, thousands of people graduate with a degree in political science every year and they all covet a job on Parliament Hill. Those who are successful are people very active in politics or people with political connections through family. He had neither, so what chance did he have?
However, he had a problem that was bigger than no political connections. He had a vague idea of what he wanted, but he didn’t have a target. If you want to hit the bull’s eye you have to have a target. You can shoot an arrow, but it isn’t going to hit the bull’s eye unless you have a target. So we had a very important target to find. I did an assessment of his talents and determined that the best job fit for him was as an executive assistant. We then set about taking action to hit the target and, it worked!
He came to me in November and by the end of January he had a job offer as an aide to an MP.
Our plan to hit the bull’s eye began with some large parties. All the political parties in Canada have Christmas parties on Parliament Hill and they’re open to the public. I suggested he go to the Christmas events of the political parties in which he was interested and socialize because, at a party, people are more relaxed, more prone to interact on a social level, and thus likely to be open to hearing your story.
At one of the parties he met the senior member of Jason Kenney’s staff and eventually obtained a job as a legislative assistant in that office.
However, there’s more to getting the right job than attending parties. Our plan was very specific.
Mark had special training in tax policy and some ideas on changing tax laws. Firstly, I suggested he research which MPs had the tax reform portfolios for their parties. We then put together a letter summarizing Mark’s knowledge and ideas about tax reform and sent it to those MPs requesting a meeting. Next I provided him with a script of what to say to get into those offices for a meeting.
Mark spent about 20 minutes with each MP and talked to about 60. He then debriefed me on all his meetings.
One of those MPs set up a meeting with his right-hand person, a legislative assistant who turned out to be one of the people Mark had schmoozed with at the Christmas party, so they already had a rapport.
Mark had several more meetings with the legislative assistant that eventually led to a job offer.
After a time, while Mark loved what he was doing, he decided he needed more challenges. He wanted to become a lobbyist.
To that end, I coached him every two years on his career development to sell his services in that field.
We put together a portfolio and he subsequently created his own company called Action Strategies. Mark received a couple of small assignments and built up a track record. Eventually, he was hired as a lobbyist. His official title is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Canadian Hydropower Association.
In a few years he moved on to become the External Communications Manager for the Canadian Construction Association, while operating Action Strategies on a part time basis. Today, he is CEO of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries.
The path to becoming a lobbyist was very deliberate and intentional. It wasn’t luck, but involved having a clearly defined target, a vision of what he wanted, then taking specific actions to move him closer to his vision until bingo – he hit the target!
Sometimes you have to take some risks to get what you want. Some people wouldn’t go to a Christmas party uninvited. You have to do unconventional things to get noticed. Not all of the time, but sometimes it can increase your chances of getting hired.