The TESIS Factor of a freelance lobbyist
I have wanted to write this post for some time but even though I kind of knew what I wanted to say, the concept remained slightly vague and fuzzy (and yes, I know, reading policy material all day means I am normally very comfortable with vague & fuzzy).
But talking to someone today, I actually found what I considered a good way of putting it (and my lunch companion actually agreed, the dear soul): as a freelance lobbyist, I find my activities and availability to clients limited by (1) my capabilities (I’m too old to sell stuff I know nothing about and pretend I’ll wing it), (2) my ethics (don’t expect grand stuff here: my criteria are simply: will I continue sleeping well and can I look into my kids’ eyes) and (3) the TESIS factor. Being a bit of an EU geek, I think not in words but in acronyms, because they sound impressive whilst usually being meaningless.
TESIS simply stands for Time-Emotional Strain-Intellectual Strain. What it basically means is that:
- T: I only have so many hours per day and so many days per week, even if the concept of “work days” does not exist for a freelancer as it would imply there are “rest days” (which there aren’t)
- ES: people (especially clients) tend to underestimate (if they estimate it at all) the emotional strain you go through when advocating ideas, positions, etc. You are basically a salesman except that what you are talking about could affect a lot of people and a lot of companies. And if you’re really unlucky like I am, you actually believe in the stuff you advocate (I know: it’s of very poor taste for an industry lobbyist..), making your task even more energy draining. As my lunch companion pointed out: “it’s not the complexe stuff that is necessarily most tiring: it’s often the simple messages that you are going to explain to someone that you know will give you a difficult time and is likely to only agree with you after you’ve bended his arm violently” (by figure of speech, of course: I am not hit woman yet). On some dossiers, at peak time, the emotional emptiness you can feel at the end of a day spend in EU building corridors is daunting, to say the least.
- IS: some dossiers are handled really easily because you know your stuff (or think you do). But every now and then, I just like to remember I’m a lawyer and a geeky one at that, and delve into 500 to 1000 pages of academic articles, books, blog posts, FCC filings, position papers, studies by regulatory authorities or their consultants, etc. to try to “get it”…and sometimes, the realisation that all of this effort makes me “get that I don’t fully get it” and that I will have to digest, synthesise and explain all of that in 30 minutes in the office of an MEP with a clearly short attention span is, well, scary, frustrating, slightly irritating, totally depressing, [fill in the blank as I am sure you got my drift]
But I don’t want to end on a negative note: all of these factors (well, not the T one) are what make me like my job and feel that, even if half if not more of what I say is lost in the Brussels ether, if I can only convince one person to come in my corner of the room and look out of the window to see things the way I see them, it was all worth it.