Loyalist alumna Lisa Kirbie of the post-graduate public relations program is now the Senate Liaison and Stakeholder Relations Officer for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Ottawa.
Lisa recently shared with current Loyalist PR student, Bryna Jones, how Loyalist helped prepare her for an exciting career on Parliament Hill.
Bryna Jones: What got you interested in politics as a career?
Lisa Kirbie: I first became involved in politics while completing my undergraduate degree when I was VP Academic for my students’ union. The position involved a large amount of advocacy; representing students in grade appeals, to the administration and media and, of course, representing students to elected members of parliament. I had the pleasure of meeting John Harvard, then the Liberal MP for a Manitoba riding, who offered me the job as his Legislative Assistant.
BJ: As a graduate from Loyalist’s public relations program, how do you feel this background has helped prepare you for work on Parliament Hill?
LK: I had worked on Parliament Hill as a political assistant prior to enrolling in the post-graduate public relations program, and after completion, I returned with an additional skill set that has proved extremely valuable in both positions I`ve held since my return.
What was great about the post-grad PR program was that it was a practical, professional program. “Watch one, do one, teach one,” usually applies to medical students, but it really fits in this case as well. We weren’t just learning theory; we were learning the practical applications of PR. We were ready to move right into our field upon graduation. It’s a perfect complement to an undergraduate degree.
BJ: What program-specific skills have you used most in your work?
LK: The importance of seeing the “big picture.” Too many times people get paralyzed by the details and fail to see the end goal. I now determine the end goal first, and work backwards to figure out my plan of action.
I also learned the value of networking. PR is all about building relationships. You never know when a contact is going to come in handy in this business.
Also, because of the nature of PR, your reputation is one of your most valuable tools – relationship building helps develop your social capital. In the political realm, that’s even more important.
BJ: Any advice to Loyalist grads wanting to go into politics?
LK: Start volunteering on local campaigns for the political party whose values most strongly represents your views. Be willing to work hard and take initiative, and it will be noticed.
Those of us who work in this field generally have a great passion for what we do, and the political parties we work with. You have to love politics and enjoy working in a field in which everything can change day to day.
BJ: Do you have any favourite MPs?
LK: All of the MPs are dedicated and hardworking people. However, my favourites are (of course) Liberal Parliamentarians. If I have to choose one, it would be Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. I have tremendous respect for him both as a politician and a person.
We're all proud of you, Lisa - congratulations on your 2009 PRISM Mentorship Award!