What academic/professional qualifications do you have?
BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Bath
How did you get into public affairs? What was your first job and what did you learn most from this role?
I came across public affairs during my first year at university when I was researching what you can do with a politics degree. That summer I completed an internship with the Head of Public Affairs at Essex County Council. I really enjoyed the experience and knew I wanted to discover more about the world of public affairs.
My university placement year with Interel as the monitoring and research assistant was my first proper job in public affairs. A large portion of my time was spent reviewing Hansard and helping consultants with research projects. Whilst it wasn’t the most exciting part of the industry, it gave me a fantastic foundation for knowing how Westminster operates.
What sparked your interest in public affairs? What do you enjoy most about working in public affairs?
I am a political geek and I was drawn to the fact that it would be my job to read the news, monitor the political landscape to help clients make their case to politicians and influencers. What I enjoy most is that there is a large element of team work and I have wonderful colleagues at Interel.
What does your current role entail on a day-to-day basis?
It’s cliché but no two days are the same. Most broadly, it involves providing advice to clients and helping deliver public affairs strategies. This can include organising events, building external relationships, or providing intelligence and advice on political developments. New business is also a significant part of my role and I am often drafting proposals and speaking to companies about how we can support them.
What is your best networking tip on how to build and maintain good relationships in the industry?
Networking can seem daunting, especially when starting out your career. As with everything, it’s something that gets better with practice.
The most important thing is to be brave and remember that everyone is in the same position as you. Definitely avoid the temptation to just stand and check your phone.
In terms of fostering relationships, make sure to ask for a business card and write on it where you met. I have also found that dropping someone an email to say you enjoyed meeting them and asking to go for a coffee is a great way to build relationships.
You can also gain experience in supportive environments such as Women in Public Affairs networking drinks or APPC events. You’ll gain confidence and feel more at ease in other networking situations.
What makes for a good communicator?
A good listener.
What’s been the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Make sure you’re regularly doing things outside your comfort zone.
How relevant is Degree subject for a public affairs career?
Primarily it’s about having a real interest in politics and the skills you gain through studying, rather than a particular subject. It’s more important to gain some practical experience. I would recommend that anyone looking to work within the industry apply for work experience or internships when possible.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in public affairs?
Any practical experience that can be gained will prove very valuable, whether that is a short work experience or longer internship. Write speculative emails to employers to ask about potential opportunities or see if you can help out with your local MP. You should also consider if you would be best suited to an in-house position, where you can specialise in one area, or in consultancy. When looking at employers, ask about opportunities for personal development such as those investing in training. At the start of your career there is a lot to learn so it’s good to be in a supportive environment with employers who are keen to build on your skills and can offer a culture that attracts and retains their best staff.
Which skills are key for a successful career as public affairs practitioner?
Working in a consultancy there is always a balancing act between different clients with competing deadlines. It's also a fast-paced environment and you need to be very organised and efficient at what you do.