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Career Summary:

I started my career at the British Council. I left to complete a part-time MSc at the LSE, working as a recruitment consultant and parliamentary researcher during my studies. Upon completion, I joined the policy team of the professional body for the recruitment industry. I have recently taken up the post of Policy & Public Affairs Manager at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and wrote this advice when I was in my previous role at REC.

Academic/Professional Qualifications:

MSc Media and Communications, London School of Economics
BA (Hons) Film Studies and American Studies, King’s College London
Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations

How did you get into Public Affairs?

I had worked as a recruitment consultant and as a parliamentary researcher in the House of Lords whilst completing a part-time postgraduate degree at the London School of Economics. With a real understanding of the recruitment industry, as well as a sound understanding of politics and research experience, I was well suited to work in the policy and public affairs function of the largest trade association for the recruitment industry. My experience on the frontline has really helped me in dealing with members and I have really developed my skills in the role.

What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?

I check my emails and phone messages before engaging members on a variety of issues. This can involve engaging journalists, civil servants and politicians to put across the view of the industry. At the moment, I am: writing a number of consultation responses; running an election for the position of Chair of one of our sector groups; and organising a number of focus groups with the Department of Health on the clinical governance of locum doctors. I am also working with the editor of our magazine on a forthcoming feature on the public sector workforce, one of the areas I am responsible for. Speaking, writing, reading in other words!

What do you enjoy about working in public affairs?

I enjoy the buzz and, as a news junkie, I relish being paid to keep abreast of current affairs. Working for a membership body, I also engage on strategic issues on behalf of our members. It does feel like the work is really important and it is great to play my part on important issues such as the future of the NHS workforce.

What skills and characteristics are most important in your job?

I think curiosity and drive, coupled with strong verbal and written communication skills, are most important in my job. With a large membership base, an ability to translate complex issues into understandable pieces of information is also vital.

How relevant is Degree subject for a public affairs career?

Whilst academic backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences tend to be the norm, I think curiosity, drive and enthusiasm are more important. If you can communicate with a wide range of people, have a keen interest in current affairs, have good research skills and can write, then you are well set for a career in public affairs.

As a former recruitment professional, what advice would you give to job seekers (at any level)?

Get yourself out there. We often hear of personal brands and profiles. These are really important but you shouldn’t be scared of advertising that brand! I would also say use a good recruiter (well, given my background, I would, wouldn’t I?!). The amount of times that I have heard people have been looking for jobs for months and then, after getting in touch with a recruitment consultancy, they secure a role in weeks is ridiculous. They have the networks and the contacts and, if you are not right for one opportunity, they will keep you in mind for another. Finally, do your research – evaluate what you want from your next role, where you want to get to and what you want to learn. Take your time, be measured and make sure you have a plan.

What value does post-graduate study provide to a public affairs career?

For me, it added real value. It allowed me to build on the cultural and historical grasp of political persuasion that I had gained through my first degree, as well as the opportunity to hone my writing and research skills further. I would say that the educational institution matters as well. The contacts I made and the activities I was exposed to at the LSE, one of the world’s leading social science institutions, really helped as I sought to get into public affairs.

If you could timetravel back to your final year at University, what career advice would you give yourself?

I would say spend more time enjoying being at University!! I would also tell myself not to rush: in a competitive environment it is tempting just to jump on any chance that presents itself. Value the skills you have and appreciate that you have a lot to offer. It is worth taking the time to find the right opportunity, not just any opportunity.

Read Chris Wilford’s Public Affairs Profile where he answers questions including: Working in a trade association, how do you engage members in public affairs and policy issues? Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have worked on? How important is political party involvement to a public affairs career?

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