Information for Graduates
There are various routes into public affairs with some joining the industry straight from University or having completed a post-graduate course, and others joining from a related profession a few years after graduating, or even much later on in their careers.
Many public affairs practitioners have a degree in politics or a closely related subject but it’s an interest in politics and communications that is most relevant. It is highly advantageous to back up qualifications and enthusiasm with practical experiences gained through work placements or internships.
A Foot on the Ladder
Work placements or internships can be taken in MP/MSP/AM/MLA/MEP offices, with political consultancies, in a campaigning organisation or trade and sectoral associations. Many placements or internships are advertised publicly, but consider drawing up a list of a select number of organisations you'd like to work for and contact them directly. Always ensure that a covering letter and CV is specifically targeted to the organisation and show that you’ve done your research. These opportunities will vary in length up to a paid year.
For those who support a specific political party, a good way to gain experience is to volunteer for the party, supporting a local candidate or working in their national communication teams.
The most important thing is to get a foot on the public affairs ladder. Start job hunting early once you have decided to pursue a career in the public affairs industry. Looking for opportunities during the final two years of your studies is advised. Even if it’s a role for a few weeks during holidays or a few hours a week during term-time, everything helps to build up your CV.
Consultancy Graduate Schemes
Many large political consultancies have graduate programmes that last from three to twelve months. These introduce graduates to the basic political processes, the forms of communication which are used in politics and lobbying, and teach client relationship skills. Graduates will often be expected to conduct research for more experienced consultants which is an excellent way to work across several sectors and decide which areas or issues they are most interested in working on in the future. Most consultancies may expect candidates to have some relevant experience, either through work experience or from an involvement in student politics.
More information about what you might be doing when working in public affairs can be found in our Guide to Working in Public Affairs and in the GraduateForward Advice Centre, together with Profiles of public affairs practitioners and advice from recruitment professionals.