David has an MSc Public Affairs and Lobbying from Brunel University and works as an account manager for PoliticsDirect.
I chose a career in public affairs consultancy as I had an interest in how policy is influenced and designed and also wanted to mix my political interests with the business world and how organisations and charities operate.
Previously, I worked for a member of parliament after graduating from my first degree in history and politics before deciding to go back to education and study for the MSc Public Affairs and Lobbying at Brunel University . I chose an internship through my course at a company I wanted to work for and luckily they took me on at the end of the internship.
During both degrees I gained valuable experience of research, critical thinking and analysis. Most importantly, I gained experience and confidence in my ability to work independently. However, gaining practical as well as academic experience on my Masters course was crucial in making me more employable. Whilst my Masters course offered this as a compulsory part of the course, it is well worth trying to gain some experience, if possible, whilst studying.
My Masters degree was very relevant in helping me secure my current position, although it’s not a prerequisite to entering the industry. Most importantly, you’ve got to have a strong interest in politics and ideally see it as a vehicle for change through ideas.
I work with the clients I manage on a daily basis to deliver the public affairs targets they have. This typically includes giving them strategic advice on political matters, helping to arrange meetings with stakeholders and drafting expert written material.
When I started in my role 18 months ago as an account executive, the work was mainly research and monitoring based. Since then, I’ve progressed to manage client accounts, working more on political and media strategy and how their objectives can be achieved.
I enjoy working in a political environment, being on top of what the political stories and future implications of changes could be. I also enjoy working with industries to raise their profile and influencing government policy to better support them.
The most challenging part of my job is making sure you remain on top of the political agenda to understand the implications of events for an organisation and putting a strategy in place that complements their short and long-term objectives.
If you have a real passion for politics then it’s great to be working around political events and discussing political implications. Working for an agency is also varied so you can be working on energy policy one day, then skills policy the next, then creative industries the day after. Also, public affairs is a vital part of having an informed debate about political decisions, and although lobbying is often misunderstood, it’s a vital part of our democratic system.
Getting experience with your local MP, even just helping out at weekends, will be a great advantage when looking for jobs. You don’t need to have studied politics but you need to have a real interest if you want to enjoy the profession. Also, look to work for companies who value transparency (are Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) registered), creativity and merit. Public affairs has become a much more professional industry in the past decade and you should look for companies who embrace that.
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