David works as a parliamentary assistant for a Westminster MP based in Edinburgh. He studied politics at the University of Edinburgh, during which time he worked closely with the political party he currently works for and completed internships with two pressure groups.
After finishing my degree, I wanted to move straight into the world of politics. My studies were largely theoretical but when you work for a politician you are driven by their ideology and goals.
My involvement in politics through my activities at university assisted me in my job search as I learnt about the political world and the ‘rules of engagement’. Crucially, I got to know the people I would work with and useful connections for when I eventually started looking for a job. The internships also provided vital office-based experience.
The work is highly varied. Typically my day involves regular correspondence with constituents, government agencies and other politicians. Tasks might relate to the member’s work in Parliament, working with local press and community organisations, and assisting individual constituents.
By lunchtime it is not uncommon to have completed some press work, prepared briefing notes for a parliamentary debate and helped reinstate a constituent’s benefits. Whatever the task, a good understanding of the subject matter is required to ensure that that you are able to give the member a quick, to-the-point briefing, keeping them abreast of developments on matters ranging from immigration law to energy policy.
Working with the public allows you to see the effect of your work and the vision your member has for the constituency and country. Constituents will very happily tell you how they feel about national policy or complain about the new bin collection system. When they do say thanks you know that you have helped the member retain a few more votes.
Every day, you must remember that you are working on behalf of the politician, and it is their opinion and public image that you are striving to build and maintain - you must sustain absolute professionalism in the role or that slip of the tongue might end up in the local newspaper.
In politics, a week is a long time. There will be days when you will have to work late, attend public meetings, and prepare an urgent press release or parliamentary question on the bus. The work can be thankless and the research may never get used. You are likely to be part of a small pressured team and when the work is coming in thick and fast you simply have to keep on top of it.
Good communication is key and will prepare you for future roles in public affairs and of course standing for your own seat. A member’s interests will mean you develop a vast knowledge in defined policy areas. Building an understanding of the legislation and how it plays out is interesting and I am even considering starting a law degree.
Getting involved in politics is easy, getting on can be harder. Getting to know the politicians and party you wish to work with will stand you in good stead and prepare you for work in politics.
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