Case study

Public affairs consultant — Anna Jobling

Anna enjoys the variety of working for a consultancy, building up relationships with clients and helping them make their case to politicians and influencers

How did you get your job?

After graduating from the University of Bath with a degree in Politics and International Relations, I secured an internship at a PR firm that specialised in public policy campaigns. After four months this became a permanent position, and I was given a place on the company's graduate-training programme.

Having completed two years at this consultancy, I realised that my real area of interest lay on the political side of things and I decided to focus my career in public affairs. I had previously worked at Interel, a global public affairs agency, during a placement year from university and having greatly enjoyed my time I was keen to go back.

I had also completed internships in the House of Commons, another public affairs consultancy and spent a summer working in the communications department of Essex County Council.

All of these positions helped me to gain relevant experience, putting me in a better position to secure the role I wanted.

I would recommend applying for work experience or internships, especially during the Easter and summer holidays

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Primarily it's about having a real interest in politics and the skills you gain through studying, rather than a particular subject.

My degree helped me to develop transferable skills essential to working in public affairs, such as the ability to think critically, undertake in-depth research, produce balanced analyses and evaluate political developments.

I have found group presentations and seminar sessions during my degree helpful in improving my public speaking and presentational skills, which has helped in my current job, for example, when pitching to potential clients for new business.

However, the most important thing is to gain some practical experience. Your degree can only do so much in this respect. I would recommend that anyone looking to work within the industry apply for work experience or internships when possible, especially during the Easter and summer holidays.

What are your main work activities?

At Interel, I work for six or seven clients at any one time. They each have their own respective areas of interest and issues on which to campaign. Based on those issues, we will develop political strategies and undertake strands of activity to work towards specific campaign objectives.

On a typical day this could include:

  • monitoring and alerting clients to political, legislative and regulatory developments, including giving advice on how these can impact their business and how they should respond;
  • identifying and approaching stakeholders (such as MPs, Peers and government officials) for meetings;
  • attending and supporting stakeholder meetings alongside clients;
  • drafting responses to policy consultations and writing external briefing papers;
  • attending key policy and networking events.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Since joining Interel, I have built up my knowledge of the range of issues impacting the clients I work with. I have taken on an increasing role in developing strategy, building client trust and contact time.

I want to continue gaining more responsibility and bringing in new business.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I am passionate about politics and current affairs. I love that it's my job to read the news, monitor the political landscape and help clients make their case to politicians and influencers.

Moreover, working in a consultancy means great variety.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Working in a consultancy there is always a balancing act between different clients with competing deadlines. You have to be organised and efficient at what you do.

It's also a fast-paced environment and the role means you have to keep abreast of all relevant political and industry developments.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Any practical experience that can be gained will prove very valuable, whether that is short work experience or longer internships. 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 suited to an in-house position, where you can specialise in one area, or a 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.

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