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Careers Centre

Public affairs

Sector Overview

If you are interested in working in the political sector but you want to expand your options beyond the Civil Service, consider public affairs. Public affairs practitioners tend to work 'in house' for a large company, as an advisor for a political consultancy working with a number of clients, for a trade association or union, a political or issues-based organisation or for a government agency. Other related roles can be found in NGOs and Think tanks, political parties or in central government, working as lobbyists, with pressure groups and with different commissions.

Within consultancy alone the range of jobs is enormous and perhaps the best way of finding out about the diverse roles is to do a preliminary job search and see what you can find. There is no such thing as a typical employer or a typical post in public affairs. Most consultancies are relatively small, which means that posts come up fairly infrequently and you may need the flexibility to take on many roles. Several of the larger PR agencies have specialised public affairs or government relations divisions. In 1994 there were 5 public affairs firms, now there are 70.

In general a public affairs consultant tends to make the link between companies or independent organisations and the government. They use their knowledge of political processes to give advice to their clients. Public affairs consultants are required to keep up-to-date with current trends in politics, and read about policy decisions as and when they happen. They are responsible for communicating this information to their clients (some large companies have their own staff involved in public affairs). They have to be able to react quickly in any situation to build strategies for influencing public figures. The job may involve a lot of writing (composing press releases or newsletters) as well as emailing clients to keep them informed. It may also require some travelling to conferences and political events to build networks. It's useful to be aware that the work of public affairs consultants, lobbying, is controversial and on the political agenda.

 

Public affairs attributes profile

 Key attributes/skills needed for the roleWhere you could develop these skills or attributes
The analytical skills to analyse complex problems

These are most likely to be developed and evidenced from your academic studies, especially any dissertation or research projects.

The ability to communicate with excellence, through listening, speaking and writing, and to persuade Presentations within your course, and mooting or debating experience. A student representative role is also likely to offer opportunities to develop these characteristics. CAPOD also offers courses on Communication Skills regularly within its Professional Skills Curriculum.
Research skills Developed through your academic studies and any relevant work experience

Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?

  • Awareness and interest in current affairs and trends

Networks - why and how to use them

Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to assist you with your application. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to connect with organisations. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.

How to gain experience/internships

How to get a (graduate) job

Key UK links and resources

Careers Centre resources

Online

Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:

GoinGlobal

Policy Jobs

Other resources

General public affairs-related careers information

USA resources

Vault

The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.

The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The link below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.

 

Internships USA


Internships in the US - Public Affairs

This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point: