A Closer Look: Consultant (Public Affairs)

Olivia thinks work experience is essential for a career in Public Affairs.

Whilst on my job hunt, I’ve come across lots of great online resources exploring the employment market out there. One of my favourite sites at the moment is Professionelles which profiles workers in all different industries and does a great weekly round up of work-related websites that have caught their eyes each week. This week A Closer Look will be profiling the two founders of the site to learn more about their day jobs. Today, Olivia Hind suggests getting work experience with a local MP if you’re interested in working in public affairs…

What is your official job title? 
My official job title is “consultant” which is quite vague – I work in public affairs so a more generic job title would be public affairs consultant.
What does your average day involve?
It really annoys me when people say “there is no average day”, but there really isn’t. What I’m doing will completely depend on which clients I’m working on that day, what work we are doing on their behalf and how far along we are with a campaign.
I work in healthcare public affairs though, so as a general rule, I’ll start my day off by catching up on any new stories on health and the NHS, familiarise myself with any policy announcements or consultations, and make sure that I’ve read up on anything that might impact the clients that we work with. After that, the day will depend on what needs to be done, so I might be drafting questionnaires or patient surveys, pulling together case studies, preparing research reports, researching policy issues, meeting clients or brainstorming campaign approaches with colleagues.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
At the moment, the biggest challenge is that I’ve only just started! I’m new to consultancy (although not new to healthcare), so I’m trying to catch up on absolutely everything that affects the clients and policy areas that I’m working on – particularly those which fall outside my area of expertise! Healthcare can be hugely complex, and tricky to navigate, so it’s sometimes difficult to keep on top of everything that is changing.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The complexity of policy means that it is really interesting, and really rewarding when you gain an understanding of the issues involved and can make an impact. It’s also really rewarding working on lobbying issues that can actually make a huge difference to people’s lives – the reason that I’m interested in healthcare is because there is such a tangible end result. The people I work with are great too.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into a similar position?
Get as much work experience as you can – not necessarily in a consultancy – working for an MP, working in a government department or doing an in house public affairs role are all useful for gaining skills and knowledge and making contacts.
I completely understand that interning in Westminster just isn’t feasible for everyone, but there are more ways than one to develop your work experience. Try out interning in an MP’s constituency office if you’re not based near London, and ask to help out with parliamentary work where possible. Almost all government departments fill junior roles with agency staff, so find out if you can temp near where you live – there will be a lot of admin but there are also comms and policy roles, and you’ll pick up a better understanding of how policy is formulated in practice. 
Thanks so much to Olivia for getting on board with this project.  If you work in the media/creative industry and have five minutes to spare to help create this careers resource, please have a read about the project here.