Politics and public affairs

UK Parliament

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This sector not for you? Don't worry, there are plenty of others to explore.

The politics and public affairs sector is a multi-disciplinary field, which includes many different organisations and job roles. Some roles will involve a commitment to a particular political party, whereas others will be politically independent.

Think tanks are generally non-profit organisations, independent of political parties and government, though they may have a political bias and work for a particular agenda. Their purpose is to influence policy and debate, rather than direct campaigning. Some have a particular focus, while others address a wider range of issues, including political strategy and social policy.

Political or public affairs consultancies monitor legislation and changes in policy, to assess its potential impact on a business, charity or other organisation. They may seek to influence policy and inform political debate, engaging with policy makers to present the views of their client organisations; others do little or no lobbying.

Find out about politics and public affairs

Think about the variety of organisations and roles in this area, as you use resources to research the sector.

  • Read job profiles and case studies on Prospects - search for Public affairs consultant, Politician's assistant, Government social research officer, Trade union research officer, Social researcher - these will give you an idea of entry routes and experience needed
  • The Public Affairs Networking Guide looks at the role of public affairs practitioners, including the activities and skills involved,
  • www.politics.co.uk is a useful site for political news and comment
  • The Hansard Society exists to promote democracy and political engagement - have a look at the News and Research sections of their website.
  • Political Science Resources has extensive information on British politics and elections
  • Prospect magazine has articles and discussion on politics and current affairs
  • Apolitical is a resource of global policy making 
  • Guardian list of think tanks (dated Sept 2013, but still useful)

What skills do I need?

Consider the skills which are valuable for work in politics and public affairs. Their importance will vary according to the specific role, but you will find the following skills are likely to be in demand in this sector:Research

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication - oral and written
  • Report writing
  • Procedural skills
  • New technologies/social media
  • Networking, relationship building
  • Negotiation, tact and diplomacy
  • Commercial awareness
  • Language skills
  • Resilience, ability to work under pressure.

Work experience

You may be able to get work experience by exploring some of the following possibilities:

  • Involvement in student or local politics
  • Volunteering in your local constituency office - volunteering experience is invaluable to build up a track record
  • Working for an MP website advertises work experience and internships (some voluntary)
  • Parliament work placements
  • If you are looking for summer work, bear in mind that for the British Parliament much of the summer is taken up with the parliamentary recess, MPs' holidays, and the party conferences - other vacations may be a better option
  • Consider joining a political party or one of the Public Affairs professional bodies to help develop your networks
  • Check websites for political parties for internship vacancies

The following think tanks may offer internships or work experience. (Note: this is not an exhaustive list; some opportunities may be paid and some voluntary.)

Charities may offer work experience or voluntary placements which will give you an insight into government affairs and lobbying, for example:

These are just a few examples, but there are lots of other organisations, who may offer similar opportunities.

For work experience and traineeships in Europe, see:

Finding jobs

Think tanks, public affairs consultancies, MPs and campaign groups may take on graduates in research and policy roles. However, think tanks often require considerable work experience, and/or a Masters qualification, or take on people who have previously had an internship with them.

The public affairs industry has no set form for job titles - you may find a range of terms used in job ads, including: public affairs, policy, government affairs, parliamentary affairs, political adviser, political researcher and more, see PubAffairs (Public Affairs Networking). Many practitioners have a degree in Politics or related subject, but an interest in politics and communications is essential.

Vacancy websites include:

For vacancies in Europe see:

What can I do at York?

  • Talk to people working in the sector - use York profiles and mentors (search Political Organisation, Government Local and National, and Diplomatic & International Relations) and attend our networking events
  • Explore the opportunities volunteering offers you to gain experience and build your skills. The Do-it website lets you search for opportunities in relevant categories, eg Politics, Human Rights, campaigning
  • Join university campaigning groups, such as Amnesty, People and Planet etc, or the students' union political groups, to gain an understanding of how pressure groups work within the political system
  • Keep up to date with current affairs and the latest the political news by reading and watching local and national news