Posted on 7/04/2016 by Joe Henry
Blog tags: Public Affairs, Research, candidates, Career advice.
So, after graduating and then taking that job with an MP, you are now deciding what to do next in your career. Do you go and work for a consultancy or do you work in-house with a charity or with a company? This is a big life decision for any public affairs professional. So what are your options? Which directions can you go and what are the benefits?
Consultancies provide political and public affairs work for their clients in return for a fee, either as a retainer or on a project basis. Consultancies are very commercially focused and always have an eye on the bottom line.
Within consultancy there are generally three levels – Account Executive, Account Manager and Account Director.
Benefits of Consultancy
One of the benefits of consultancy is that it offers a very structured career path, meaning you normally know the time frame it will take you to get promoted up the ladder. The variety of work within consultancy is another fantastic benefit. You get to work with multiple clients over a range of issues, specialisations and policy directions – allowing you to try before you buy.
Lastly and most importantly, the best benefit of working in consultancy is the exposure to a large number of public affairs professionals from whom you can learn and who can act as mentors.
Working in-house means focusing on one organisations goals, issues and reputation. You will work in an environment in which public affairs rubs shoulders with a wide range of professionals on a daily basis. You will generally get exposure to the organisations leadership and board.
In-house there generally three levels Public Affairs Officer, Public Affairs Manager and Head of Public Affairs.
Benefits of working In-house
There is a wide range of benefits to working in-house. You can focus on one set of issues for one organisation, meaning that you can get really stuck in and develop a truer, deeper and more specialised knowledge of the policy issues.
Another benefit of working in-house is the chance to be exposed to a wide range of people who work in different professions and occupations. This is a great advantage, as you will start to see issues from outside of the Westminster bubble: which, long term, will allow you to become a better lobbyist.
Working in-house also means that on a daily basis you will have exposure to senior management at a high level, sometimes even at board level. This means your ideas will be heard by the very people who can say “yes” and give the correct levels of backing.
Along with working with senior management, you will be able to set the strategic agenda of the public affairs function and work daily at this higher level, whilst giving more mundane and routine work to your consultancy.
In conclusion, almost all politicos should aim for a plum in-house role with interesting issues at their heart. But remember both in-house and consultancies have good and bad points and both offer career direction and fantastic challenges. Do not be despondent if you end up working in your second choice: as it will still offer a wide variety of challenges and can set you up when that perfect role comes along.