How To Work In International Development

geddesMaϊa Gedde is a Country Manager for Spark, a Dutch NGO working in entrepreneurship and job creation in post conflict countries.  Her new book, ‘How To Work In International Development and Humanitarian Assistance: a Career Guide’ has just been published by Routledge –  April 2015 (use the code FLR40 to get a discount). Maϊa interviewed us when researching her book and, since publication, we have spoken to her by Skype in Rwanda about her background in the sector and how she came to write  the book.

Firstly Maϊa tell us a little about your background and how you came to be working in the sector.  I graduated with a degree in biology from Oxford in 2000. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do but was sure there was more to than cells. I decided to explore options by doing some temping work, but I also saved to go travelling for a year. That is when I became interested in writing and the potential of small scale businesses (fashion producers initially) to contribute to the economy of the developing world, although it took me a long time to actually work in that field.

I found my first job in the sector through a temp agency that happened to have DFiD as a client. I had worked for them before and specifically expressed interest in DfID. It was rare for them to get assignments but I got lucky – like many of these things: right place at right time. I worked as a PA to the deputy head of the Africa Great Lakes and Horn Department covering for someone taking a six-month sabbatical. It was 2002 and an exciting time to work in the sector with lots of MDG enthusiasm and I helped prepare documents for the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development. The job exposed me to a wide variety of development professionals and I started to get curious how all these people from diverse backgrounds had found their way into the sector and how I could chart my own career path. I guess this is what planted the seed for the book idea.

I took an evening course in international development at Birkbeck and LSE, taught by SOAS staff to learn more about the sector, along with other evening course in freelance journalism – just for fun. The general advice I kept getting was to do a masters in development so I went on to do an MA in Development in Sweden (then, as now, Masters are free of charge in Sweden for EU residents). I prioritised doing some fieldwork for my Masters to give me that field experience and spent six weeks in Malawi researching primary education.

After that I started to seriously look for jobs, but like many who have just completed a Masters, still didn’t feel a specialist in any particular area. It was my jourmalism “hobby” which – coupled with my Masters – led on to my first position – to write a manual for a health NGO working in sub-Saharan Africa. The moral here is pursue your wider passions, not just academic achievements. When someone left that then led on to a full time programme coordinator role, where I was based in London but travelled to Uganda, Ghana and Malawi a few times a year.   It was my idea job for about three years and I had a steep learning curve and was loving it. But then I started to think where next? What are the options?

How did the book come about? At that point in my career it was the book that I really wanted to read – how could and should I plan my career and what were other people experiences? I started to look around but didn’t find any adequate resource. Yes there were some on volunteering, some on first jobs, but no real comprehensive resource which also covered the breadth of the sector and included humanitarian assistance. So that is when the idea for the book really took shape. I have also been involved in recruitment in my various different positions, and knew how much interest there was in the sector and some of the difficulties people who want to transition to the sector face – so I knew that there was also demand. At the time I was involved with some colleagues in writing another book (Working in International Health, OUP, 2011) so it didn’t feel like such a daunting task, and the publishers were interested.

The book finally took shape and is comprised of four different sections. The first is aimed at newcomers to the sector – including an overview of where you could work and who you could work for. People often just think NGOs and UN, but the range of employers is vast and useful to keep this as wide as possible during the job search.

The second section is aimed at the job seeker, but also covers academic qualifications (useful for anyone planning the academic studies with the sectors in mind) and how to get the most out of volunteering and internships.

The third section is for the people like me – a number of years experience in the sector but planning their career development. There is also a section on becoming a consultant and moving out of the sectors.

The final section covers 54 different areas of speciality. People often say “I want to work in development” or “I want to be a humanitarian” but the sectors are so broad. Some specialisation is vital, although of course the ideal is having T-shaped skills. Breadth of experience with the depth of specialisation. So this section covers everything from Advocacy to WASH and everything in between – education, M&E, development communications and how to become a country director! With a case study of someone working in each of the specialisations.

What were some of the themes that emerged? Well it confirmed how broad the sectors are and the range of people who work in it – from the urban planner now working on issues of orphans and vulnerable children, to the astrophysicist working on policy issues. It also confirmed how transferrable various skills are – and some of the techniques used by career changers, although for some entry to the sector is planned and very deliberate.

There isn’t one uniform career path or trajectory – everyone has a very different route and it’s often highly personal and depends on the opportunities which present themselves. Because of this developing and nurturing your network is very important for the sector and important also during the job search.   As the sectors are also changing so quickly our senior peers career paths are not a clear role model – we have to chart our own.

What were some of the potential growth areas you identified?  From my own perspective, the private sector is becoming increasingly important – the old cliché ‘trade not aid’. Impact investing and supporting entrepreneurs for job creation are important emerging areas. Another important theme is the much welcomed emphasis on rigorous evaluation – coming from a scientific background I welcome the growing trend of impact evaluation although I do recognise its difficult to run on all projects.

It also seems that it is going to become harder for people from the west to get careers in the sector as there is a significant shift to the southern hemisphere and an increasing desire to recruit local people wherever possible. At the same time there are lots of opportunities for people to get some initial experience and again when they have some significant experience and are able to apply for more senior jobs

The Power of Food

niki headshotNiki Psarias is a campaigns consultant who has developed a particular focus on food within international aid and development. Currently she is leading two campaigns on behalf of the NGO The Hunger Project UK – “Live Below the Line” and “World Hunger Day”. We spoke to Niki about her campaigns, her work as a consultant, and how she has developed her career. (Read an earlier blog about The Hunger Project UK)


Niki, the first thing lots of people want to know is what you studied and were there any particular qualifications or experience that enabled you to get a start in the sector?  I studied languages at the University of Warwick (French and German), which can indeed be useful in this sector, particularly French, although my career didn’t actually begin in international development. I started my working life in international news with the US broadcaster, NBC, and it is there that I really developed an interest in international affairs. That journalism grounding has been invaluable to my work in this sector, and after leaving news, and a stint in New York City in the corporate world, I began the transition into development organisations, something that I’d wanted to do for quite a while.

How did you go about that?  I began by researching organisations that I admired, and who worked in regions, or around issues, that I was interested in. My time in news included a strong focus on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I was passionate about the regions, and so my first NGO experience was with the charity Afghanaid. Over time, I have made more connections, working with various NGOs, from aid organisations to think tanks, building knowledge and experience. New skills have included fundraising, which I’d never been involved in before, and is a fundamental part of any development organisation’s work.

You have developed a focus on food and issues around it. Was that interest always there?  An interest in food? Well, I am Mediterranean so food has always played an important role in my life. But it was only really during my time in New York that the passion that I have now really developed. How could it not?! And through my work on food-based campaigns I’ve been able to marry that passion with my interest in international affairs and development.

When ‘food’ is mentioned in the context of development it’s usually to invoke negative issues – like the lack of food, collapsing prices, drought and the debate around organic or scientific farming.   Yes, that’s true. However, I’m looking at food in a slightly different way. What fascinates me is the ‘power’ that food has. And it really does.

Think of your own life. What is the single most unifying feature in family gettogethers, or catchups with friends? Food. It brings us together. But its power goes beyond even that. It has the potential to act as a catalyst or the medium for understanding and dialogue, and even change. I’m trying to harness that power in my work -using food as a way to get people thinking about an issue, like poverty, or even conflict.

Last year I was part of the Conflict Kitchen London project with peacebuilding NGO International Alert. We ran an award-winning popup restaurant in Shoreditch, serving food from regions that have experienced conflict, as a way to inform and open up dialogue about their paths towards peace and resolution.

Have you taken any special courses about food?  Not especially, although as someone who is already passionate about it I make it my business to learn as much I can, and create connections where possible. Course-wise, there are free courses with FutureLearn that are worth doing, including one on food security from Lancaster University. Chatham House also runs events around similar issues that you can attend.

Has the focus on food been a successful strategy for you?  I didn’t necessarily develop it as a ‘strategy’. For me, it is simply the case of bringing together things that I am passionate about, in the same way some development professionals develop a focus on gender, or the role of technology within development, for example. There’s so much more to explore within this idea of the ‘power of food’, and using food in innovative ways. It’s engaging and exciting, and I love the work that I do.

Which brings us to the campaigns you are involved in.  Yes, that’s right. I’m currently running two campaigns for The Hunger Project UK and I would love your readers to support us, and consider getting involved.

  • Live Below the Line – this is a global initiative that invites participants to live on £1 a day for all food and drink for 5 days. It’s estimated that someone living below the poverty line has around £1 or less to live on, and there are 1.2 billion people living below the line globally. The challenge is open until the end of June, all you need is five consecutive days, £5, and people to support you. You’ll be supporting The Hunger Project’s work empowering communities to end their own hunger.

The challenge can sound a little daunting but our website contains recipe ideas and advice, and we’re also very active on social media to support our challengers. This is a food challenge that does some good, and is life-changing for both you, and the people that your fundraising will go to. I’ve done the challenge myself, and it really does change the way you think about food, food poverty, and food waste.

  • World Hunger Day (28th May) – World Hunger Day is an initiative by The Hunger Project UK started a few years ago, and now recognised globally as a day to celebrate sustainable solutions to ending hunger and poverty.

I’d love for your readers to help us spread the word about the campaign on social media, or blogs. And if you can’t do a 5 day challenge, then consider taking on a one day ‘live below the line’ on World Hunger Day itself, spending £1 on all food and drink on that day, and asking friends and family to support you.

As a campaigns consultant how do you measure success on these kinds of campaigns?  Success can be measured in different ways. How much money was raised for the NGO, or the particular issue you’re campaigning for, and what impact will that vital fundraising have? I’m also looking at the campaign’s reach on social media, and press – was there national and international coverage? Blogs too -even getting the word out through this blog will help raise the profile of the campaigns I’m currently working on. You could also think about awards. Has your campaign been recognised with any, within the sector and outside of it? At Medical Relief International (Merlin) our ‘Plumpy’Nut Challenge’, another food challenge campaign, was awarded The Charity Times ‘Fundraising Technology’ award for its innovative use of social media. And Conflict Kitchen London was named ‘Most Inspirational Popup’ of the year by Time Out London.

Ultimately, the most important thing for a campaign is to raise awareness about a global issue, get people involved and engaged, and raise funds to make a change.

Are there downsides to your work?  Campaign periods can be pretty intense and long hours, particularly if you’re really focussing on social media, which isn’t 9-5. It’s really important to keep a balance between these periods of high intensity and ‘calmer’ projects. And also, do yoga!

At present, my work keeps me in the UK. Eventually, I would like to transfer my skills to work for NGOs in the developing world, particularly if that involves food.

Finance and Foreign Affairs

A note on Fiona Richardson’s blog over at King’s College London about an investment bank recruiting students with an interest in foreign affairs prompts me to remind readers of a number of posts over the last few years that showcase a number of politics students creating careers in the City and financial services.

Political Risk in Investment Banking – When I worked at King’s College, University of London I met lots of students who were looking to develop a career in political risk.  There are lots of consultancies providing intelligence about the political context to inform business decisions. If I have a supermarket chain in China what happens if bird flu breaks out? Is there any forthcoming elections or legislation that will impact on my companies operations in Italy?  Is my oil company in Nigeria going to get nationalised?  Dane Alexander was unusual in pursuing a political risk career in a bank.  Not that it was unusual for banks to do this but unusual for someone to be able to get a role without heaps of experience.

Insurance – Political Risk is also a discrete stream within the insurance profession.  Insurance professionals might use their international knowledge to generate a prognosis about stability in a region or country – emerging markets can be volatile places or to provide foresight about issues such as contract defaults, terrorism, political violence and the revoking of import/export licenses.  This post gives an overview of political risk and insurance

Accountancy – While accountancy is an international profession most politics and international affairs students would not consider that a knowledge of foreign affairs would be of such a direct benefit for the sector.  However, a while ago, we talked to a politics masters student who was training as an accountant to provide him with professional tools – particularly around understanding numbers and accounts that would allow him to become a forensic accountant analysing the flow of money across Europe, especially from Russia.  This role has a number of parallels with the vacancy from JP Morgan that prompted this post

Grant Thornton – Read about a politics student now working as a business advisory consultant


Paid Internships with Graduate Gateway

gradgatewayWith some students being asked to pay thousands of  Pounds for internships we thought it especially timely that we spoke to Helen Kenny one of the consultants in a new organisation, Graduate Gateway, that is providing paid internships in London in the public and private sector.

Helen Kenny

Helen Kenny

Helen, how did Graduate Gateway come about?  The agency is part of The Careers Group, University of London. We felt there was an unmet demand from students for good quality internships that would help them improve their CVs by providing experience, training and some income. In addition we had really good links with London employers as they use The Careers Group and the University of London colleges we work in for their graduate recruitment. Up until recently we had been partnering with Step Enterprise. This worked pretty well but it came to a natural end and we decided we could go it alone, which is when ‘Graduate Gateway’ came about.

What kind of organisations use Graduate Gateway? Well a growing range – consultancies, charities, local councils, start-ups and lots of different types of roles as well – everything from technical roles – IT, programming, CAD but lots of roles for students from humanities backgrounds – things like marketing, development work with Charities, communications work. One of our biggest programmes is the ‘London Council Internships Programme’. This isn’t to be confused with the National Graduate Development Programme which is the two year graduate recruitment scheme run by the Local Government Association.

How do students benefit from the internships? All the work offered is graduate level work on programmes that run over extended periods from a minimum of 8 weeks up to one year. So interns get to produce substantial pieces of work that that will look great on CVs. Many internships get converted into permanent jobs at the end and, even if that doesn’t happen, interns are often able to apply for other internally advertised jobs they wouldn’t see otherwise. And of course our internships are paid – at least minimum wage but more typically at an enhanced rate. There are other less obvious things as well – a chance to meet experienced professionals and expand your networks. There is also the chance for interns to have a free 20 minute consultation with one of our careers advisors, following completion of their internship if they feel they need further guidance on what to do with their experience and where they want to get to next.

What are the internships like? One of the reasons we are growing is because we provide programmes that benefit both the employers and students. Our feedback is very positive. There is a lot of variety in the programmes as you can see if you visit the website. All the internships contain a significant training element but also provide an opportunity to deliver real projects. A lot of the feedback from our interns focussed on the fact that our internships provide a real challenge and involve a lot of responsibility which may not have been gained elsewhere. Getting this balance right is one of the challenges of the scheme and it is one of the reasons the government decided to treat the programs as work rather than training. However, we feel we have got the balance right and it offers a good opportunity for both work and training.

What tips do you have for applicants? Well many of the internships are quite sought-after and there can be quite a lot of competition. The most we had was around 400 applications for an arts management internship at the Barbican. That was very unusual though. Even so you should submit good quality applications – do the right thing about spelling and grammar. The other main tip I have is for students only to apply for internships they are interested in and qualified for. We do get students applying for absolutely everything and it really does not make them convincing candidates. Especially when they don’t tailor the applications for specific vacancies. You need to read the individual job specifications, tailor your skills and be selective. That way you will be a much better candidate.

International Public Policy – working in a national vs. European context

This interview was conducted by Eva Kiss, a Careers Consultant and originally posted on the blog run by Fiona Richardson from King’s College Careers Service – Peace Politics and Security. You can subscribe directly to Fiona’s blog at

Are you interested in pursuing a career in International Public Policy? In this interview, Myriam Watson, former Communications Specialist, shares her experience of working for the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO). By highlighting some of the key features of working in a national versus European context, we hope to help you decide on which context would suit you better.

“It was very interesting to see that some of the key issues, challenges, as well as the ways of working were quite similar between the DFID and DEVCO.

The communication on International Development is very often done in partnership with NGOs that also have a strong interest in informing the public about development issues. When working in a single country, it is possible to develop a more in-depth relationship with such partners. In the UK, there is a very active scene of development NGOs, and the UK government builds on this opportunity very consciously. They identified their top 100 partners, and worked with them in a very refined way at both the strategic and the practical level to maximise impact.

In the European Commission, working in partnership is also a very strong element; however, there are a lot more stakeholders to collaborate with. This makes it challenging to develop long-term partnerships. Having said that, I had the pleasure to work in close association with UNICEF to develop joint communication products related to very rewarding projects. These helped both organisations to raise awareness of the funding and assistance they provided, and to pass on high-level political messages.

A national framework also makes it easier to set priorities, portray the target audience and consequently, to develop more refined messages. In the EU, there are a lot more stakeholders to take into account and due to the complexity of the context, decision-making can be slower and the work more complicated. The audience is way more varied, and as there is no real European public sphere to put your message to, you need to work through 28 national channels and try to localise your message. At the same time, working for the EU is extremely enriching and rewarding. It gives one the sense of being a facilitator in finding ways to elevate the debate, identify common ground, forge compromises and bring people together. It is both challenging and fascinating to explore how to define ‘European interest’. It is not driven by ‘party-politics’, but the idea of ‘what unites us’. It is probably easier to integrate your own voice. Also, if there is a change of national government, for those whose views don’t resonate with those of the new leadership, it can be difficult to deal with the change in the political agenda. This factor isn’t so radically present in the EU.”

Myriam, you studied International Relations, European Law, Journalism, and gained a certificate in International Development. What else have you done to advance your career?

“I read extensively, watched a lot of documentaries, and volunteered in Ghana to help build a library in a school and to run an AIDS awareness campaign. I would really recommend anyone interested in International Development to volunteer. It is a very competitive field, therefore it is important to try to do as many traineeships as possible, and to exploit your network – or build one, if you don’t have one. Getting in touch with alumni, and going to conferences to talk to people are good ways – this is also how I got my first internship. Using your dissertation can also be valuable, as it shows that you have immersed with the topic. It is a very fast developing area, so it is vital to keep up-to-date with the trends. One thing to keep in mind is that it is worth focusing on smaller organisations, as it is very difficult to get into the big ones. And those who want to work in the national government or the EU public administration, but don’t succeed in the civil service competition, can still work in close collaboration with these as part of development NGOs.”

UNHCR – Talent Recruitment

* Here’s some news of UN recruitment posted on the blog run by Fiona Richardson from King’s College Careers Service – Peace Politics and Security. Brace yourselves, you;ll need at least two years of work experience.  You can subscribe directly to Fiona’s blog at

There have been a couple of posts in the last few months about working for the U.N including a fascinating podcast of current King’s student Sarah Marshall talking about her experiences. Click on the UN tag on the right hand side of the page to find these in the archive.

Sarah alerted me last week to this current U.N recruitment round .  As is usually the case with the U.N it requires a minimum of two years work experience. Some of you may have that experience; if not then the criteria for this vacancy my be interesting from the perspective of mid term career planning. .

Entry Level Humanitarian Professional Programme

The strategic objective of the Entry Level Professional Humanitarian Programme is to identify the talent required by UNHCR to meet its operational and organizational demands today and in the future. If you are a talented professional with a passion for humanitarian work, and under 40 years of age, this is an excellent opportunity to build a career with UNHCR.

Applicants will need to fulfill the following minimum requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution;
  • Two years of relevant working experience in the respective functional area;
  • Proficiency in English and at least one other UN language (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish);
  • Willingness to serve in conflict zones, and field locations.

Eligible candidates will go through a comprehensive assessment process, including psychometric and language proficiency tests.

Candidates who are selected will join this 2-year programme at the P2 Grade level and will be deployed to the field after having completed a comprehensive orientation programme.

Functional areas you can apply to:

Full details are on JobOnline

Careers in Political Campaigning

The arena of political campaigning and public affairs has an increasing prominence. One reflection of this has been the introduction of the controversial Lobbying Act by the coalition government.  Another is the increasing number of postgraduate and vocational courses that provide a platform for those considering or developing a career in the sector.  Postgraduate courses are available under the umbrella of public affairs, public policy or communications. Courses will often include a practical placement – these could be in Westminster or even Brussels, with consultancies or with companies depending on the focus of the course. You don’t necessarily need a Masters level qualification though to get started in the sector and many Masters courses are aimed at those already in the sector.    We spoke to Jamie Hewitt, Director of Campaigner Academy about careers in the sector and how Campaigner Academy can help.

What type of student has the potential to make a good campaigner? Students who are intellectually curious, enjoy meeting new people and discussing politics. Some campaigners are more introverted, but it certainly helps to be outgoing. Good analytical skills are also hugely important. Campaigners spend a lot of time summarising evidence and forming arguments – don’t become a campaigner if you don’t like reading or debating ideas. It also helps to be thoughtful and have an eye for detail as a lot of information that campaigners produce makes it into the public domain, so it’s important to be factually correct and to present information in an engaging way.   Competition for graduate campaigner jobs is fierce, so applicants will normally be expected to have obtained a 2:1 or above for their first degree, though there will of course be some exceptions.

What sort of degree backgrounds do lobbyists tend to have? Plenty of successful campaigners that have very different degree backgrounds ranging from science to the social sciences. Public policy is so broad and if you are firmly focused on becoming a specialised campaigner (e.g. for finance or health) it can actually be incredibly beneficial to have a degree background in one of these policy areas.  You definitely don’t need to have a politics degree to become a campaigner, although it can be an easier sell to a prospective employer if you have one as it proves you are interested in it. For those that don’t have politics for a first degree, many students choose to go on and study a politicsor public policy master’s and use this as a conversion course, but again this is not vital.

Why should people consider a career in political campaigning? Political campaigning is an attractive career because it is intellectually challenging (policy is often complex and fast-moving) and it also offers structured career progression. Job titles are quite well-defined and the money can be quite lucrative when you reach the higher levels. I guess there is a certain amount of kudos in working with policymakers and also a certain gratification in mastering areas of public policy that may not be well understood by the public. There is also an element of excitement that is derived from the unpredictability of politics and achieving a policy ‘win’. Seeing politicians debating an issue in Parliament that you have brought to their attention, or finding out that a particular policy position you may have been advocating has been taken up by a Select Committee, or the Government of the day, can be really satisfying.

What is the best way to go about starting a career in campaigning? Showing a demonstrable interest in politics is absolutely key. The most important thing potential employers look for is a genuine interest in politics, preferably a degree in that subject and political activity, whether locally or nationally, is a genuine advantage.  It’s a very competitive area to enter and so internships are still seen as a major stepping-stone. Many people go via the route of working for an MP. Undertaking a year in Parliament is regarded as a passport experience. However, many graduates also start off by joining a political consultancy’s graduate scheme, or get their foot in the door by interning for an organisation with a major interest in public policy – such as a charity, a business or a trade association. You don’t need to have automatically worked for an MP.  Competition can be intense, so my other message to budding campaigners is to persevere and don’t be put off by being rejected for internship experience. I was certainly rejected a few times before I got my first opportunity.

How is campaigning changing? The distinction between lobbying (campaigning) and public relations is continuing to blur. More and more public relations agencies are offering public affairs as a client service. In tandem with this, there seem to be more niche public affairs agencies springing up with expertise in areas such as health policy. Meanwhile, in-house, many organisations are trying to get their members more directly involved in campaigning activities. This is especially the case in complex policy areas where there are numerous voices all clamouring for the attention of policymakers at the same time. In these circumstances the local constituency link is still a powerful avenue of approach.

In terms of digital campaigning, social media is certainly making a bigger difference to mobilising support. Online petitioning tools are now part of the regular repertoire of campaigners and social media has definitely taken off. For example, I have successfully used Twitter to cajole politicians along to political events and received surprisingly quick responses, which I wouldn’t necessarily have got by ringing up their office. It seems that politicians are strapped to their smart phones like everyone else.

Monitoring the political landscape in the digital world is also getting easier all the time. The availability of free tools, created by organisations such as MySociety, present a viable alternative to more expensive ones used by industry professionals. As a result, we are seeing the rise of citizen campaigner – an exciting new frontier.

How does Campaigner Academy help? With all the changes in the sector I felt there was a role for an organisation to provide a range of information, training and services for those looking to develop a career in the sector or just starting out.  Most immediately we run a short (three hour) ‘Careers in Campaigning’ course geared towards undergraduates and postgraduates that may not have much background in the sector. It’s a broad course that introduces participants to practicalities of political campaigning and the opportunities for career advancement. We take a look at the work of public affairs consultants working for lobbying companies; in-house practitioners; and those campaigning in the third sector to influence public policy. ‘Political campaigning’ is a catch-all term we use to reflect the reality of many in the sector where the line is blurred between policy and public affairs. In addition to this short introductory course we will be introducing longer courses as well as the opportunity to get one to one careers advice.  We also maintain a blog which has useful sector information.

The next ‘Careers in Campaigning’ Course is taking place on the evening of Thursday, 26 March. As it is a new course it’s being discounted to £15 (normally priced £30), using the ‘Career50′ coupon, when booking through the website.  More details and booking at


Further Information about careers in political campaigning

Students in subscribing colleges can access resources in our online library ‘Careers Tagged’ – Search on ‘Public Affairs’

Other posts from this blog on Public Affairs

Otherwise useful starting points are the professional bodies associated with the sector. These include:

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations –  The main professional body representing public relations and public affairs practitioners in the UK

The Public Relations Consultants Association – – Represents companies and consultancies in the sector as well as offering membership to individuals.

The Association of Professional Political Consultants –  The APPC is a self-regulatory body representing UK public affairs practitioners



Prospects –  Search on the postgraduate courses section – the term ‘public affairs’ returns a good number of courses including those at Queen Mary, University of London and the Public Affairs & Lobbying MSc at Brunel

You can also use Prospects to research more on careers including Public Affairs (

NCVO – runs a well regarded course that includes 7 full days of tuition (brace yourselves it costs £1440)

Campaign Bootcamp –  This course lasts a year and starts with a one week full time session.  The next course isn’t taking place till June 2015 (deadline to apply – early April) While the course is expensive (£2800) many participants on the course attend through scholarships.  Find out more about some of the scholarships


Careers In Campaigning

A couple of opportunities for those interested in finding our more about campaigning

  • A new course – The ‘Careers in Campaigning’ course is being organised by Campaigner Academy at the London School of Economics on Thursday 26 March from 6pm. The course takes a detailed look at the work of political campaigners (public affairs/ government relations) and opportunities for career advancement. The three hour course is a bargain and, as it’s a new launch, it’s being discounted to £15  (normally priced £30), using the ‘Career50′ coupon, when booking through the website.  More details and booking at
  • In the last newsletter we flagged up another training opportunity in the sector, Campaign Bootcamp –

This course lasts a year and starts with a one week full time session.  The next course isn’t taking place till June (deadline to apply – early April) so you can fit both of these in!  While the course is expensive (£2800) many participants on the course attend through scholarships.  In fact since the newsletter we have also found out about some of the scholarships that can help fund it –

Some opportunities

The latest student conference on International Development took place on Saturday 14 March 2015 at the University of Bristol. Congratulations to the Student Hubs team who organised the event that put together an array of speakers and exhibitors.  They underline for me what an excellent place the UK is for establishing a career in International Development.  Also how important it is to take advantage of these kinds of events which are great places for learning about the sector and hearing of opportunities you may not otherwise be aware of. Here are some of my personal highlights from the event.

  • The keynote speaker was Hugo Gorst-Williams from DfID. If you are graduating this year and want to spend a year on the popular DfID programme then you have till March 26th to apply but, as the website stresses, don’t leave it to the last minute. The programme has developed since it first started and now applicants have to apply to one of over 30 different streams including governance, procurement, growth, conflict and audit. Top marks to the team for kicking off the session with such an excellent programme.
  • In between sessions I spoke to some of the exhibitors. I met a couple of enthusiasts representing Generation UK-India (part of The British Council suite of programmes) which, after incorporating the old ‘Study India’ programme within its ambit, now offers three different kinds of placement
  • Cultural Immersion (two weeks programme but, hey, why not extend your stay and sort out a placement for yourselves?)
  • Teaching Assistantships – from two to six months
  • Work placements

Read more about the scheme at

  • Christian Aid’s ‘Sourced’ campaign which is focusing on tax as its social justice campaign. The regional intern for the campaign at the event was Becki Hannam. Becki told me that while her degree (geography and some economics) was great for this internship Christian Aid offer lots of internships both in regional offices and head office in London. Applicants should be in broad sympathy with the Christian faith – especially for the regional internships and I got the impression this was less important for the national headquarter internships. (deadline 27 March 2015)
  • A shout out to for Frank Water – a Bristol based ngo committed to making a difference in the area of water and sanitation in India. Opportunities for volunteering in the UK.
  • Finally, I spoke to Send a Cow, an NGO based in Bath with a focus on challenging hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa. As with many NGOs there are always opportunities to get involved and even where there isn’t a specific internship programme they do have opportunities come up from time to time

Understanding ModernGov – vacancy

One theme that runs like a ribbon through this blog is the range of opportunities available for students with an interest and background in politics. Understanding ModernGov, is a training organisation that runs courses on government and policy topics.  Everything from understanding the Scottish Parliament,freedom on information requests,  inspecting independent schools and the digital marketplace for the public sector.  Now they are looking  for an ‘Account Executive’ to help in the day to day running of  these courses.

You don’t have to have a politics background – just  a keen attention to detail and the ability to articulate commercial ideas with clarity. It pays £18K,  is for an immediate start and has deadline of January 23rd.   Here’s an excerpt from the job advert

Your duties will include:

• Developing and building relationships with trainers and consultants • Enhancing relationships with existing clients • Accountability for planning, organising and managing of designated courses • Assisting with new course development and generating new ideas • Liaising with stakeholders before, during and after a course • Working with the Event Manager on event logistics

The successful candidate will progress rapidly to assume development responsibilities that involve the creation of new training programmes, account management of new and existing clients, working with the sales team in prospecting new clients.

With events taking place in London and Edinburgh, the successful candidate will have the opportunity to travel.

You will need excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, and an ability to prioritise work and meet deadlines and targets. Highly motivated with the ability to multi-task, you will need to have a proven track record of producing high quality work and display outstanding organisational skills.

Essential: • Strong commercial acumen and drive • Exceptional organisational skills and attention to detail • Excellent internal and external communication skills • Committed and driven individual with a positive attitude • Ability to work to strict deadlines under pressure • Good customer service skills and ability to work under pressure with composure • Attentive, proactive and creative

Desirable: • Interest and Experience in Learning and Development • An understanding of public sector training needs • Experience in Client Relationship Management

How to apply: Please send CV and a short covering letter (300 words max) to Joe Barlow –  Should you have any questions or require further information please call Joe Barlow on 0203 770 6601.