Like so many people at university I started to think about what career path I would take. I looked at a number of different jobs, like management, law and politics. The one job I kept coming back to was political research, so after doing a lot of research I found the best way into the political field was to undertake an internship with an MP or public affairs group.
During my undergrad years I did some work experience with a number of different local candidates in Norfolk. This was very useful, but I felt I had to do more, even though I also did some work for a local parliamentary candidate whilst studying for my MA in Bristol. During my last year I started to look for an internship. I gained a better insight by using a few websites which are aimed towards helping people gain internships in the parliamentary and political area. I think that unless you have contacts in the political world or are using the website www.work4mp.org it is very hard to find an internship. On the whole I found careers services were not able to help in anyway .90% of the research I did was off my own back.
It was towards the beginning of May that I started to apply for internships, and around the middle of May I had an email asking me to an interview. It was with an MP, on the whole I felt the interview went very well. The only problem I felt I had, was when he asked me about where I would stay during the internship. I do have many friends who live in London, but staying with someone for 6 months is pushing it!!
Then of course I turned to my Mother and Father, who might have been able to help me out. But why should they?!! I mean, my parents have supported me through school and college and as an undergrad and even more so as a postgraduate doing my MA course in Bristol, so felt I would have to fund this my own way.
I found very little help in finding out how to fund an internship, most websites I found, were aimed at people doing internships in America. I feel that political internships in the UK are many years behind the Americans and Europeans internship systems which are paid. Even when I went to a bank to ask about funding/career loans for an internship the bank had no idea about what they are and the person I spoke to at the bank was supposed to be student adviser.
On the whole internships in the area of politics are a very elitist way for a graduate to get into politics. Most people who do these internships come from well-off families, who are able to support them. So for example, if you lived in Liverpool or down in Devon and you don’t have anyone you could stay with, I think it would be very hard to do an internship. This is very restricting to applicants and would narrow the field of a large number of suitable candidates down to a select few, which I feel is wrong and means we are missing out on the potential of graduates who are politically minded.
The other problem which I had was the lack of feedback from many people, as I’m sure many of you will know! Some of the slowest people to respond were the MPs, but then MPs do have huge amount of work to do and you will be at the bottom of that list. For example I had to wait for one job advertised in parliament almost two months before getting any kind of reply about the interview!! I travelled to London for a number of interviews for positions in the political field and this is a very costly experience.
I would say my best interview was with a “think tank” group based near Westminster, who despite the fact that I was not successful gave me some great feedback. It was mostly to do with my CV, and the lay out of it. This helped me a lot.
After spending months going to numerous interviews, towards the end of summer I finally gained an internship with a think tank in London. So far the job is going very well, the only down side is that I have to live at home, which means having to make a one hour 40 minutes or so trip down to London three times a week. I also hope to be working part time to help support myself.
If anybody is thinking of doing an internship here in London, some advice, start early. I started meeting MPs and applying for internships back in March ’09 and I only got offered a job at the end of August. Of course you might be lucky and gain an internship very quickly.