Category Archives: Developing workplace skills

Career in Policy and Public Affairs

Sometimes I find it hard to describe what I do for a living. ‘Policy and public affairs’ isn’t a career path that everyone has heard of, or knows much about. But I think it’s probably one of the most interesting and rewarding careers going.

I loved ancient history and literature at school, and went on to study at the University of Birmingham. After graduating, I was sure that I wanted to work in the public sector, and to do something that used my skills – reading and absorbing information, seeing patterns and analysing situations, and setting out my arguments in writing. After a while tempting for the NHS in an admin role in London, I managed to get onto Birmingham City Council’s graduate programme.

During my time on the graduate programme I worked in several different roles which enabled me to get a sense of what I did – and definitely didn’t want to do in future. It was during a placement in a waste and recycling depot on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, where I was researching and designing different ways to encourage Brummies to recycle more and throw away less, that I discovered my interest in public policy.

I made a sideways move from working directly in local government to working in higher education policy in London. I wasn’t working for the government department responsible for universities, but for a policy organisation that represents universities – so it was my job to try to influence policy from the outside. I started as a Policy Researcher, and within three and a half years worked my way up to become a Policy Analyst and then a Senior Policy Analyst, eventually managing my own Policy Researcher.

I’m now Aston University’s Policy Advisor. It’s my job to know what is going on in the political world outside, and work out how it might impact on Aston. It’s also my job to find ways of letting policymakers know about all of the excellent work that goes on in Aston. Life as a Policy Advisor is often varied and always interesting. One day I might be watching a parliamentary debate live online to see what the government Minister is saying about universities, the next I’ll be responding to a consultation on what Brexit will mean for the UK’s higher education sector, and another day I’ll be drafting letters to send to MPs about an exciting development at Aston University, or organising a roundtable discussion event.

One of the great things about policy as a career path is that you realise policy roles are all around you, and your skills are really transferrable. As well as the option of working within government or with a particular politician, pretty much any organisation that interacts with government in some way, whether in the public, private or charity sector, will need people to run their policy and public affairs operation.

If you have developed the right skills and experience – like being able to read and digest lengthy and complex reports, analyse what a government announcement will mean for a sector in practice, think how a politician might think, or write a persuasive letter – in a way it doesn’t matter what context you are working in. You can learn that detail of the job as you go along.

 

My advice for anyone thinking about a career in policy is:

  • When it comes to job hunting or looking for work experience, think outside the box – it’s not just government that has policy roles. Universities, charities of all kinds, political parties, think tanks and representative bodies do too. And it doesn’t have to be in London if that’s not your scene.
  • Your career can be incredibly varied, so don’t pigeon hole yourself into one area of policy. I moved straight from environmental policy to higher education policy so I know it can be done.
  • Do your research and keep up to date with current affairs. If you’re applying for a policy role, have a look at the organisation’s recent news releases or blogs, find out which government departments they interact with and which politicians are in charge, and read one of their recent speeches. This will impress recruiters and show that you have already thought about their policy challenges.

Lizzy Woodfield

Policy Advisor, Aston University

If students would like to talk to someone to gain some advice on how to break into a career in policy, or to discuss any other aspects of their career planning, do book an appointment with a careers consultant via Aston Futures (www.aston.ac.uk/careers

My advice…

Hi guys! 

I thought I would share with you some advice and tips to help you on your journey at Aston.

Being at Aston University is a very exciting experience, I know it was for me. Aston has so much to offer – you need to ensure you make the most out of your time here, take up new opportunities and get involved!

So here are some key tips from my experience at Aston…

Tip 1. Open your emails

I know being a student can get extremely busy, trying to manage lectures, studying, group-work, sleeping and socialising etc. And the last thing you want to do is to read through emails. However, always open university emails because they do contain a lot of important information and OPPORTUNITIES!

Image result for email memes

Tip 2. Peer Mentoring Scheme

Sometimes as a student you want guidance from a friend who has already been in your shoes, experienced things before you, and just someone to tell you it’s all going to be OK. This is why the peer mentoring scheme is so helpful.

I have been involved in the peer mentoring scheme since my first year. Each year I was assigned to a mentor who was also doing the same course as me, who would guide and help me with anything and everything. It has been a great scheme to make friends, gain help and advice. I even took up the opportunity to become a mentor myself – to give something back to the university and the students.

Tip 3. Extra opportunities/jobs

I was always looking for new opportunities and things to get involved in. For example, on many occasions I got casual/part-time work as a university tour guide and helped with jobs over the holidays, and got paid! (Opportunities were found at the JobShop).

Tip 4. Join Societies

Again, make sure you join societies and clubs! They are a great way to socialise, make friends, gain experience and responsibility. I joined Aston’s Sikh Society and in my second year I was lucky enough to make it on to the committee as Events and Marketing Coordinator.

Tip 5. Careers+Placements

Now when it comes to looking for a placement, a lot of us leave it till last minute. However, do get in touch with Careers+Placements as soon as possible. They offer a range of services and resources in helping you find your placement. I visited the centre many times to get advice from the careers consultants, get my CV and cover letter checked, and attended their careers events. I used Aston Futures (Careers+Placements online platform to search for job vacancies and events) to apply for placements and eventually secured one through them as well!

Being proactive and getting involved has really boosted my CV and EMPLOYABILITY!

And so to some it all up, take advantage of what Aston has to offer and build an unforgettable and valuable experience for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Kiran 😊

Make your Final Year count!

Making Your Final Year Count

University is so exciting and fast-paced that by the time your second year comes to an end, it can feel quite overwhelming to think that you’re about to enter final year. But fret not. With careful planning and hard work, your career will take off after university.

Utilising Your University Resources

Always make the most of your university resources. Your university should be able to advise you when it comes to graduate careers.

At the start and the end of the academic year, careers fairs usually take place on campus. Make sure you attend – even if you aren’t sure about which path you will take after university – because you may be inspired while you’re there, or you may form a better idea of what you would like to do for a living. While you’re there, talk to as many people and go to as many stands as possible. The saying is true – “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” – and by making good connections at events such as this, you will open doors for yourself.

Moreover, universities have excellent careers departments that specialise in graduate recruitment. They offer everything from advice about your CV to helping you choose the right career.

Getting Work Experience

When you come to apply for jobs, your degree will highlight that you are able and intelligent, whether you have chosen a broad academic subject or a specific degree that will help you into a particular industry.

However, a degree alone is rarely enough to secure a great graduate position. Most employers want to see evidence of at least some work experience (whether that is with their company or another one), as this is one way they can be sure of your practical ability. Although work experience is often unpaid, expenses such as travel and food are usually taken care of, and you can fit it in around your university commitments, during summer holidays, or on a part-time basis when you don’t have lectures.

Most importantly, work experience gives you a real taste of working life and shows you how your chosen industry operates. It is also an experience that you can add to your CV and talk about in interviews. Employers love to see that you have gained real experience in a similar working environment to theirs.

Volunteering and/or Travelling

Volunteering and travelling are also great things to talk about in an interview.

If you can demonstrate that you are hard-working and committed through your unpaid volunteering activities, this will stand you in good stead and make you stand out from the other applicants.

Travelling, on the other hand, is a great option if you are not entirely sure which career path you want to take yet. You’ll have time to think about all of this while you’re on your travels, and then once you come back and start applying for jobs, you’ll have plenty to talk about when your future employer asks you what you have been doing.

Early Preparation

Preparing early is always key. Whether you are going on to study a graduate course or you want to begin your career, it is important to shop around. Look for the best graduate courses in your field. Which universities offer the best benefits? What have postgraduate students gone on to do from that university? These are all questions you should be asking – and if you are unsure about anything, contact the university and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

If you are looking to start your career after graduation, look around to see the jobs on offer. Can you match the skills in the job adverts? If not, could you gain them through some work experience or any extracurricular activities? By matching the skills in the job descriptions you find, you will be fully prepared to apply for your favourite positions after university.

This guest post was written by The Student Housing Company.

 

 

Getting into Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing Manager - Andy Lockley

Digital Marketing Manager – Andy Lockley

Andy Lockley, Digital Marketing Manager at Cloggs and Aston Business & Management Graduate of the class of 2010, outlines the key things you need to know if you’re looking to pursue a career in Online Marketing.

Digital Marketing is one of the fastest moving industries you can work in. In most cases, by the time a textbook has been written it’s obsolete as soon as it rolls off the printing press. If your passion resides in Digital, here are 5 handy tips to make sure you get your foot in the door;

  • Learn the lingo – Digital Marketers speak a different language to traditional Marketers, and if you’re looking to impress your interviewer, knowing the definition of a few key terms and acronyms can put you head and shoulders above the competition. Know your PPC from your SEO and your CPC from your CPA and it automatically puts you head and shoulders above the competition.
  • Find a mentor in the industry – Do you have a friend or relative that already works in Digital? If so pick their brains about what’s keeping them awake at night and the new trends that are really exciting. If there’s nobody in your immediate proximity, look into professional mentorship schemes, like the one offered by Aston. Even a couple of hours with someone in the industry can be gold dust for someone trying to secure their first role.
  • Have examples of websites you like and why – ASOS junkie, Amazon Devotee? Make a list of the sites you visit on a regular basis and what you like about them, is it personalisation, how crisp and clean the site is, how the products are presented? Turning your mind to what makes a website good really helps you get into the mind-set of an Ecommerce marketer.
  • Excel at Excel – In spite of how quickly the Digital Marketing industry moves, a lot of the bare bones analysis is still done in Excel. Getting yourself on a basic Excel course can give you a real head start. Make sure you know these basic formulas and tools to get your career off to a flyer.
  • Vlookup: A rule of life in Marketing is that data’s never in the format that you want it to be in, so the ability to join 2 or more Excel sheets together allows you to do some really clever analysis.
  • Pivot Tables: The faster you can dissect data, the faster you can make decisions; the easiest way to compute massive amounts of data is a Pivot table. Though intimidating at first, they’re a gateway to fast, detailed analysis.
  • Conditional Formatting: Despite sounding basic, Green = good, red = bad is still the fundamental principle that most business dashboards run on. Learn how to automate the process and save yourself loads of time.
  • Show enthusiasm for the industry – If you’ve done some research and have a visible passion for the business, many managers will take you on despite your lack of experience. There are loads of ways you can bolster your learning and understanding of the business before you’ve even started working in the industry;
  • Google Ad words Certification: There are very few online businesses out there that don’t rely on Paid Google Clicks for at least some part of their online traffic, by knowing the basics, you jump to the front of the queue and save them hours of training.
  • Google Analytics Certification: For many small businesses, Google Analytics is their go to tool for website performance analysis. Knowing your way around and having the ability to build some basic dashboards will help get you in the analytical mind-set of a Digital Marketer.
  • Got a passion? Blog about it: One of the biggest shifts in Marketing over the past 5 years has been the rise of Content Marketing. I always set my new graduate hires a content task to assess their writing ability, if there’s something you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, why not start a blog and link to it on your CV? Recruiters are always looking for a bit of ‘colour’ when they’re flipping through CVs, and a well written, thoroughly researched blog is a great sign that someone will flourish in their role. It also gets you thinking like a marketer in terms of optimising titles and meta tags for search terms, looking at promotion through social channels and thinking about how you get other sites and blogs to link to your content.

Digital can be an intimidating industry to understand and break into, and I hope these steps provide some building blocks for how to jump start your career in Digital.