Interning is a well established entry route into the political sector. While there are few advertised internship schemes beyond those in the civil service, the chance of finding a flexible work experience placement via a speculative application are good.
Networking is the name of the game in this sector and personal recommendations count for a lot. In some areas permanent roles are unadvertised and candidates often seen on the basis of personal recommendation. Formal conversions from internship to full time jobs are unlikely but there is a high staff turn over in this sector so if you impress as an intern then you will have a head start when a new position comes up.
You may be able to secure an internship for several weeks during vacations, or a part time position throughout term time – see the LSE Parliamentary internships website for details about exclusive opportunities available for master's students at LSE.
What will I do?
The type of work will depend on the type of organisation you are interning with but may include event support and organisation, drafting correspondence, research and monitoring the press.
What are the benefits?
As well as providing an invaluable insight into careers in the industry, experiences gained on your internship may help you develop and demonstrate skills including:
- communication skills
- ability to collate information and reinterpret in briefs and reports
- resourceful and initiative
- networking, team working and an ability to build good working relationships
- experience of working in an office or administrative environment
- knowledge of political systems and current affairs
Many organisations in this sector are not for profit and so unpaid, voluntary internships are prevalent. However, an increasing number of organisations in this sector are offering paid internships, especially for recent graduates.
Where could I work?
UK Civil Service
The UK Civil Service runs two summer internship schemes: the Summer Development Programme is for students of an ethnic minority; the Summer Placement Scheme is for students with a registered disability. Both last for 6-9 weeks and place students in a variety of government departments; you may be able to specify where you would like to gain experience. Applications normally open in October or early November and close in early January, but check the Civil Service website for deadlines.
Other departments offering summer internships include The Financial Services Authority, who also offer a legal internship, HM Revenue and Customs and the Government Economic Service who offer positions for Economics students. These are all paid positions, lasting approximately ten weeks. The Government Legal Service offers around 70 vacation scheme places each year. Many UK government departments offer unpaid work experience opportunities, but you will need to apply by making a speculative application.
Several department and agencies offer 'Vacation visits', which allow you to spend a day, gaining an insight into a department - contact departments individually to find out more.
Working for an MP
The LSE Parliamentary internships scheme matches LSE postgraduates with UK Members of Parliament for unpaid work placements, one or two days a week for the academic year.
Many students find success securing an internship by speculatively applying to MPs of interest to them. A full list of MPs by party, with the contact details for their offices, is on the website. Prospective Parliamentary Candidates also recruit interns to help run their campaigns. These may be advertised on political websites, or you could make a speculative application by identifying candidates in your area. Refer to party websites for a list of candidates.
The LSE Parliamentary Internships scheme also has positions for a number of think tanks and political organisations and also sources positions in media and social policy organisations. Few positions will be advertised, but work placements are commonplace via speculative application.
- Public affairs - LSE careers web page, includes links to various representative bodies and a list of public affairs organisations
The various institutions of the European Union offer an extensive range of internship programmes, stagieres and traineeships. Most are undertaken after graduation and last several months. Take a look at the European Union careers pages for details and links including presentation slides from the EPSO
If you are interested in interning as an assistant for a Member of the European Parliament, make a speculative application. Listings of current MEPs by country and by political group is available on the websites of the UK political parties.
If you are interested in working in European public affairs look out for the European Internships Fair which is run jointly by Sciences Po and LSE annually in March. Some positions may be advertised and there are several well known recruitment websites dealing with the Brussels recruitment market. Consider also speculative applications and advice from LSE Careers to ensure your application is well focused and aligned to the needs of your chosen organisations.