Work experience is one of the those important things employers look for when your applying for a job, but many students have no idea where to even start when looking for opportunities. One of the main advantages of work experience is you get to witness first-hand what the company is like, how its run, what people they look for and how to apply for graduate jobs. There are also great opportunities to build contacts in that specific area for when you do finish university and are looking for a career.
In my first year I decided I needed to get some more relevant experience to my degree, not just working in various pubs. I knew that with history and politics as with many other degrees it’s hard to find relevant experience and in the beginning I had no idea where to start. I looked on MP’s websites and noticed they did not offer official internships. However I took my own initiative and contacted my local MP’s directly to find out if they had any opportunities. Some emailed back to say all they had was volunteering and handing out leaflets in the local area during election times. The conservative office was the only office that was conducting work experience over the whole summer but I applied too late and all the spaces were taken.
When my second year came I began feeling depressed at the prospect of another summer coming up of working in a menial part time job I hated, but then a letter from the Houses of Parliament came through the post. Sajid Javid my local MP, whom I had emailed the year before about work experience, had become the Cultural Secretary and invited me to work in his office that summer after keeping my name on file from the previous year. The work experience was unpaid, which I was concerned about at first, but taking up the position was one of the best experiences I have ever had.
When I arrived at Portcullis House for my internship there was a number of other interns there for other MPs. Sajid Javid’s office had been running internships since early June having a different intern every week. They had arranged for me to tour of the Houses of Parliament and sit in the gallery to view Prime Minister’s questions, although unfortunately David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband had all gone to Scotland. William Hague took David Cameron’s place which I was informed was quite an occasion and some considered Hague to be an excellent speaker. I got to view topics in the Commons concerning the Middle East, such as air strikes in Iraq and Syria.
I spent the rest of my time doing general office work and was allowed to attend any committee meetings I wished throughout the week. I attended a committee on the modern slavery bill and the committee questioning Rona Fairhead to be the new chairman for the BBC trust.
Doing an internship right in the centre of London was extremely exciting. I got a chance to speak to Sajid Javid in his office in the Houses of Parliament and to speak to his research assistants on how they got their jobs. They sent me a letter after my time with them thanking me for my work and invited me to help out with their election campaign next summer.
It was great to experience of what a career would be like in Parliament and working for a MP. It was definitely unmatched by anything else I had done before and I loved being able to have the chance to see what it was like to work in London. I regretted the fact I hadn’t done anything like that sooner in my first year, but at that time I simply didn’t know where to look and when I did I was too late in applying.
Applying for work experience in Parliament is much simpler than you think. Try to find out who organises the work experience positions from their website, get in contact and ask if they have any positions available. I found working in Westminster an invaluable experience and I highly recommend you to utilise your power as a constituent and ask your local MP for the same opportunity I had.
By Connie Basnett
[Image credit: August Brill]