From UEA’s walkways to Westminster’s corridors of power

Students from the University of East Anglia recently visited the Houses of Parliament as part of a Careers in Westminster and Whitehall event.  They were able to hear from the experiences of current UEA alumnus working in and around Parliament.  Maja Simunjak reflects on what she learnt from the day.

Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_Feb_2007Last week we walked in the footsteps of David Cameron, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s monarchs. Wandering through the corridors and chambers of the Palace of Westminster we received some very important information: how the Elizabeth of York came to represent the Queen in a deck of cards, the location of Queen’s secret toilet, how it was discovered that King Henry VIII played tennis in the Westminster Hall, and why the House of Commons Speaker’s chair has an ornate canopy.

Perhaps more importantly, we had a chance to talk to Chloe Smith MP, and UEA alumni parliamentary assistant to Gordon Brown Jyoti Bhojani, civil service fast streamers Chris Clarke, Rosalie Collis and Joshua Resoun, House of Commons Library Researcher Oliver Hawkins and House of Commons Operations and Communications Manager Victoria Bower. They allowed us a peak into their Westminster and Whitehall jobs and gave us a sense of what it takes to get there. Their paths from UEA campus to jobs in Westminster and Whitehall were quite different, but based on their testimonials there seems to be a recipe for getting a job in the UK government and politics: skills, passion and dedication.

Turns out, it doesn’t matter if your degree is in politics or microbiology. What is needed to get a job in the UK government and politics is a specific set of skills. If you can demonstrate that you can effectively communicate, collaborate with others, manage and lead people, analyze and summarize information, see the big picture, make informed decisions, deliver results etc., than you have a shot at finding employment in Westminster and Whitehall.

However, if you want to survive in this environment and actually enjoy your job, you need to also be passionate about what you do. If there is a cause you think is worth fighting for, if there are changes you want to see happen, if you want to help people and make their lives better, you might find working in Westminster and Whitehall inspiring and fulfilling.

UEA students listen to Chloe Smith MP, whose office helped organise the day

Finally, just saying that you are passionate about something does not actually prove that you are. If you can demonstrate by the choices you’ve made in your life how and why you are dedicated to certain causes and issues, there is a bigger chance that you can get a job you want. For example, if you have spent the summer volunteering, you will have an easier time convincing your employer that you want to help people. Also, if you have campaigned for a cause or you are a member of a specialized group, you will be more effective in showing your dedication than if your free time was filled with gaming and sunbathing. Not that anything is wrong with that. It’s just not the kind of thing that can get you a job in the UK government and politics.

In sum, I guess the main message we took from this trip is that the Westminster’s corridors of power are only a few steps away from UEA’s walkways. There are many paths we can take to get there, but the important thing is, it’s within our reach.

Maja Simunjak is a Associate tutor and Doctoral researcher in PSI.  The event was organised by UEA Careers Services.

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