Beginning a career in public affairs
By Carver Oakley, Client Executive
I joined Atticus for my first internship knowing very little of what public affairs or public relations was, never mind the myriad of other ways used to describe the work: strategic communications, government affairs, strategic counsel, political consultancy, to name but a few.
A willingness to learn was certainly more valuable than I may have first thought. The internship was an opportunity to throw myself in headfirst to learn more about what it was like to work in and around Westminster - to learn how hours spent in the library studying politics translated into practice.
The range of industries, sectors and themes on the client book is a highlight of the work at Atticus. Coming from a foreign affairs background, the opportunity to work alongside international human rights groups, intergovernmental security organisations and multinational corporations allowed me to contribute to a field that I had hitherto only spectated. Yet, the clients that lay outside of my interests, and usually comfort zone, have been the ones in which I have felt the most reward. Deep diving into U.K. employment law was not something I expected I would engage with, but doing so has led me to fighting for night-time workers’ health and employment rights in Parliament on behalf of one of our clients.
Working in public affairs means an interest in U.K. politics transforms from a hobby into something so professionally important that the first part of every day is spent reading news headlines, SW1 gossip, parliamentary reports, and government announcements. In my first interview to intern at Atticus I was asked: “what do you want to tell us about yourself that your CV doesn’t”. This point about having a nerd like interest in politics was my answer, and the fifteen politics podcasts I had in rotation was my evidence. Keeping that interest in politics throughout my internship meant I was more invested in the work I was doing and greater informed my contributions to the team were.
The contributions one can make to the work at Atticus is unlike many other workplaces. Though the company started nearly four years ago, Atticus has maintained its ‘start-up’ culture. Working among the small, highly motivated team provides exposure which isn’t always possible. As an intern you will be asked to liaise with clients, contribute to the public image of the firm, and be included in nearly every meeting. No one expects you to be an expert walking through the door on your first day, yet if you can demonstrate an open mind, senior staff will invest their time upskilling and mentoring you so that you can become an asset to the team. The skills you gain and the access to colleagues with a career full of experience and insight is an opportunity you usually only gain at a small firm.
Starting full time at Atticus in June, two weeks after my final exam, was the culmination of 5 months of internship. As a skills acquiring, confidence boosting exercise I could not recommend it more. The immediate next steps are to take all that I have learnt up to this point and secure some critical engagement between our clients and those politicians attending the upcoming Party Conferences. Longer term I hope to continue to grow with and learn from Atticus and the wider team. As a young and growing agency, I do not see the learning curve slowing. Many people in the UK will be hoping politics calms down after what has felt like a turbulent time in Westminster, but I am quietly hoping for continued change and all the opportunities that come with it in the world of public affairs.