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From law firm to Parliament

Jen Davis

Being actively involved in local politics made me interested in working in Parliament. I wanted to make a difference and felt that one way of doing this was working in the place that makes the laws. When I decided to change profession, I was working in a law firm and thought it would be easy for me to get a job in Parliament. How wrong I was!

Career change

I applied for jobs as a Parliamentary Assistant and didn't get an interview. Unfortunately, all the jobs I was applying for said, “due to high volumes of applications, applicants who are not successful in being called for an interview, would not be entitled to feedback.”

As I had a good record of volunteering in politics as well as at the Citizens Advice, I thought I was in a good position to get an interview. So it was hard for me not to have negative thoughts. Was it because of the education establishments I attended? Was it because I didn’t study politics at university? Were my application and CV unsatisfactory?

I felt demotivated at this stage and I thought about giving up my dream to work in Parliament.

Luckily I didn’t give up

Then one day, while looking at the Parliament website I came across the Speaker's Parliamentary Placement Scheme, in conjunction with The Creative Society. The first few lines caught my attention:

We believe Parliament should be accessible to everyone. We are widening access by offering a 9 month paid placement to people who have the skills, passion and potential to work here but don’t have access to the traditional routes in.

I looked at the criteria and decided to apply as soon as applications opened. A few months later I went to an event where I met two people from the previous intake. They encouraged me to apply and I was surprised I got through to the first round of interviews.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

A few days before my first interview I started to prepare by researching what MPs do. I contacted the two people that I’d spoken to and asked them about the types of questions I might get asked in my interview. I prepared my answers and practiced and practiced.

I was petrified for the first round of interviews with The Creative Society. I usually get nervous during interviews but this was nervousness I had never experienced before. I forgot everything I had prepared and the only answer I seemed to have answered well was why I wanted to be on the scheme. At the end of the interview I felt that I had ruined my chances of getting through to the second round.

A few days later though I got an email saying I had a second interview and would be paired with an MP. I then had an interview with him and his researcher. Yet again I was petrified and stumbled on my words. During the interview my preparation paid off and I was able to use my answers that I had prepared. At the end of the interview though I didn’t think I’d done as well as I would have liked and wouldn’t get an internship.

I was therefore delighted when I got a call saying I'd been successful. I was very happy that out of hundreds of applicants I’d be one of ten interns.

Opportunities beyond politics

On the scheme, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an MP, a Peer in the House of Lords and in two Parliamentary departments.

From Mondays to Thursdays I work with an MP. My work is varied, from general administrative duties to writing press releases and committee reports which raise the profile and agenda of the MP. I also manage two All Party Parliamentary Groups that the MP worked for. This meant that I had to work with the Co-chairs' offices, book rooms and make sure the room was fit for purpose.

One week each month I work with a Peer in the House of Lords. This wasn’t part of the scheme but the MP I work for organised it to help me get the full Parliamentary experience. While there I draft and table Parliamentary questions and do research on subjects as varied as environmental issues and internet pornography.

On Fridays as MPs go back to their constituencies, I work with another department in Parliament. For the first half of the scheme I was with the Governance Office. I created and updated pages on the Parliamentary intranet and website. I also created online biographies of MPs for the Women and Equalities Select Committee pages.

For the second half of the scheme I work with PDS. During my time here I’ve helped with editing blog posts and social media planning. I helped to prepare content for historical dates and birthdays/deaths of important figures in the UK. I’ve also taken speeches from different Prime minister and edited them for YouTube. And I learnt how the different media teams in Parliament work together to make sure they get consistent messages out to the public.

You should apply

I must admit that I thought the transition from working in the legal sector to the political sector would be easy, but it wasn’t. In a weird way, I’m happy I didn't get the other Parliamentary roles I applied for. The scheme’s given me great support mechanisms from a buddy to a career coach. I’ve had invaluable training that would have cost me a lot if I hadn’t been on the scheme. It has allowed me to grow and experience issues that I wouldn’t necessarily have been interested in like air pollution and the Parliamentary process.

I thought I was a confident person before I worked in Parliament. Having changed careers, I realised I was only confident in surroundings I was familiar with. I’m extremely proud of the skills I’ve gained and improved on and would encourage anyone to apply to be a Parliamentary Intern.

Applications for the next intake of the Speaker's Parliamentary Placement scheme are now open.

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