Careers In Public Affairs December 14, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : The Careers Group Blogs, consulting, politics , add a comment
These notes were taken from a talk to War Studies students at King’s College, University of London
Weber Shandwick is one of the biggest Public Relations companies in the world and I head its political communications section. The public affairs industry is under some pressure right now because of the activities of Adam Werrity, the ‘lobbyist’ that attached himself to Liam Fox, the former defence secretary. What Werrity was doing was nothing to do with what public affairs professionals do.
“So what do we do? Well we work with declared clients. We help them in different ways. For some it might be providing a list of stakeholders that are impacted by an issue they are involved. We might suggest an event they could stage to achieve a specific end. Provide template for letters they might use to move an argument forward or outline a campaign they could stage. Clients usually come us very late in the day to help us easily achieve their aim.
“Or our work might be more straightforward lobbying. Our client, for example, might be a major software house who are concerned with proposed legislation and we would organise a meeting with relevant parties in the government. This is achieved through being able to point out shared interests rather than handing over cash in brown envelopes as the tabloids would occasionally have it.”
Getting jobs in public affairs
- “Like other agencies we do offer a graduate training programme (www.webershandwick.co.uk/company/careers) but, frankly, nothing beats a personal recommendation for getting started in the sector.
- Cold calling – my first job followed a cold call to the Conservative Party who happened to be kicking off a campaign they needed help with.
- Get a business card. Really, this is the abc of networking.
- Network. Go to meetings where you might meet with public affairs professionals and make sure you follow it up afterwards.
- Get work experience. Practical experience through paid internships (like ours at Weber Shandwyck) is ideal. The downside of the fact they are paid means there are a lot less than there used to be. There are unpaid ones still out there – see Bell Pottinger for example. There isn’t a central place where they are advertised so you will need to check individual firm’s websites. Of course there isn’t any guarantee but a good intern will undoubtedly generate some loyalty from their firm either in terms of work or referrals to other industry contacts. By the way don’t underestimate the value of indirect work experience as well. Even shelf stacking provides useful information about things like teamwork as well as your determination to do what you need to do to get to where you want to go as well as underlining your willingness to work and an arena to demonstrate leadership.
- Make as many applications as possible and, of course, avoid ‘cut and paste’ errors. You need to tailor your applications and following firms on Facebook or Twitter is a good way of doing this.”
What would be better as the next step? A media internship or more public affairs experience? “Neither, get some Westminster experience. The UK public affairs sector really values knowing how Westminster works. Other useful organisations to get involved with are those concerned with advocacy, charities and NGOs or experience in think tanks such as Demos or the Centre for Social Justice”
Who gets hired? “Well we recruit people with journalism experience, people with research backgrounds especially civil servants with backgrounds in defence or health and people who have worked for MPs. Sometimes we also hire ex MPs. ”
What does the work involve? “In addition to the things already outlined entrants should be aware that the work can involve long hours. Breakfast meetings and evening networking with MPs, for example.”
In House vs Consultancy. “Weber Shandwyck is a consultancy but lots of public affairs people work for clients. Contrary to what you might expect in-house work is paid at least the same and sometimes better that consultancy work. With the added bonus that you can boss consultants around when they get hired by your firm. In-house also has the advantage of better terms and conditions such as more generous maternity leave”
Any advice for Interns? “In brief – don’t get ill. You have little time to make an impression and taking time off because of illness should be avoided. Also be prepared to make the coffee – really. Everyone has done it.”
Is international experience valued? “Not really though languages can be useful. A good example are talented Americans often with extensive experience in Capitol Hill but for us its a question of who they know in the UK and whether they know how parliament works. Bigger consultancies may have more scope to use them.”
Accenture Open Day for Careers Services July 1, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Graduate recruitment, consulting, development consultancies, international development, recruiters , add a comment
*** Update March 2013. Applications for summer 2014 internships open on September 1st 2013 ***
Every year Accenture have an open day for Careers staff to update them on their recruitment situation. This year it’s at the National Theatre. A trip to the NT usually involves me paying £12 and leaving at the interval but Accenture have promised us an exciting day –so I’m sure I’m going to be here for the duration
The host for the day introduces us to Royce – a Senior Executive. Royce gets me on board by saying he cycled from London to Paris in 24 hours to mark his 50th birthday. His career has taken him all over the world but started at Norbury. It also included developing Accenture’s relationship with the National Theatre. Because it’s Accenture, Royce says, they focus on ‘innovation’. So no ‘Noel Coward’ and lots of ‘Warhorse’. And the National Theatre will soon be coming to the iPhone. A shiver passes through the audience. Anyway, a lovely urbane introduction.The Recruitment Process The morning session gave us some insights into Accenture’s recruitment process. Beginning with
First round telephone interviews – staff making these initial calls follow a consistent method. Almost a script really. Members of the recruitment team role played a call for us. Calls cover three areas.
- Career focus – eg why consulting and why Accenture?
- Case study
Here are some tips flowing from the role play starting with my tip about the tips. Don’t just copy the phrasing you read here but take on board the principles being outlined.
Why Accenture? Looking for specifics – less ‘you are a big company’ and more ‘you work with such and such a client and offer this and this’.
What does an analyst do? Less ‘using PowerPoint and doing research, probably’ and more ‘Well, I’ve seen the video on your website and see there are a range of things. For example…..’
Competencies – The facilitator stated that they explicitly ask for answers structured on the STAR system and the role-playing interviewer reiterated this to the candidate.
Case study – “How might you help a call centre reduce staff churn?” Do provide specific suggestions. Don’t say “er…look at what the competition is doing?”. Be ready to be pressed for more detail on your suggestions. Heaps of case studies online on their website which Accenture feels gives you everything you need to get through the process.
Second Round – The second round consists of an assessment centre comprising an in-tray exercise, a case study, a one to one interview and a group exercise. Concluding with another individual interview.
The group work exercise involved 4 analysts hamming it up as stereotypical
Candidates creating a plan for a school in Africa on behalf of Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP being Accenture’s international development arm). This was all instructive and fun. In this exercise recruiters are looking for key competencies
Drive and Motivation
A key distinction was drawn here from other consultancies that place an emphasis on ‘Leadership’. Underlining the importance Accenture place on team work. In brief – Don’t talk over people, ensure everyone is included, be proactive and make sure you keep to time and keep to the brief.
I managed to ask a question that included a reference to ‘The Apprentice’. I contrasted the ethos of that programme (one person left standing on top of a pile of bodies who’ve been stabbed in the back) with this exercise that could see all candidates come through. The host said it was a really interesting point, so there. Encouraged, I start working out how I can get in references to ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Godfather’. They’re going to love ‘em.
Lunch – the thunderstorm held off long enough for the balcony barbecue to go ahead. Top lunch as well – kebabs followed by an excellent chocolate pastry and ice cream. After lunch the rain came….spectacularly. We are in a glass sided building high up above the river like an aviary of nervous canaries.
Post Lunch – Some key figures setting the context for the 2011-12 campaign
500 graduate analysts needed
Summer Interns up to 250 annually by 2013 and 120 in 2011-12
Accenture considered as a top 10 employer at 14 universities
Is at number 9 in The Times Top 100
Current Share price at an all time high
The Analyst Consulting Group (ACG) – Emma Cooper, a Senior Executive, talked about ACG group that hs been created for all new graduate entrants. Whether they are recruited for Technology or Management Consultancy. ACG is designed to provide a chance for new entrants to get broad experience before choosing a specialism. It is the home for new entrants typically for two years. Accenture is a big organisation – 223,000 worldwide and ACG is a smaller family within that. Within ACG new entrants join one of 15 sub groups. These form the main conduit for social and training events.
Support. The support and training package includes Career Counsellors who act as mentors for new entrants during their time at ACG. Counsellers have ‘non-corporate’, supportive conversations that help junior analysts find their feet and direction.
Training – While Accenture do not offer a professional qualification they do provide a comprehensive training package (4 to 5 weeks in total). Elements of this include a 2 day induction covering Accenture structure, housekeeping and a discussion on the founding Accenture values. The training includes an international element. This is to one of their international delivery centres, possibly Chicago or India.
The second year of the support programme covers more generic skills. Encouraging analysts to consider what they are known for and what they stand for as individuals. Encouraging reflection on their personal brand. The ACG also provides a focus on Performance management and scheduling into their first projects.
Project experience during the ACG period covers the full range of analyst activities everything from training to analysis or developing training materials and providing impact assessments.
Question and Answer Session As we were a little slow off the mark Accenture recruiters leapt in with some questions of their own to the panel. This was helpful and they were excellent questions. But, correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t they know this stuff already? Anyway some of the things that came out included.
Postgrads enter at the same level as those with undergraduates degrees if they don’t already have consulting experience. Accenture is a meritocratic organization so they are able to progress faster if they are high performers.
International Students Tier 1 post study can apply but this is going from April 2012 (closed by the UK Government). Tier 2 is remaining and applicants are considered on a case-by-case basis
Technology roles are not for geeks, nor do they involve coding. Some of the exciting technology that is creating work for analysts include mobile phones, sustainability, iris and facial recognition (facial technology is being deployed now that can tell identical twins apart).
Internships are being expanded. Because they both improve performance across a range of indicators and help Accenture establish relationships with potential applicants.
Defence analysts May 5, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Industry Information, Intelligence and security, consulting, skills , 1 comment so far
Visiongain (www.visiongain.com) are business information providers with expertise in the Telecoms, Pharmaceutical, Defence, Energy and Metals industries. They regularly recruit King’s College London graduates particularly in defence analyst roles. I spoke to Sara Peerun Visiongain’s Commercial Director and Daniel Harrison the Head of Visiongain’s Defence Department
How easy is it for defence analysts to transfer to other sectors? We do have an aviation sector so the track across to that would be easier. Even though the research roles are all broadly similar we do encourage specialisation in one sector– even within broad sectors such as defence there are more layers of specialism. It makes a lot of difference to the level of expertise and productivity analysts can bring to their work. Having said that, a good researcher can move across to other sectors and be effective. Incidentally the work can also be a good platform for careers in consultancy.
Is there a career pattern? There is movement. For example our Pharmaceutical analysts often become medical writers. From defence they may move on to work for our competitors (people like Jane’s and Frost & Sullivan) or even work for our clients – people like Lockheed Martin. It’s a good channel into those industries. Typically doing market analysis and providing competitor information. Similar to what we do in fact.
What’s the difference between the reports your analysts write and that produced by a defence strategy consultancy. Our material is more ‘off-the-shelf’, geared to selling as many copies as we can. While consultants would provide more bespoke reports, typically for a single client. Focusing on a single piece of equipment such as helicopters, for example in Western Europe. Whereas we are much more concerned with providing a global overview of a particular technology sector.
On your job advert you specify ‘analytically minded’. How do you assess that? Well that’s a good question. I look for someone who is highly questioning and academic. Someone who won’t take things at face value and will look beyond the obvious. Be able to juggle a lot of different material, data and conflicting information and be able to come up with a plausible, realistic viewpoint. The amount of information available can be bewildering – especially for a new analyst.
You also specify ‘Highly literate with good writing skills’. What’s the distinction between this and academic writing? We provide formal business reports and need to use formal business English. We can’t use a journalistic style or colloquialisms. Graduates quickly pick it up. In addition they can be naturally very good in a qualitative sense – understanding the geo-political context for example. However, our reports have much more of a market focus and need a combination of both good writing and solid mathematical skills. We assess these through aptitude tests but someone with good GCSE or A level mathematics should have no problems.
What about research skills? Students who apply to us generally have good research skills. We use broadly similar sources – secondary sources in the main. We do, however, warn about the inherent bias of the internet – its overwhelmingly written in English and western oriented. Not so great for material on Japan, China and Russia for example and they have to factor that in. Also our reports contain at least two interviews with senior business people who are experts in the sector being researched. These are usually done over the phone as many of our interviewees will be overseas. Incidentally interviewing for primary research purposes is not something students seem to do during their studies. It does take some skill to persuade senior people to grant you an interview on the phone.
Related reports – Read an interview with a King’s College alumni working as a Visiongain defence analyst http://bit.ly/kQqEVI