Politics and graduates October 11, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : NGO, UN, Uncategorized, international development, internships, politics, think tanks , add a comment
At Queen Mary, University of London, we are bringing together a number of organisations that offer a range of opportunities of interest to our students wanting to get engaged with politics and international relations. All of the organisations offer real expertise in their specific areas but also create opportunities for students to get practically involved. While the event at Queen Mary is strictly for our own students I thought the summary of the organisations would be worth sharing
While organisations such as Chatham House are going to be hard to get experience with at undergraduate level – it isn’t impossible. They are bringing a current research intern who has just finished a politics degree and I know in the past they have taken on undergraduates in their events section. Similarly the UNHCR has a reputation for being geared towards masters level students but again their representatives at Queen Mary don’t have a Masters qualification. The UNHCR office in London runs a really interesting internship programme. Other organisations such as Three Faiths Forum, WDM and the Aegis Trust all have excellent programmes for any students wanting to develop their CVs – including first years. Here is a summary with relevant links to our library of resources to help you get the background information
* Chatham House is the world’s leading international affairs think tank. They offer ad hoc internships – between 60 and 80 a year – on their research programmes and in their events office. A current research intern will be at the event. In addition students can become members and take advantage of their exciting programme of events and get access to their specialist resources. You will find a range of reports on their research and events internships at
* Three Faiths Forum works in universities to enable students to build closer relationships between people of different faiths and non-religious beliefs. Their award winning Undergraduate ParliaMentors programme equips aspiring leaders at university with the skills, experiences and networks they need to advance their careers and help create social action projects with support from leading NGOs.
Read about a QM student who took part in the 3ff Undergraduate ParliaMentor programme here http://bit.ly/RhEnYU
* Aegis campaigns against crimes against humanity and genocide. It also runs ‘Wanted for War Crimes’ a new project designed to bring suspected war criminals to justice, and campaigns for a sustainable peace in the Sudan. Aegis offer free training for student campaigner and student speaker programmes roles which enable you to either run workshops in schools or, working with other students nationally, build an advocacy campaign focussed on the current crisis in Sudan. You can read a blog about Aegis Trust here
* WDM campaigns against the root causes of poverty and inequality. We are a democratically-governed movement made up of local campaign groups based in towns and cities around the UK. You can get involved through either volunteering or through internships. You can get some top tips about applying for voluntary campaign assistant roles here
* The office of The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. It offers internships in Geneva, Budapest and London. Read about the UNHCR internship programme in London and how one student got an internship in Geneva – http://bit.ly/QYTg09
Civitatis International February 13, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : UCL Careers Service News, internships, think tanks , add a comment
Civitatis are an international affairs think tank. They have recently notified us of their easter and summer policy schools which look very interesting BUT they are expensive – £270 with an NUS card. If you can raise the money I think they would be worth applying for – details at http://www.civitatis.eu/summer-school It reminded that they also offer a ‘Junior Associateship’ training programme – which also comes with a price tag. I wrote a blog post about it a year ago but took it down when it started to attract flack because of the fee. Given that on balance there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to let students know about the policy schools I thought I might as well re-post the blog.
Matthew Allison has recently completed an MA in Politics, Security and Integration at UCL. He is now completing a ‘Junior Associateship’ training programme with Civitatis International (www.civitatis.org.uk/) . We talked to him about his experience
Matthew how did you find out about the programme? Well because I have a fairly clear idea of where I am heading in my career – political consultancy – I knew direct experience was going to be an important factor. The key site I use is W4MP and that’s where I found the Civitatis International programme. I hadn’t heard of them before to be honest.
Was it competitive? Well they take on people for 3 month programmes regularly and they told me that they had 100 applications for the three places they had available. It was competitive but I guess things can be even more competitive than that.
How did you prepare for the interview? Well they did provide a very clear and thorough ‘programme description’ and I did come along for a practice interview with yourself, as you know. They had a lot of information about themselves on the web site as well which made it clear what their ethos and concerns were.
Though it’s a training programme you are doing practical work. This is quite an issue at the moment. What did you feel about this? Well it was my first practical experience and I was a bit anxious about being taken for a ride. It was clear though from the course outline that they had put a lot of thought into making the programme a mutually rewarding one. There is a big emphasis on training in global governance and global thinking as well as assisting on the projects of Civitatis at the secretariat in the City of London. Even so you can’t help worrying that you were going to end up inputting data on behalf of an admin person who is on maternity leave.
What was the reality like? They were as good as their word. I got lots of training on things like ‘how to write briefing papers’ and even stuff on CVs as well as lots of opportunities to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do just on an academic course. Things like going to conferences, representing Civitatis at high profile events and meeting some very senior people. You are able to claim expenses for things like conferences.
What were you working on? I was assisting with research on things like energy and resources. Especially resource depletion. One of things we are working on is mapping links between energy revolutions and societal change historically to see what lessons they have for us today and in the future. The other research work is focused on ‘European values’ and the extent to which the European Union can be used as a model for global governance. The research is though only part of what I have been doing. I have to contact other researchers in academia and industry to create links and gauge levels of interest in our work, I attend conferences – often writing up reports on the proceedings.
You haven’t completed the programme yet but what have you got from it? Well it has been very worthwhile. A lot of professional skills such as communications – how to liaise with internal and external networks including ‘high level stakeholders’. I have got a lot more evidence and experience of multi-tasking and it has boosted my confidence a lot. Even my research skills have improved. I was fairly confident about these being a masters level student but the internship has helped me see that outside of academia you need to be able to work to much tighter deadlines – two days rather than a month that you would typically get for an essay. Also learning about a briefing style that is less academic than university work. Authoritative but without ‘opinion’ and presenting facts in a concise way so it can be read quickly over a coffee, for example.
Has the programme changed your career ideas? Well it has more clearly confirmed for me that I’m heading in the right direction and given me some concrete evidence to present when I’m going for paid roles. Having said that it has also helped me land another internship with the ‘Vote For Ken’ campaign. I think having the evidence from Civitatis helped convince them I could be useful.
Interning with The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies February 17, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Intelligence and security, internships, think tanks , add a comment
Florian Lipowski came to King’s College London from Germany for an MA in International Conflict Studies. When he came back for his graduation ceremony in 2011 he talked to us about how he organised his internship at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies while completing his studies. (http://www.hcss.nl/en/about/145/Work-with-us.html). Jeff Riley, January 2011
When did you do your internship? Well I went back to Germany to complete my dissertation and it was towards the end of that, in September 2010, when I was able to start an internship in the Netherlands. Actually I am still there for another two months or so.
How did you find out about it? Well now that I know how well known it is I’m a little embarrassed that I hadn’t come across it before it came up in a general web search. They recruit interns fairly regularly and one of the intakes fitted in with my timetable for completing my masters. Since then I have also found out that lots of students across Europe do know about it and rumor has it that they get about 20 applications a day for their paid internships.
What does the organisation do? It provides support and advice in areas affecting international and national defence and security with an emphasis on long term forecasting. It works closely with the Dutch Foreign and Defence Ministries and has an income from selling its reports and analysts’ work to a range of clients. Some issues that I’m currently working on concern resource scarcity, or the Beijing consensus and its implications for liberal democracy and capitalism. Typically HCSS tries to look 15-20 years ahead but some reports will give a more immediate perspective. Recently, for example, on the increasing importance of the Chinese military and its role in the ambitions of China on the world stage. Finally I should say there are around 30 staff but with the permanent affiliations with Dutch institutions there are always more people than that around.
Was the internship hard to get? I heard that they do get more than 100 applications for each post. Interns typically are often Dutch but the most recent intake comprises a majority of other nationalities. Very few from the UK, I have to say, though over half the analysts are King’s alumni.
Is there any reason why British students couldn’t apply? None at all. For example the language in the office and the reports are all in English. My current boss is from Palestine and he has no Dutch at all. Dutch nationals have lots of English language skills – I’ve even talked to some homeless people in English!
Things like accommodation are easily sorted. I sorted my own accommodation via an expats web site. Its decent quality – all IKEA but fine, including a big flat screen tv. It costs 675 euros, utilities included, but there are cheaper places. My allowance of 700 euros from HCSS means I need to use other resources. There are cheaper options though. One girl I know is sharing a lovely typical Dutch place with a couple of others and she is paying just over 325 euros including all bills. That means you can survive and even go to a club once a week on the allowance. I wouldn’t advise trying to get another job to supplement the allowance though. It is a full time internship.
What do you do on the internship? It’s a research internship. After an initial couple of weeks finding your feet you will be assigned to a programme. I was able to change to something I was more interested in after I was assigned to something. The analysts you negotiate with about this are fine with that and, in fact you are encouraged to voice your opinion and say what you want to work on. In any case typically you would have not just your main research project but also a subsidiary one so that introduces an element of flexibility. Projects vary from for example the
- ‘Pillars of Power’ initiative which explores how we can best measure ‘power’ in the future. It won’t just be a case of counting military ships and hardware but include other aspects of a society. This is an ongoing project.
- World Foresight Forum – A project concluding in April 2011 for which HCSS is a partner. This seeks to develop future roadmaps around global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity, demographic shifts and the global financial crisis – all things which may affect prosperity and safety.
- Other topics included things like economic warfare, Beijing consensus and nuclear proliferation and tools of economic statecraft. This latter, for example is essentially a literature review with a mapping of what consensus and disagreements exist about how states will deal with each other in the future. For me this project had rather too much emphasis on analysing what other people say and not enough opportunity to express my own ideas.
What are you getting out of it? Well I’ve learned a lot about the importance of economics for example and have a good understanding the growing weight of China. You have to read so much and learn about topics that weren’t necessarily in the academic curriculum. The standard of work we have to produce is quite academic and not that different from university Masters level essays but do involve a more continental style ‘overview’ approach than arguing your own specific standpoint.
You are also working around highly qualified and high profile people. Often with PhD’s, or a number of Masters qualifications. Also people from other sectors such as engineering and telecommunications, not just international relations.
I’ve enjoyed being in The Hague as well. It isn’t the most exciting city in the world for sure but it’s a nice town and I’ve enjoyed making some new friends and colleagues.
I haven’t especially been using the internship to sound out potential jobs – I think my vocation lies elsewhere in a more practical and less desk based sphere. I know my fellow interns though have been excited about the networking opportunities the internship provides. My experience will provide evidence of things like multi tasking, teamworking, organisational skills and working to tight deadlines. It proves that you are considered worth some remuneration – 700 euros a month isn’t nothing.
Internships at the ODI December 6, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : international development, internships, think tanks , add a comment
King’s college runs an MA in Public Policy which includes an internship that carries academic credit. This morning the King’s team in charge of the internship programme introduced the students to a couple of policy workers.
Policy research at the ODI. Tari Masamvu works as a programme officer on the ODI’s growth and equity programme. She came to the ODI after an MSc in economics at Lancaster and three years working in logistics in South Africa.
ODI is one of top three think tanks in the UK. Their programmes cover a range of issues with the intention of informing policy and practice in the areas of poverty and alleviating suffering. Donors include DFID (main donor), the World Bank UNDP OECD and the EU among others.
Tari talked about the specific programme she is involved with. The programme aims to investigate the impact of ‘Growth’ on ‘Equity’. Growth may be a positive but may also be ‘top heavy’ and lead to inequalities within societies. ODI looks at the dynamics between growth, equity and poverty reduction and how it impacts on issues like public services like health, job creation in rural and urban areas and even on patterns of inheritance. Do the millennium development goals capture what is happening on the ground? The Growth and Equity programme is also contributing to a post-2015 framework for tackling poverty. Another area of work would consider, for example what do poor people see as poverty reduction – cash for their children to go to school or cash for crops?
Working life at ODI. The ODI has 150 international members of staff plus interns. The lively social calendar provides opportunities to meet a wide variety of people with a breadth of intellects and interests. Donors can be demanding changing focus and format quickly.
Qualities needed. The ODI needs dynamic individuals. None of its funding is core and all work has to be pitched for and won (nb this is done by experienced staff.) Days don’t follow a 9-5 routine. Work at the ODI provides opportunities for such things as project management, travel and an opportunity to be creative – if you are interested in specific areas ODI will help you get them published.
Internships – No formal internship programme. Interns take on a specific piece of work. This could be an item of research or admin support. Typically interns are at masters level and internships last a from 3 months or as short as 3-4 days. Can lead to other work and even employment, eventually.
How to apply. Send a CV and covering letter to the relevant programme officer for the area you are interested. Make sure you are clear about the combination of intellectual, personal and work skills you have to offer. Maximum 2 page CV plus letter. If you have developing country experience make sure you showcase it and take to flag up related research eg labour markets or climate change. Don’t waffle, avoid generalities and make it ‘short and sweet.’ Finally don’t ‘spam’ ie writing a letter to every programme.
You may be contacted straight away or details may be held on database if not immediately needed.
Link to ODI’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Overseas-Development-Institute/112749095404708
Working for a think tank May 28, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : internships, think tanks , 1 comment so far
Andy Wimbush graduated from King’s Geography Department and is now working at the New Economics Foundation. Kate Murray, a Careers Adviser at King’s talked to him about his post King’s career as a communications officer.
What job are you doing now? I am Communications Officer at the New Economics Foundation (www.neweconomics.org), an independent think-tank which researches and campaigns on social, environmental and economic policy. It’s my job to make sure that our research gets reported by the media, so I spend a lot of my time contacting journalists and writing press releases. I also manage our website and social media.
How did you get there? My undergraduate degree was in English Literature, but too many sleepless nights spent worrying about climate change led me to take the Master’s Degree in Environment, Politics and Globalisation in the Geography Department at King’s in 2007-8. Throughout my time at university I was involved with student campaign groups, so I had also built up some experience of designing websites, logos and posters. I applied for the job at NEF just as I was finishing my MA, and was lucky enough to be able to walk straight from handing in my dissertation to my new office. I started out part-time, and became full-time after four months.
What’s good about your job? Working for a think-tank means that you are constantly surrounded by ideas, and as with any third sector organisation, people have a lot of passion for their work. You always keep learning in this kind of environment, and even if you don’t agree with the conclusions of each and every report, it certainly challenges you and keeps you thinking.
Of course, the real reward is turning on the radio and hearing one of our reports being discussed, or to opening the paper to find that a letter we wrote to the editor has been printed. It’s even better when policymakers start taking up our ideas, as happened recently when Lord Turner, chair of the Financial Services Authority, began advocating policies that NEF had first proposed five or six years ago.
What’s not so great? As with any charitable organisation our budgets are always tight and staff often become overstretched. Whereas big companies have enormous amounts of money to throw into the PR machine, we’re trying to do everything they do on a shoestring. There can be a great deal of pressure in the run up to the release of a major report. Also, working with the media is a very fickle business. You can slog your guts out getting a report on the news diary only for some major event to knock you off the roster. This happened recently to a study we published which challenged the so-called ‘business case’ for expanding Heathrow Airport. As soon as I started to send out emails to the news desks, Mount Eyjafjallajökull erupted and the transport correspondents suddenly weren’t interested in anything except volcanic ash.
Any top tips for current students? The most important thing is getting experience in the kind of organisation you want to work for, which unfortunately means doing lots of work for free. My MA had a module devoted to doing an internship, and I was able to spend a few months working for an environmental charity, which really helped when it came to applying for my current job. If you can’t get work experience, student experience is also really useful. Get involved with activists at university, write for the student paper, join all the groups you can. Finally, being able to write well is a huge asset. Not only will it make your application form stand out from the rest, it will be very helpful when you come to working on reports, press releases and campaign materials. Unfortunately, most social scientists tend to forget that good prose matters as much as good ideas, so writing elegantly, clearly and concisely isn’t something you really learn in public policy degree courses. The best training is to read widely – newspapers, blogs, classic books, new books, reports, essays – and practise writing whenever you can
Internships at Chatham House October 13, 2009Posted by Jeff Riley in : internships, think tanks , add a comment
Michael White completed an events department internship with Chatham House towards the latter part of his Masters course in the War Studies Department of King’s College, University of London . I met up with him recently and asked him about the experience. You can read other Chatham House reports at http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/output/Page683.asp
Why do you think you were able to secure the internship ? I was ‘over-prepared’, which is a good thing and I was very enthusiastic about the position. In terms of preparation I knew the importance of the conference section to the organisation. Although it might not be the most ‘glamorous’ role, as particular research areas in Chatham House are highly sought after, Conferences are very important as Chatham House depends on them for profit, and they also provides an excellent broad representation of what the institution is about. As a result I had done my research and knew about the recent events they had put on and the variety of such events. I had also been for a practice interview in the careers office. In the end the formal interview very quickly became an informal chat but then they sprang some tests on me covering grammar, reading and Excel (which I was a little rusty at ). We briefly discussed what I wanted to get from the position, what I expected and what interest in politics and world affairs I had. They then rang me later that day to offer me the position.
What was the best thing about the experience ?
•Taking advantage of being at the events and conferences. They have a very eclectic programme and as an intern you get to experience many of them
• It raised my level of knowledge which was interesting in itself but also helped with my studies. I got to hear high calibre speakers such as the Nato Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Schaffer, NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder, and Britis Army Commander David Richards. I also managed to rub shoulders with senior journalists like Jon Snow, showing how the media rely on Chatham House. Frankly, you get to find out stuff before the media does.
• It was really good for my confidence as well. When I’m enrolling guest speakers phoning from Chatham House gets you through secretaries and receptionists and you can suddenly find yourself talking to some very senior people in the sector. Recently, for example, I have been writing to the Emir of Kuwait. I also spoke to former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon on the phone. It made me feel very upwardly mobile! Also once you are established there you will get consulted by the permanent team for things like suggestions for speakers. I certainly didn’t feel like an invisible presence.
• The work itself was fine. There was some routine stuff – database work, for example but they were really concerned to make sure this was balanced out with more interesting and challenging stuff. They also included me in every weekly team meeting where I was free to contribute some of my own ideas, and consulted as to how my progress on particular projects were going.
• Finally it was a good place to work. I had a good rapport with my colleagues and it was an enjoyable atmosphere. I didn’t clear out on the dot at 5pm because I was enjoying what I was asked to do. I also managed to mingle and meet more senior people from other departments and in particular research areas a lunch time, and this was a good opportunity to get to know more about particular areas of the institution.
What was the worst thing about the experience ? I can’t really think of anything about the internship that wasn’t a positive. Sure there is some routine work but this gets balanced out by other tasks in a fair way.
Shock news – history undergrad gets think tank internship March 28, 2008Posted by Jeff Riley in : internships, think tanks , add a comment
Even though Jamie Ransom was a history student and on an undergraduate course he was still able to swing some work experience with The Overseas Development Institute – the sector’s leading think tank. “I researched the organisations pretty well” says Jamie. “For example I had a good idea of how they were structured and who did what in the organisations. Consequently my applications were addressed to named individuals, which I think made a difference” Read more about the ODI via Careers Tagged here