August 26, 2014, by Beth Dawson

What’s it like to work in local government? Natalia gives her insights

By Natalia Deane, BA Politics

It was at a neighbour’s Christmas party last December when I found out about my placement. I’d just got chatting to one of my neighbours who happened to work at Buckinghamshire County Council and she put me in touch with someone who then arranged an interview. I was drawn to this placement mostly because I take a lot of modules relating to international politics on my course, so I thought working in local government would provide an important perspective to compliment my studies. I also thought that, despite holding no specific personal desire to work in local government, any experience can be good experience if you make the most of it.

Use your time wisely

On my first day I was immediately immersed into the team and given multiple jobs to do – all of which I felt contributed positively to a broader outcome. I thoroughly and genuinely enjoyed this placement and would recommend it to anyone, partly because everyone was very welcoming and helpful but also because it was a legitimately valuable use of my time.

During my short six weeks placement I developed countless skills ranging from working as a team in an office environment, to using software such as Excel and PowerPoint in a professional setting. From minute taking, exploring research techniques and presenting data to different audiences, to creating and administering communications plans, both internally and externally, and dealing with different service providers on the phone, by email and face to face.

Make the most of your placement

I also gained an insight into how council, board and team meetings work and how a large organisation works as a whole – both internally and in terms of partnership projects. The part of this placement I enjoyed the most was researching and writing an article for their monthly internal emagazine. Journalism has been an interest of mine for a while now, so it was great to be given the opportunity to write something for a different audience than I’d dealt with before and also showed that I can work to tight deadlines, as well as under pressure.

Don’t worry if you change your mind 

Despite all of this, the outcome of my placement hasn’t changed my mind about working in local government. That said, the projects that I’ve worked on, teamed with my existing ambition to work in current affairs, have created a desire in me to work within a field relating to human rights. As such I’ve started to look at work experience and jobs with Amnesty International, particularly in relation to the media. I was also given the opportunity to deliver a presentation and although I was secretly terrified, the feedback given suggests public speaking may be a strength of mine that I didn’t realise existed, to the extent that I even ended up quite enjoying it which is something I never thought I’d be saying.

My advice to anyone looking for a placement like this, or any placement really, is to simply chat to people and take notice of where there are potential opportunities that catch your eye. On top of this, my only other advice would be to take advantage of every single opportunity presented to you during your placement even if it seems mundane or daunting – and be sure to ask lots of questions while you have the ideal people in front of you to answer!

If Natalia’s story has inspired you to look into working in local government, see our resources for investigating and getting into this sector. You can also discuss your options with a member of our team by booking an appointment through My Career

Posted in Applying For JobsWork experience