July 27, 2022, by Rebekah
My placement with Royal United Services Institute
by Samuel Bruning, Politics and International Relations student
I was recently fortunate to conduct a placement with the Royal United Services Institute, the defence and security studies think tank. RUSI are an award-winning think tank, highly regarded for its analysis, and with a formidable reputation. Therefore, while taking on a placement with them was daunting, it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.
First, I had to demonstrate that I should be offered the placement. This involved a revision of my CV and writing a cover letter, to demonstrate I had both the interest and skills to be of value. I then had a short interview, which I prepared for by getting some friends to ask me practice questions. Fortunately, this part of the process went well, as I ended up getting the opportunity!
My placement saw me shadow Dr Tobias Borck, a Research Fellow for Middle East Security Studies at RUSI. This meant I attended some of his meetings, as well as conducting research to support what he was doing. This helped me garner an understanding of what working in a think tank entails. Meeting relevant individuals, conducting research, writing commentaries, hosting events, and completing funding bids.
I was also able to attend RUSI events, including talks on Libya and national security education. These proved valuable opportunities for me to learn in detail about subjects, as I heard from a range of different experts and practitioners. All of this was a great chance to work out how a think tank operates. Given this is a career avenue I’m exploring, this was of real benefit.
In addition, I co-authored a piece with Tobias for the RUSI website, which can be found via this link- https://rusi.org/explore-our-research/publications/commentary/strings-attached-implications-europes-turn-mediterranean-gas. Writing this was a great experience. I gained insight into the process of producing analysis for a think-tank: getting an idea, narrowing the focus, and then drafting, and re-drafting, as well as doing this with a co-author. I also learnt more about the writing style necessary for a think tank, given how different this is from the academic writing I’m more used to.
When completing a placement, it’s key to form a good working relationship with your supervisor. With Tobias, I was sure to communicate clearly, while also not being afraid to ask questions when necessary. This was important for both of us. He knew I was doing what he wanted, and I was getting the most out of the experience.
Also key is to ensure you stay engaged. As I was completing the placement remotely, I knew it was important for me to stay focused. This meant assigning certain hours a day in which I’d be working, to counter the challenges of remote work.
However, the main thing is to enjoy it! A placement is a great opportunity, so approach it with confidence to make sure you get the most out of it, as I was sure to do, by attending events. But it shouldn’t be something stressful, so don’t panic or overthink it. Relax, know your stuff, and it should all come together!
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