Graduate in Focus: Harriet Main

Guest BloggerFinal Year, Graduates, Graduates in Focus, Guest Blogger

Full name: Harriet Main

Degree title: BSc Politics and Sociology

Year of graduation: 2018

Name of the organisation where you work: Houses of Parliament

Job title: Parliamentary Assistant

What does a typical day in your job look like?

My typical day is so varied depending on Parliamentary business of the day. However, on a daily basis I will usually make sure that my boss’ diary is up-to-date, organise meetings and events, and attend meetings with my boss. I also respond to constituent enquiries by telephone, email and letter.

What has been the highlight of your job so far?

I have met so many interesting people and have had some great opportunities while working in Parliament, but I think a definite highlight was having an article I wrote being published in The Times Red Box.

What skills have you developed in your role?

I have definitely developed my communication/networking skills as I have had the opportunity to meet with many different people, as well as regularly speak to constituents.

How has your current role shaped your career plans?

I would like to continue to work in politics and I think that working in Parliament has enabled me to understand which areas of policy I am passionate about and would potentially like to work in.

How did you secure your role?

I secured my role by looking at a website called W4MP, which advertises MP Assistant jobs. I submitted many applications and had many interviews over a period of six months before I was offered my job – persistence is definitely key!

Did you secure your role while you were still a student?

I started actively looking for a graduate job in November 2017 while I was still a student in my final year. At this time, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do, but knew I wanted a job in Policy / Politics or Public Affairs. I graduated in July 2018 but did not get offered my job as a Parliamentary Assistant until December 2018.

After university I moved back home to live with my parents and worked part-time while looking for a full-time job in politics. I realised that working in Parliament was very competitive and ended up sending many applications and having lots of interviews. But I was driven by my determination to work in Parliament and was eventually successful!

Did you do a placement or gain any other work experience before securing your graduate role?

I did a placement abroad in Brussels while studying at Aston. I worked as a Policy and Communications Assistant in the Greater Birmingham West Midlands Brussels Office. My placement year was one of the best things I have ever done – I gained so much experience and confidence over the course of the year.

I think there are so many benefits to studying abroad, including being able to experience another culture and becoming even more independent. Applying for a placement also sets you up and gives you skills on applying for jobs which is very useful for final year.

I received a lot of support from Careers and Placements when I was looking for my placement. Also, when I arrived in Brussels, they sent a list of fellow Aston students who were living in Brussels which was really helpful.

What advice would you offer to final year students or other recent graduates looking for a role?

I would say to final year students to apply for as many jobs as you think you would be interested in doing, and look for things you are passionate about and would really enjoy.

I think interview practice is also really important, especially as they were something that I personally struggled with. However, I became more confident with practice.

Of course, speak to Careers and Placements too as I found them to be very helpful!