By Angelie Balalingam
2 May 2022
Halfway through my degree at university, I started to become increasingly aware that I had no idea what I wanted to pursue post graduation, or what steps I needed to take to successfully transition from academia into a full-time career. Whilst I knew that out of the three disciplines I was studying, I had enjoyed politics the most, the industry seemed so far removed from my reality that finding a way in seemed out of reach. I don't come from a family with a political background, and I was the first to have even pursued a degree in humanities which meant I had no blueprint on what to do next. It was through my university’s career service that I came across a joint event by IHAV and PRCA's Next Generation group. Alongside the event, there was also a chance to be a part of the IHAV mentoring scheme.
Prior to Rebecca's email, I had never even heard about public affairs or the opportunities it presented, and the scheme seemed like the perfect environment for a deep dive into all things policy and PA. Having applied out of curiosity, I was fortunate enough to have been accepted onto the programme and was then immersed into sessions that spanned from application and interview techniques, to tips on how to build my network. The sessions not only provided practical help, but opened my eyes to a new industry and also connected me to mentors that I continue to lean on as I progress in my career. Upon completing the mentoring scheme I endeavoured to keep in touch with all things IHAV and in doing so I was able to secure an internship in health policy (at the NHS Confederation) soon after I graduated. This then led me to transition into a full-time role within the organisation. From putting together briefing documents to lobbying MPs and drafting blogs for our members, my new role allows me to connect with senior leaders and learn from inspiring people every day. However, it was the IHAV mentorship scheme that helped to provide me with the initial confidence and skills that has seen me through to now.
One of the most valuable lessons that I took from the IHAV mentoring scheme, and that I continue to use in the workplace, is the importance of networking. The ability to connect with new people and maintain those relationships has been crucial to master in my current role. Being a part of a membership organisation, a lot of our work revolves around building relationships with stakeholders and colleagues across different organisations. Whilst the pandemic does make that slightly more difficult, with many of us working from home, I was able to inadvertently prepare for this within the mentoring programme and I continue to see benefits from the connections I have made within the last 6 months. It is not only helpful for your professional development, but it can also make your day-to-day tasks easier if you have links across the organisation.
Whether you're a student activist, or someone who is just curious about a career in public affairs, the scheme provides a safe space for people to learn from industry experts who have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they are ready to pass on. As someone who doesn’t fit the typical mould for a career in policy or public affairs, IHAV was the stepping stone I needed to jump into this world and I’d sincerely encourage whoever is reading this to just apply because you never know where it might take you.