A typical day as a public affairs intern can involve anything from attending meetings and events to researching and writing reports. No two days are the same, which makes the role both challenging and exciting.
As a public affairs intern, you’ll be expected to support the work of the team by undertaking a range of tasks. These might include:
– Attending meetings and events, and taking minutes
– Researching and writing reports
– assisting with media relations activities
– organising events and conferences
– updating social media channels.
The role of a public affairs intern is perfect for anyone interested in a career in politics, policymaking, or communications. It’s an excellent way to gain first-hand experience of how the political process works and to build up your skills and knowledge in a fast-paced and dynamic environment. As there are many types of public affairs jobs, an internship can also help you to decide which area of the sector you’d like to pursue. You can be a lobbyist, PR professional, an advisor to a political consultancy, or working freelance or as a trainee for a government agency.
Whichever route you decide to take, an internship in public affairs will give you an excellent grounding in the skills and knowledge you need to be successful. As I have completed previous internships in the field, I want to walk you through what a usual day as a public affairs intern working in government looks like. I’m going to use my work experience at the Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations in New York as an example, so you can know what to expect if you get a similar role in the future.
Usually, I woke up at 5:30 am to get ready for my day. While this may be early for most people, I found that it was the best time for me to get ready for my day and to have some time to myself before the craziness of the day began. I lived in Queens and the UN HQ and the offices of the Mission are in Manhattan so there was at least a commute of an hour, depending on the traffic every day. This is why I made myself breakfast and most days I was out of the door by 7 am. I would then commute into the city and would grab a cup of coffee before arriving at the office.
The morning usually started with a meeting with my supervisor to discuss the day’s events and plan out what tasks need to be completed. This was a great opportunity to get an overview of what’s going on and to ask any questions. I was covering the Third Committee of the General Assembly, which deals with social, humanitarian, and cultural affairs topics so my days were always very interesting.
After the meeting, I would start working on whatever tasks were assigned to me which usually meant that I had to run to attend an event or session starting at the Headquarters in a few minutes. I would sit behind the placard saying “Greece”, put on the headset to hear the live interpretation, and would start writing notes on my laptop about what was being said. The trick here is not to rush and try to start writing everything that was being said like a fresher in his first University lecture. I had to write down only what was relevant to Greece and its foreign policy and also monitor the reaction of key countries, which changed depending on the topic under discussion.
When the meeting was done, I would usually rush back to the office to get a headstart on writing my report. I would use my notes, and information that was uploaded online after the meeting ended to write a comprehensive report. This process could be quite challenging but it was also very rewarding to see my work come together.
Lunchtime was usually around 1:30 pm, and it was a great time to step away from work and clear your head. I often took this time to go for a walk or grab a bite to eat with other interns from the Greek or other Missions. This was a great opportunity to exchange advice and plan intern events for after work was finished for the day.
After lunch, I usually had a few more meetings or events to attend. The afternoon is usually when things start to pick up and there’s more of a focus on attending even more meetings, events, and receptions away from the office. This could involve anything from attending other meetings at HQ to receptions and side events organised by other Missions or UN Agencies. I often found that the afternoon was the most exciting part of the day.
For example, while working, I had the opportunity to attend many receptions organised by Member states that for example celebrated their National Days, and side-events of important political meetings like the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development or the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I also got to meet people from all over the world that worked in journalism and international affairs (even the UN Secretary-General himself! 🙂 ).
While attending these events, it is important to be able to network and talk to as many people as possible. Despite what people think, officials there do not look down on interns and are actually quite interested in hearing what you have to say. This is a great opportunity to get your name and face out there, as you never know what opportunities may arise from these connections. I know of at least 12 people that got their next jobs through connections they made while working as an intern there.
The evening usually wrapped up around 7 pm, and I would usually head home after a long day if there was not anything planned for the evening with colleagues. I would usually take some time to relax and unwind before preparing for the next day. This could involve anything from reading a book to watching a movie. Regardless, it was important for me to take some time for myself so that I could recharge and be ready for the next day. I worked long hours at the time but I loved every minute of it!
As you can see, a typical day as a public affairs intern is both busy and rewarding. If you are interested in pursuing a career in public affairs, I would highly recommend doing an internship at a Government agency before you find an entry-level job. It would give you the confidence and training necessary to excel in this field. While everyone’s experience is different, this is what my life as a public affairs intern working for a Government agency looked like and it should give you a general idea of what to expect if you get a similar role in the future. Thanks for reading!
Minoas graduated with a Merit upon studying the full-time MPA Public Administration – International Development degree (MPA-ID) at the University of York. He is currently working as a freelance EU affairs consultant in Belgium.
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