04 March 2022

Starting a career in politics after UEA: Harriet's Alumni Story

Harriet Francis in front of ZigguratsHarriet Francis graduated from UEA with a BA in International Relations and Politics in 2019. After leaving UEA, Harriet worked for a Public Affairs agency and now works for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Energy (BEIS) as a Policy Advisor. Harriet shared with us what it’s like to work in politics, how her career aspirations developed while at UEA, and how to get into policy roles.

The best days of my course were those where I'd sit down and learn about something completely new - it made the whole degree really exciting and challenged my views and perspective of politics, culture and history.

What have you been up to since you graduated? 

I started at a Public Affairs agency after graduating, working with clients in a variety of sectors to develop campaigns and influence policy. I have now started work at BEIS as a Policy Advisor, working to realise the policy goals of an innovative and fast paced department.

What was your ambition for your career when you started at UEA? Did you have a specific career path in mind?

I had no fixed goal or idea of what I wanted to accomplish, I just knew I loved politics and international relations and wanted to contribute to meaningful political change in some way.

Tell me about your experiences studying at UEA (how did you find out about UEA, what made you choose to study your subject, and what were your best days on the course?)

I loved studying at UEA because of the variety of my course. One day I'd learn about political theory, the next I'd be researching Japanese foreign policy. The number of opportunities to explore in and around the subject made it an attractive place to study. I always loved history and realised after searching through UEA's undergraduate programmes that International Relations and Politics suited my interest areas. The best days of my course were those where I'd sit down and learn about something completely new - it made the whole degree really exciting and challenged my views and perspective of politics, culture and history. 

In your career what key tasks & skills are involved on a day-to-day basis, and what are/have been the most rewarding/challenging aspects?

The main skills I use are research, policy analysis and effective communications. It can be complex deciphering and interpreting policy, but it's fascinating to see how it's done and is really rewarding when you have a positive impact on what you're doing. My main tasks involve advising on policy and drafting correspondence for Ministers and MPs.

Has your degree influenced your career? 

Absolutely - it has allowed me to understand the political climate, both domestic and international, and how policy can be used to have a positive impact. It's enabled me to develop technical understanding of political systems and opened opportunities to work in the industry. My degree at UEA also enabled me to work with an MP as part of my Parliamentary and Public Policy Research Internship which gave me excellent exposure into the workings of parliament and enabled me to network.

What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?

I'm most proud of graduating from UEA. It was a tough few years with a lot of highs and lows, but it taught me a lot, both academically and personally, and it set me up on the path that I am on now. It has helped shape my career and offered me opportunities that I wouldn't have got elsewhere. It was a great personal achievement to graduate and to have a Bachelors next to my name. It is an accomplishment that I will always be very proud of.

What were your experiences of Norwich as a city? Is there anything in particular that you miss or have fond memories of?

I loved the beauty of Norwich, its nightlife, and its food! I have very fond memories of lunch and dinner dates with friends and exploring through the shops of Norwich. I always look back fondly on Norwich lights every winter, and the Christmas decorations of Jarrolds.

Harriet Francis on Graduation Day

Would you recommend studying at UEA? Why?

I would recommend studying at UEA. It offers a range of personal and academic opportunities that allow you to explore a range of new areas, and space to learn and grow as a person.

Is there any advice you would give to current students, wishing to follow a similar career path to you?

I'd say, don't stress it. If the first application fails, don't get disheartened. Take note of feedback and learn to refine your skills - you will get there! I would also recommend getting really involved with your degree, taking up opportunities that are available and challenging yourself to learn a range of new skills and subject areas. Also, don’t forget about the social side, as this teaches various skills such as teamwork and communications that are useful in interviews.

What is next for you?

Who knows?! Although I do hope to continue my work in BEIS, creating and delivering policy to bring about effective change for people both domestically and internationally, helping on our quest to Net Zero.

Harriet Francis studied BA International Relations and Politics