Landing my dream job

graduate Michael Berry
Michael Berry
Parliamentary Clerk Trainee at the House of Lords
BA Politics with Employment Experience
"Undoubtedly, the knowledge developed through the Politics course as well as the opportunities to build extra-curricular experiences were vital to being offered this dream opportunity."

We spoke with Michael about  the opportunities he undertook during his time at Sheffield that helped him secure his dream role in a highly competitive graduate scheme.

Why did you choose to study politics?

I began to follow Politics when I was a teenager and decided to take A-level Politics at sixth form. This quickly became my favourite subject and I became fascinated in everything from voting behaviour to the functions of Parliament. It became clear that there was so much to learn beyond party politics. I wasn’t particularly planning on going to university when I started sixth form, but after studying A-level Politics for a year, I felt that this was a great opportunity to follow my passion.

What have you enjoyed most about studying in the Department of Politics and International Relations?

I’ve enjoyed the variety of courses that are available, as it gives you the chance to explore not only various areas of interest, but also gives you the opportunity to find your academic passions within the department. The course and university more widely also gives so many opportunities to make the experience your own. This is the reason I decided to undertake a placement year with the Civil Service, working as a Social Researcher with the Department for Work and Pensions. This was an incredibly valuable experience, which not only improved my employment prospect hugely, but also gave me the opportunity to apply my learning in the real world. I have also had the opportunity to attend the World Urban Forum, in which students can attend a fully-funded international policy conference, and also a summer school in Denmark on Drug and Alcohol policy.

What has been the main highlight from your time as a student at Sheffield?

I don’t think I have a single highlight that I could choose from. Academically, it would either be attending the World Urban Forum in Malaysia, and having the opportunity to have a policy brief and blog published by the respected Global Policy Journal. Similarly, I also had an evidence submission published by a Select Committee through the Parliamentary Studies module, which was a privilege and a great experience. However, I also have lots of personal highlights. This includes making friends for life, and all the wonderful memories I share with them. This includes winning a BBC1 game show with a housemate. I also took part in “Bummit”, the annual charity hitchhike in which two friends and I hitchhiked from Sheffield to Slovenia in 8 days. It was an incredible experience and I have some great stories from that. Sheffield too has been a brilliant city to live in, with amazing parks which you can enjoy in the summer, and lots of great nights out too!

How has the course prepared you for your future career?

This course has prepared me very well for my chosen career. As well as giving a broad base of political issues, it has also given me the opportunity to specialise in subject areas of my choosing: namely policymaking, social issues and British politics. I also used my dissertation to build on my experiences at the Department for Work and Pensions as well as a topic I am interested in: rural social mobility. I wrote my dissertation about barriers that students face in rural areas in progressing into HE, which is something I greatly enjoyed. This has allowed me to build the skills and experience to secure a place in the Houses of Parliament graduate programme: an incredibly competitive process, with over 850 applicants for 4 places.

Undoubtedly, the knowledge developed through the Politics course as well as the opportunities to build extra-curricular experiences were vital to being offered this dream opportunity, not to mention the support I received from Professor Matthew Flinders, who was both insightful and encouraging.

Undoubtedly, the knowledge developed through the Politics course as well as the opportunities to build extra-curricular experiences were vital to being offered this dream opportunity.

Michael Berry

BA Politics graduate

I also spent a year as a Social Researcher for the Department for Work and Pensions, which gave me brilliant insight into the world of policymaking and research, as well as giving me an opportunity to learn about new policy areas including racial labour market and education disparities. It led to some brilliant opportunities, including being with a government minister when the snap election was called – very exciting!

Did you take part in any international opportunities?

I attended the Aarhus Summer School in Denmark for 3 weeks, where I learned about drug and alcohol policy. This again was a great experience, as I was able to meet people and make friends from all over the world, have a lot of fun in a different environment and learn about an interesting policy area in focus. I was also selected to attend a trip to the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, in which I worked as a policy analyst. This was a brilliant experience to attend an international policy conference with other students from different disciplines. I had never visited Asia before, and this was a great opportunity to do so. However, the best part of this trip was that both my blog and policy brief was published by the Global Policy Journal, which is a massive achievement to put on the CV, and is something I am incredibly grateful to the university and the journal for giving me the opportunity to do.

POL - michael graduation

How did the department support you, both in preparation for your career and during your studies?

Professor Matthew Flinders has been fantastically supportive. Despite being an incredibly busy academic and specialist for Lords Select Committee, he was always willing to make time for me and my peers during the Parliamentary Studies module, supporting us with our written submissions to Select Committees and other questions we had about the content of the course. Over 20 written submissions being published by various parliamentary select committees is testament to his support. Furthermore, Matt was incredibly supportive throughout my application, making time to read over it, as well as giving me advice for the interview. I am incredibly grateful for the time he gave up to assist with this and helping me land this opportunity.

Dr Matt Bishop was a brilliant supervisor for my dissertation. He was always willing to make time to support the project, being incredibly positive and encouraging. Matt’s popularity amongst his students is testament to his relaxed demeanour, sharp political analysis and great sense of humour. Although I did not attend, Matt led a trip to the G7 Summit in Canada, which produced an unprecedented amount of analysis, videos and publications – this included televised interviews with students who attended, giving commentary on the events of the summit. No doubt, this is in part to Matt’s leadership and ability to create opportunities for his students. This is an incredibly warm and supportive department, that encourages excellence and creates many opportunities for their students. I am incredibly grateful for the support and friendships I have built at the department over the last four years, with my peers and all the staff.

Thank you to all the staff at the department for creating an engaging curriculum and opportunities to apply it to the real world. Through this, I have been lucky enough to land a dream job! A massive thank you is also owed to those who keep the department running like clockwork – namely Nicola Black (Undergraduate Learning and Teaching Support Officer/Employability Officer) and Sarah Moga (Undergraduate Administrator/Examinations Officer) – who do a brilliant job of organising the department and its students. It’s easy to take this for granted, but this plays a big part in the wonderful student experience and no doubt is a significant factor in the department’s success. From raising my awareness of the work placement opportunity at the DWP to reminding me to get my essays in on time, Sarah and Nicola are brilliant assets to the department, and I am again very grateful.

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