How to get into Social Policy

Last month the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law hosted a panel event on How to get into Social Policy, as part of the ‘How to get into’ event series. 

Here we bring you an overview of the sector and the panellists’ top tips for getting into social policy.

What is social policy?

Social policy is all about addressing human needs for security, social justice and welfare, and it considers how states and societies deal with such issues.

There are many different routes into policy work and a wide range of roles to pursue if you’re interested in this area – both in the private and public spheres.

A common entry route into the sector is as a research associate for independent think tanks. You could also work in project delivery or as a policy adviser in a government department. If you’re interested in more local issues, you might consider applying for the National Graduate Development Programme which is run through local governments.

Meet the panel – click their names to check out their LinkedIn profiles!

  • Rosie Fortune is Senior Participation Officer – Policy and Campaigns – at NSPCC. Rosie graduated with a BSc in Social Policy from the University of Bristol in 2022, and is now pursuing an MSc in Social Work Research.
  • Hannah Shackleford is Senior Public Policy & Political Engagement Manager at TPXimpact. Hannah has a BSc in Psychology from the University of Bristol, and an MSc in Social Policy and Social Research from UCL.
  • Sara Soliman Riaño is Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer at Toynbee Hall. Sara graduated in 2022 with a Social Policy BSc from the University of Bristol.
  • Patty Miranda is Gender Legal Advisor at The Asia Foundation. Patty has an LLM in Health, Law and Society from the University of Bristol.

Top tips from the panellists:

1. Work on your communication style

Working in social policy, it is important to be able to communicate well, for example by translating complicated policy into clear and simple briefs.

Make sure you show potential employers that this is a skill you possess. Check out this article on mycareer on how to improve your communication skills.

In addition, here are a couple of articles on how to write effective policy briefs from the UK Parliament and from the University of North Carolina.

2. Build your CV

Use your time at university to build your CV and develop new skills. Employers tend to recognise that most graduates don’t have years of work experience.  However, having a part-time job, doing an internship, or engaging in a leadership role within a society or student organisation allows you to develop skills that will be extremely useful when applying for graduate positions. Check out the opportunities page on mycareer to find work experience and internships!

3. Develop your skill set

One of the speakers recommended engaging with various online modules that teach more practical, hands-on skills, such as management. Forage offers free virtual work experience programs within areas like social impact, law, and consulting. Coursera offers free and paid-for courses on a range of topics including project management and policy implementation.

Employers generally expect employees to have a good working knowledge of Microsoft Office applications, including Excel, so using your time at university to work on these skills will be really useful for when you start applying for graduate roles. Take a look at Microsoft 365 Training, Excel video training – Microsoft Support and Microsoft Excel Online Training Courses by LinkedIn Learning.

4. Recognise your strengths and areas to improve your skills

Do a skills assessment. Assess your strengths and capabilities to sort out what your skills and passions are.

A self-assessment could help you discover what role you’re best suited for and what skills you might need to build on.

If you find public speaking or interviews challenging, make sure to practise! Try the mycareer strengths assessment and other Career Service resources to practise and grow in your self-confidence, for example, the Get interview-ready pathway.

5. Utilise LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows you to connect with other students, alumni, potential employers, and professionals working in social policy. Do not be afraid to reach out to people working in specific roles you might be interested in (for example the speakers from this event), and ask whether they would be willing to have a conversation with you about your future career. LinkedIn can also be a source of inspiration, by allowing you to see what other students and professionals have done to gain work experience and increase their competency.

Find out more:

  • Explore our Policy Sector Guide for more info on the Policy sector and other related areas of work.
  • Article from Prospects on careers in Public Services and Administration, an umbrella sector term which covers social policy
  • Have a look at the Social Policy Association’s website – a professional association for lecturers, researchers and students of social policy in the UK and internationally.
  • Attend more events like this one – Explore more Career Service events.
  • Explore work opportunities and internships on mycareer.

Blog written by Henrietta Skareng, a 3rd year BSc Politics and International Relations student, Student Engagement Team Worker and Career Peer Support Assistant.