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An Insight into Graduate Jobs in Political Risk during Covid-19

By Joe O'Brien, on 23 September 2020

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Joe O’Brien, Marketing Communications Assistant at UCL Careers.

Charles Hecker, Partner at the specialist risk consultancy Control Risks, speaks to UCL Careers about how the market is looking and what makes someone a strong candidate in challenging times.

Geopolitics and political risk have become increasingly important to businesses in recent years. Whilst before the interaction of local politics and international relations on the world of business was new and somewhat shapeless, this has changed significantly over the last 10 years. International relations and politics have become more and more important to businesses at board level, meaning our services are now in demand like never before.

The current situation has had tremendous effects on many aspects of life, effectively cementing this demand. Those who have a deep understanding of what drives a country during challenging times such as these are needed. People in our profession are helping companies write their rulebooks and answer significant questions that six months ago they wouldn’t have thought needed answering.

To take one example: when should companies allow staff to travel, and how will they do that? Coming out of lockdown is going to be a challenge even within individual countries, let alone across borders. To give an example, in Australia they haven’t yet been able to resolve travel from state to state – from Queensland to New South Wales, for instance. So here is a highly populated country, unable to decide how its citizens can travel effectively within its own borders. There are ongoing critical questions about supply chains, airlines, shipping and railways. All these questions require people with deep expertise of subject and geographic areas to try and provide answers to these unprecedented questions.

There is also a need to understand the larger implications: what does all this mean for countries, but also for individuals, airlines, Chinese economic growth and so on. People who bring this specialised knowledge and can explain their perspective clearly will be very much in demand.

What do you look for from applications at Control Risks?

Typically, we would look for a Master’s degree and languages. However, we have different levels of positions and we do hire at the BA level so this shouldn’t deter you! A well-prepared candidate offers geographic or thematic expertise: deep knowledge of a geographic area or a geopolitical subject. We look for evidence on the CV that they can gather information from a wide variety of sources, digest it and present it clearly. That might be working with a professor on a research project, contributing to an academic journal or even the student newspaper.

Networking is an essential skill in our field. It is important to take the initiative in developing relationships. Personally, I would applaud someone who approached me for a networking conversation: it shows passion and initiative. I would also recommend attending events, such as the ones at Chatham House or the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Think Tanks sometimes run evening events too. Of course this is dependent on when it will be safe to run physical events again or perhaps you will find online events you can attend virtually. Another idea is to join a discussion group. Whatever you decide to do, the idea is to develop your understanding and your contacts so that you can discuss the issues really fluently.

Do you have any final tips for graduates wishing to enter this area?

There’s no doubt that things have changed in the market as a result of Covid-19. Looking for work in the foreseeable future will likely require an amount of patience and effort as companies/organisations make changes to their recruitment processes during this difficult time.

Flexibility and resilience are the key words here. If you can’t get into this area first time around, what else could you consider, where else could you go to build relevant and interesting experience? We consider people from Think Tanks, from government and politics, from research and from business, banks and consultancies. Think laterally. An area like compliance, for example, which is about conducting detailed checks and balances and understanding things like money laundering legislation, would provide a great bootcamp for this field.

And finally, there is of course room for optimism. We partner with Oxford Economics, and they predict significant economic growth in 2021, so perhaps that will bode well for jobseekers!

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