Politics at a Glance with the Director of GMCA Mayor’s Office
Meet Your Future: National Careers Week 2023
Careers in the Public Sector
Politics at a Glance With the Director of GMCA Mayor’s Office
National Careers Week is all about helping you to meet future careers and jobs you might be interested in. This might mean hearing from prospective employers, learning more about your education options, or even hearing from your peers who have recently made their own choices. To celebrate National Careers Week this year, we ran a series of Meet Your Future sessions focused on careers in the public sector.
We asked people working in a range of public sectors (politics, fire, police, law, travel, and health) to deliver talks to young people in GM about how they got started in their careers and what kind of pathways are available. All those talks are now available on our YouTube channel, but we’ve also spent some time summarising the key points from each talk to help you with your careers research.
We’ll be releasing an article from each MYF video in NCW over the coming weeks, so keep an eye on the GMACS blog to see each one as they come out.
We kicked off National Careers Week with this session with Kevin Lee, the director of GMCA Mayor’s Office and political adviser to the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. This session is a rare opportunity to hear from a behind the scenes political adviser. As Kevin notes, people with these roles usually try to keep away from the press and media attention, unlike elected politicians who are generally much more comfortable in front of the camera. This might open your eyes to the idea that there are plenty of jobs in politics where you don’t need to constantly be in the public eye.
During the session, Kevin talked about his background and the route he took to get the role he has today. He said that he joined a political party aged 15 as a volunteer and party member, but didn’t immediately pursue a career in politics, instead joining the Civil Service where he worked in Customs and Excise for around 10 years. He was still involved in political campaigns and elections as a volunteer, and this is how he ultimately got the opportunity to transition into a political career.
Kevin described how, in 1994, an opportunity came up to work for the Labour party on a particular election campaign. The Civil Service allowed him to take a 6-month career break to go and work on this campaign. Kevin noted how lucky he was to be offered a permanent position in politics after this but also talked about how it was definitely a risk to change careers after 10 years, taking a pay cut and losing the stability of a permanent position at the Civil Service.
Following this, Kevin described working in various roles in the Labour party, including becoming the Regional Director for the North West. This was where he first started working with Andy Burnham. Kevin then moved on to doing some consultancy work for a range of organisations, including Lancashire County Cricket Club, again where he had a link with Andy. After this, he was approached to become campaign manager for Andy Burnham’s Labour leadership campaign, then moved on to becoming the Head of Office in Westminster to support Andy’s time as a Member of Parliament.
When Andy was then elected Mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017, Kevin took up his current role as Director of the Mayor’s Office and political adviser to the Mayor. Throughout all of this, you can see how a career in politics is often based around specific campaigns and elections, as well as sometimes forming relationships with specific politicians.
Kevin’s current role
Kevin described his current role as “basically, my job is to help the Mayor”. He does this by offering political advice and helping on policy and strategy. Kevin described some different campaigns that he has worked extensively on during his time with the Mayor. One of these was “A Bed Every Night”, which is a campaign based around homelessness. While working on this campaign, Kevin decided to go out on walkabouts at 4 in the morning with outreach teams to actually get a sense of what the issues were. Sometimes, he noted, taking a focused and personal approach to a political issue is what will help you develop policies that truly help.
Kevin talked about how he, throughout his career, followed his heart with what he thought he was good at. He said he “never quite expected to be here, it wasn’t a career plan,” and said he “didn’t know where my career would take me, but I’m very lucky that it’s brought me to this position.”
Opportunities in politics and Kevin’s advice
Throughout his talk, Kevin talked about how there are “plenty of opportunities in politics that aren’t just about holding the elected office.” He mentioned lots of people behind the scenes supporting what elected politicians are doing. This includes things like political advisory roles, communications and engagement roles writing press releases and other forms of communication, and casework roles working on local people’s issues.
Careers Tip: Kevin was asked “how do you get started with a career in politics?”. His answer was to consider joining a political party if you’ve got a party view on politics, as this is a great way to get involved and get experience working and volunteering in politics. Or, if you’re more interested in research or strategy jobs, look for roles in party political offices, combined authorities or local councils, or research thinktanks which may look at research into specific issues.
To find out more about careers in local government, and to see some of Kevin’s answers to some of your questions, including whether he enjoys his job, watch the video above. Stay tuned here on the GMACS blog or follow us on Twitter or Instagram for the rest of the Meet Your Future National Careers Week articles!