Intern Calum portrait with Edinburgh parliament

Over the last 12 weeks, I have had the fantastic experience of trialing the new Public Affairs and Campaigns Assistant role here at the Stroke Association. I have spent time learning the ropes of third sector work, the basics of public affairs, and talking to people from different departments to get a better understanding of the organisation. I’ve tried to involve myself as much as possible, taking on any tasks that might free other people to get on with their own important work and allow me to gain a deeper understanding of the team's purpose and their activities to get to where they want to be.

It’s been a steep learning curve, but my time here has been invaluable in shaping my understanding of the third sector and informing plans for my career. In particular, working with Katie MacGregor (Public Affairs and Campaigns Officer in Scotland) has been brilliant. She always made sure that I was making the most of my time and understood what I was doing.

I came into this role without much policy, public affairs or campaign experience, having originally graduated with an MA in Creative Writing. Although my hope was to work within the third sector, as I had no particularly relevant experience, I struggled to get purchase on.

When I eventually came across this role, I was excited to apply because the description made it seem as much of a learning experience as it was a job. It was clearly designed for someone like me, who was very keen to get involved but just needed that extra bit of support to get there.

That’s why I think positions like this one are so important. The third sector is an incredible place to work but can be inaccessible for those without adequate experience. This position gave me the opportunity to tailor my work towards my strengths and to build up muscle in areas I lacked. It taught me the basics of what I need to succeed in the third sector, while also paying the bills – which is no small part of bridging the accessibility gap.

I very much hope that positions like these will continue and that more people in similar positions will be given this opportunity. Not only will it benefit them as individuals and take some of the pressure off the Stroke Association team, the third sector will gain access to a wider array of skillsets and experiences, which can only be a good thing.

So, a massive thank you to everyone I have worked with for making this such a valuable and enjoyable experience. I feel so much more confident when looking at future roles, largely in part to the supportive and encouraging environment fostered here at the Stroke Association. I hope we get to work together again one day; until then, all the best with making stroke care the priority it should be!