The article below appeared in the recent copy of Commons View – the e-newsletter for Members’ staff – and we reckon it needs a wider airing. A couple of good reasons:
- So other new staff realise they are not alone in feeling pretty lost when they start in the job, and
- So everyone considering working for an MP has a realistic view of what it’s likely to involve.
The views expressed are those of someone who works at Westminster but our experience is that it can be even more problematic for those based in constituency offices.
Of course the Open Days for Constituency-based staff have been a great improvement and W4MP is pleased to see that a version of this event for staff based at Westminster has now been set up. [Do click on those links for more information.]
But whatever happened to the Induction Days run by Capita? You can see their current schedule of training opportunities here.
While you wait for things to improve you can always look at W4MP’s own Guide to Working for an MP. Although written for newcomers after the 2010 election and some aspects may need updating, it is still full of advice and encouragement for new staff….and that’s what you need isn’t it!
Joining a Member’s office is an exciting experience, as is arriving in Parliament to start your new role. It can be a bewildering place and it remains so a couple of years later as you try to find the meeting room in the basement of Norman Shaw North.
If there was one thing that I wished I had been told, it was that you would have to get used to asking for directions and navigating your way round various helpdesks to locate who to contact when a broken chair needs replacing. This is where an induction, provided by the House, would be valuable to Member’s staff.
Whilst learning on the job is part of the challenge, it would have been helpful to have had an induction day where, as a new starter, you were shown round the estate by someone who has been here a while and informed of the departments and facilities available. These are often departments that, at most other places of work, you would expect to be introduced to during a tour (e.g. print services).
I am not suggesting that these run every day but perhaps one a month. Other Members’ staff I have spoken to agree that such a scheme would be useful and they would have taken it up if it were offered to them. It would be interesting to find out if others agree.
Whilst each Member has particular interests, you will need to use most of the House services at some point. A number of times I have been asked who to contact for X or where to find the Pugin Room over the last few years. It would make sense to utilise such knowledge.
The best thing to do is to explore the intranet. When you make use of the House switchboard build up a collection of available services, names and numbers so that colleagues in your office, both present and future, can have easy access to contact details in order to get things done as efficiently as possible.