So, you want my job? Strategic comms lead at the Department for Education

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Matthew Mitchell's job as strategic comms lead at the Department for Education?

Don't tell the interviewer you really wanted to work for the Foreign Office, warns Matthew Mitchell
Don't tell the interviewer you really wanted to work for the Foreign Office, warns Matthew Mitchell
Matthew Mitchell

Strategic comms lead at the Department for Education

Starting salary/salary band for the job? 

What qualifications do you need?
I started working in government in 2003 and at that time I just applied for an entry grade job and could have been placed in almost any role in the Home Office as part of that recruitment. I was lucky enough to be offered a campaigns and communication role despite not having any specific training or qualifications in communications. Having a degree helped me into the civil service but what’s great about how the GCS recruits is that it is competency-based, so if you have transferrable skills and experience and can demonstrate that with some really engaging examples there’s a good chance you could get the job. It always depends who you’re up against of course.

What level of experience do you need?
Strategic communications in government can be more of an art than a science. As well as having experience of developing and delivering insight lead communication strategies, it helps to have knowledge and experience of the parliamentary process and understand the importance of sequencing communications with ministers and MPs. Working at the level I do, the job is just as much about leading and influencing as it is about producing creative and innovative campaigns. 

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?
Necessary? No. Useful? Absolutely.  

What are the main day-to-day challenges?
A big focus for the Department for Education is social mobility. It’s the lens through which we deliver our policies. One of my challenges at the moment is getting to grips with the huge variety of work we do in the department, from child protection to building schools, and then working with teams to integrate our messages and content on what we are doing to improve social mobility through their work programmes. We are a big operational department and, sometimes, finding who the right people are to make this happen can be a challenge.

What is the best part of the job?
It’s really exciting to feel close to all the action in Westminster, and what a year it’s been for politics. It does mean that there’s never a dull moment. You can find that if a new minister joins the department, polices, plans, campaigns and just about anything else can change so you’re kept on your feet. For any of my colleagues reading this, the best part of the job is working with skilled, committed and professional people. 

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?
I’ve not signed the Official Secrets Act, but I’m sure I can’t tell you about some of the more unusual things I know through working here. I could tell you how the Secretary of State takes her tea if you’re interested.

If you get an interview, do say?
Yes, I know how to write an OASIS communication strategy.

If you get an interview, don’t say?
I was really looking for a job in the Foreign Office, but it’s difficult to get in there.

If you’re good at this job you might also be well suited to?
Working in a big multinational organisation. After all, you don’t get much bigger than government. An institution that’s constantly in the spotlight and often on the front pages.

Please note: Interviewees for 'So, you want my job' are not leaving their current role.

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