Finding a political navigator

ddejobspec236 The closing date for applications for what I called one of the most interesting communication jobs anywhere in the world, passed a few days ago.

This is the search for a Director of Digital Engagement, a senior UK Civil Service position in the Cabinet Office, at the very heart of government.

Judging from quite a few conversations I’ve had over the past two weeks, some experienced senior communicators in the UK did what I did – requested the information pack with all the details about this job, which came via email.

Quite a collection of documents, the most important of which is the job specification, a 9-page Word document that expands in considerable detail on the information in the original job ad (which is no longer publicly online, not even in Google’s cache).

infliuenceisakeyaspect200 Did I consider applying? A few people have asked me that question. The short answer is no, not seriously.

After thinking about this for the better part of a week, I concluded that while I believe I could meet the competencies, skills and experience detailed in the job spec, I am convinced that the indispensible skill requirement for this job is one that is conspicuously absent from my best-skill repertoire: the proven ability to effectively navigate the political seas across the breadth and depth of government – the most critically-important skill for this role, in my view, far more important than any amount of direct and real experience with social media let alone website building or even organizational communication experience itself.

It’s a skill that the job spec makes clear is pretty important. But I think it underplays that importance.

I believe that finding a single individual who can combine that ability with all the senior communication experience and social media knowledge that the job spec details is practically impossible, especially given the nationality restrictions and the hugely ambitious goals the government has in mind with what they want to achieve within just two short years:

Within two years the use of world class digital engagement techniques should be embedded in the normal work of Government.

No, this is not a job for a single individual who matches all the attributes the job spec calls for. Far better a person with the political skills as the figurehead, the navigator, who brings in the communication and other essential skills to execute and deliver on those goals.

The more I thought about this, the firmer this view became. For a single individual, it is indeed a job to die for, I jokingly said to myself – or the job that will kill you.

desirable200 Even though I had decided that this is not the role for me, I still wanted to talk to the Cabinet Office recruiters about it, perhaps to see what they might have to say to my notion that this isn’t a job for a single person.

The job spec offers the name of an individual plus a phone number. Earlier last week, I did call a handful of times; each time, the person answering the number told me that the person I wanted was in a meeting. Busy I guess. I was too, as it happened, on the road much of the week.

So no conversation took place, more’s the pity, before the closing date.

Still, I was (and am) very interested indeed in the scope and scale of what this job means in our society as a whole and what evolutionary changes will take place in how the government enables effective engagement with the people, whether it’s world class or anything else. It’s made especially interesting and challenging as, somewhere in that two-year timeframe, is a general election.

Unquestionably, a killer job.

Related post:

Communication Leader, Social Media Leader, Consultant, Digital Change Agent, Speaker with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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