Life after politics can be the best of times

Life after politics can be the best of times

How to navigate a career post-politics? Jes Ladva, Odgers Interim Managing Partner and Head of Practice for Local and Central Government, on exciting opportunities for talented national and local politicians.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Nick Clegg famously carved out a new career for himself as President, Global Affairs at Facebook-owner Meta, advising Mark Zuckerberg on policy issues. While Clare Coghill, former leader of the London Borough of Waltham Forest, changed tack to become Vice-Chair at residential property developer London Square.

These two examples, chosen more or less at random, succinctly illustrate new career pathways – ex-politicians applying their expertise in interesting roles outside frontline politics. They also highlight a subject, in which I take an active lead here across the Odgers Berndtson Group, ‘porosity’, by which I mean the flow of top talent from public sector roles to private sector businesses, and vice versa.

Last month, I wrote about local government chief executives moving into commercial sectors, with a particular emphasis on opportunities in the world of Sports. In that piece I set about dispelling the myth that government people do not possess the necessary commercial skills.

Likewise, misconceptions abound in connection with elected politicians. Yet many undoubtedly have much to offer in areas away from government because of their extensive capabilities and network of connections.

The old adage that all political careers end in failure is over-used and misleading. Yes, politicians may suddenly find themselves dumped out of office due to the will of the electorate. But as another common phrase has it: when one door closes, another opens. And the next act may be the best yet.

Moreover, change need not be foisted upon you. Some political figures proactively decide to switch direction, opting for the stimulating challenge of something different, perhaps feeling that they have achieved all they can in public life. Elected office is after all a demanding undertaking.

Whatever the circumstances, my central point is that exciting opportunities exist; some that politicians may never have considered. With that in mind, Odgers Interim together with our sister businesses Odger Berndtson and Berwick Partners recently held an event for Council leaders on the topic of porosity. Our speakers were Lord Morse and our Board Practice, Chair Virginia Bottomley, herself a shining example of forging a post-politics career, having come to Odgers in 2000 after holding Secretary of State ministerial positions.

Lord Morse, former Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office (NAO), is the first Chair of the Office for Local Government (OfLog), created to improve local government performance, identify Councils at risk of failure and use data to increase transparency and understanding of the sector’s vital work. Few people appreciate the challenges faced by the public sector, and the skills required to address them, as well as Lord Morse does.

All the major political parties were represented at the event at which we explored what politicians can do, legitimately and without conflict, in tandem with their political career – or once their political career comes to an end. A political career may be very long, or indeed comparatively short, but those who pursue one equip themselves with valuable transferable skills. For instance, consider the great placemaking expertise built up by many local government leaders while serving their community.

Rewarding (in various senses) career paths can open up unexpectedly: roles that may not have previously been on the radar. Odgers, for example, placed former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne as Chair of the British Museum.

It is said that politics is the art of the possible, but I can assure you that so too is life post-politics. Most likely it will be energising, perhaps even a career highpoint. If you would like to find out more about porosity, and how we can all play a part in promoting porosity and its advantages, please do get in touch


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