Consultant FAQ

BECOMING A CONSULTANT
Why should I consider volunteering as a PGI consultant?

Students who participate in PGI projects sharpen their skills in analytical thinking, creative problem-solving and managing stakeholder relationships. In addition, PGI projects make an impact on both the wider policy community and the School of Public Policy and Governance. One project was profiled in the Globe and Mail two years ago, and others have been essential to renewing organizational funding and in making a policy case to donors and government. Other projects have led to part-time positions and internships for MPP students.

How are partner organizations identified and selected? How many different opportunities exist this year? Where can I find a list of placements?

PGI directors negotiate positions with partner organizations. A list of placements will be shared in September.

If I would like to work with an organization that is not currently affiliated with PGI, what steps could be taken to make it a PGI placement?

Fulfilling the needs of existing PGI partners remains a priority. However, students who are interested in seeking out their own opportunities should liaise with the PGI directors to discuss the possibility in more detail.

Please describe the application process.

At the beginning of each term, the PGI directors email a list of placements to first year students. Students are asked to review the list and email the PGI outlining their interest and experience within a one week period. In particular, students are asked to rank their top three choices (including organization name and project). If students are willing to work on projects other than their top three, they should also list the name of these projects. If students are happy to work on any project, they should state ‘all projects’ in their email. The PGI directors make every effort to match students to their preferred projects.

Is it necessary to have previous policy experience in order to obtain a PGI placement?

No. The directors understand that not everyone has previous policy experience, and one of the goals of the Initiative it to provide students will policy opportunities so they can develop new skills. However, if students possess a certain skill or experience in an area that is relevant to a project, this would be considered an asset and they should state this in their application email.

How are students partnered with other consultants?

The PGI directors match students with their preferred projects wherever possible. Groups are made up of three to four student consultants.

WORKING WITH YOUR CLIENT
After being matched with an organization, how do the consultants proceed?

The PGI directors will email students who have been partnered together with a project contract and project scope documents. (Please see a sample of the scoping document here). The PGI directors will also email the organization, informing them of the three to four consultants that have been matched with their project. The student consultants are to email the organization contact person to set up an initial meeting. Within the first two weeks, the student consultants should return the signed contract to the PGI directors.

Does the PGI offer any assistance in preparing students for their placements?

The PGI provides mandatory orientation and training sessions, as well as ongoing managerial support for all student consultants.

If I accept a placement at an organization, but then realize I do not want to participate, how should I proceed?

PGI advises students to think about their schedules, and determine if they can manage the commitment in advance of applying for a placement. Once students formally express interest in a given placement, it will be assumed that they are prepared to make the necessary time commitment to complete the project. That said, PGI encourages students to discuss any challenges with the directors.

What do I do if I am over or under-whelmed in my placement?

You should speak directly with your supervisor. You can also speak to the PGI directors for advice. They may be able to give you some tips on how to approach this situation. A value-added part of the PGI experience is functioning as a member of the team, taking the initiative to solve problems or proposing new opportunities.

What is the best way to accept criticism on the job?

It is important to remain open and available to discuss your performance throughout the placement. Creating a strong working relationship with your supervisor will make it easier to discuss any criticism in a productive and comfortable manner. If you do feel uncomfortable with the feedback you have received, it is important to engage in conversation with those who provided it to fully understand their concerns, but also to ensure that you have the opportunity to voice your own opinions and feelings on the situation. This will also allow you to discover instances in which you preformed strongly. Another source of guidance could be the PGI directors, who may be able to provide insight into on-the-job relationships and advice on how to proceed with constructive criticism.

What do I do if I unable to reach my supervisor?

Students should try to communicate with their supervisors via email and telephone. However, if students face challenges, they should contact the PGI directors.

If my placement is not working out, what actions can I take?

If you have concerns that you are not able to address with the organization, you can contact the PGI directors, who will be able to assist you in resolving your particular situation. If you are having challenges with one of the consultants you have been paired with, and you are not able to solve the problem yourselves, the PGI directors encourage students to inform them. The directors can assist in solving the dispute in neutral manner and, if need be, reassign students. Occasionally, a student consultant may also be a director. If a dispute arises in such an instance, members of the consulting team should alert all directors, who will arrange for a PGI board member to assist in resolving the dispute. The PGI is committed to informal and neutral conflict resolution, should the need arise.