3 March 2021

Andy Burnham reveals career highs, challenges and advice for National Careers Week

Mayor of Greater Manchester shares experiences ahead of virtual careers event at University Academy 92 (UA92)

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham has shared his career highs, challenges, most influential mentors and the advice he would give his younger self ahead of a National Careers Week event at University Academy 92 (UA92)

The former labour cabinet minister, who was MP for Leigh for 17 years, reveals that he still feels like an outsider in politics, largely because of his northern accent and ‘DNA’. He also shares what he thinks are the most important character traits for success and the influence of politicians Gordon Brown, David Blunkett and Tessa Jowell in his career. 

Andy Burnham is a guest speaker at ‘Futures at UA92’ a five-day virtual National Careers Week Event at Old Trafford-based higher education institution, UA92.  

The programme of free events runs from 1 to 5 March 2021 and offers live career insights and advice from some of the north’s most inspirational leaders.  Andy will speak at a session on Friday 5 March.

Speakers include UA92 co-founder Gary Neville; journalist Phil Jones who has worked for the BBC and CNN; UA92’s interim CEO and former Vimto boss, Marnie Millard OBE; radio presenter Kyle Walker; and Becky Irving, interim head of talent and skills at Manchester Digital. 

Andy Burnham’s top five career insights…

1. My most inspirational mentor

“I’ve been fortunate to have had some great mentors during my career. 

“The stand-out influence for me was Labour MP and cabinet minister, Tessa Jowell who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. I couldn’t have had a better apprenticeship than when I first started working with Tessa in politics in 1994. 

“She was the exception, not the norm, of what politicians are like: a very warm people person, hard-working and conscientious. I saw her work as both a backbench MP and as a minister and feel very fortunate to have learned from her.”

“Gordon Brown has also been very supportive, personally: he appointed me to the cabinet as chief secretary to the treasury in 2007. David Blunkett gives good advice and is someone I can call in a crisis.”

2. My greatest career challenge 

“Feeling like an outsider in politics has always been a struggle. Even after going to Cambridge I still felt like I never belonged because of my northern accent. 

“It was the same in parliament: I felt like an outsider and that I needed to prove myself, so I had to teach myself to be confident. 

“In the north people often have the ‘northern DNA.’ Northerners are down to earth and make good employees, but don’t have the same confidence to push themselves forward and, instead, they put themselves down. It’s hard enough to make our way in the world without putting up barriers for ourselves.”

3. My career high-point

“It was being elected Mayor of Greater Manchester with such a strong majority. 

“My heart has always been in Manchester and the north – I served for 17 years as an MP in Leigh in Greater Manchester – so to get that level of endorsement of 63 per cent of the vote meant a lot. 

“In terms of making a difference, the work I did following the Hillsborough disaster mattered to me personally. I was born in Liverpool and am an Everton supporter and I know that the verdict of unlawful killing really changed peoples’ lives.”

4. The character traits I think people need most in the world of work 

“Good leadership. Everyone is a leader in their own way, at whatever level, you affect the people around you. I like the suffragette phrase ‘deeds not words’: some can talk a good game, but how many follow up with actions and deliver? 

“The people I most enjoy working with set high ambitions and follow them up with energy. They radiate positivity and have big ideas about what we can do.”

5. The career advice I’d give my younger self

“First: be yourself. Northerners are attractive to businesses because of their authenticity and relatability. Stay true to yourself: it’s worth so much more than ‘talking the talk’.

“Second: believe in yourself. If you don’t why should anyone else? Don’t let self-doubt bring you down.

“Lastly: aim high and see where it goes. Don’t sell yourself short.”

UA92 was co-founded by Manchester United’s legendary Class of 92: Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, as well as Lancaster University.  

It offers undergraduate degrees in accounting and finance, business, computer science, media and sport which are awarded by Lancaster University, as well as Access to Higher Education qualifications and Certificates of Higher Education (Cert HE).

Alongside academic qualifications, students also study character development skills including positive thinking, mental resilience and motivation. This approach is based on the Class of 92’s experiences under legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson and is designed so that students graduate not only with the qualifications but the confidence and self-assurance to thrive in life. 

 ‘Futures at UA92’ events are free and open to all. To register, visit


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