CAREERS: HOW I GOT HERE - Simon Lawton-Smith, senior policy advisor, King's Fund

What was your first job? Odd-jobber in a small metalworking factory.

What does your current role involve? I am the mental health expert at the King's Fund, the health policy and research think-tank. I am taking forward the recommendations of the Fund's inquiry into mental health services in London. I also provide a mental health input into other Fund projects, and advise a range of organisations on mental health issues.

Roughly outline your career path. - I was a Whitehall civil servant for 17 years, mainly at the Department of Health. In the end, the bureaucracy of Whitehall became too much, so in 1997 I left to join Maca, a national mental health charity providing services to people with mental health needs. I moved to the King's Fund last September.

What training has most enhanced your career? A negotiating course, showing how working together with partners - even competitors - invariably leads to better outcomes for patients and clients. Alas, not everyone seems to have got this message.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Chairing the Campaigns Group of the Mental Health Alliance. The alliance has a vital role to play in challenging the Government's regressive and unworkable draft Mental Health Bill.

What is your advice to people starting out in this sector? Be enthusiastic and passionate. The voluntary sector really does bring out the selfless best in people - it's not just a myth.

Are there any charities you support financially, or with time? Financially, I support Amnesty, Shelter, Greenpeace and Maca, and also buy a significant number of second-hand LPs and books from a range of charity shops! Regrettably, supporting charities with time is probably going to have to wait until I can afford to retire.

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