I graduated from the University of Chester in 2016 with a first class honours degree in French and History. I spent my third year teaching English in two schools in Saint-Étienne, near Lyon, as a British Council Language Assistant. I didn’t lend too much thought to my career until my final year of university but it was important to me that it was something which I’d enjoy.
Whilst at Chester, I racked up just over 5,000 volunteering hours. Volunteering can have a fusty image and organisations aren’t always very effective at making roles sound interesting so I worked with a number of schools, charities and community groups to develop my own projects which involved fundraising, lobbying, project management, stakeholder engagement and much more. As a result of this, by the time I finished my studies, I had a number of great job offers and was able to be involved in shaping a role and writing my own job description.
Since graduating I have worked with two multi-academy trusts to develop their community work. Working with communities is a real passion which I developed throughout my years volunteering. My favourite thing about this work is the variety, a typical day will often include: bid writing; speaking at conferences; meeting with politicians, businesses and charities; holding coffee mornings and events; hosting adult education courses; dealing with local issues such as antisocial behaviour, litter, etc; organising workshops and trips for children; helping people struggling with debt and whatever else comes my way.
In the next few weeks I will begin a new role on the Civil Service Fast Stream. The Fast Stream is currently ranked number two in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and they receive tens of thousands of applications each year for significantly less posts. There are a range of schemes available including the Houses of Parliament, Diplomatic Service, and Project Delivery but the Generalist scheme was my first choice.
Over the next three years, I will undertake three different placements across Government departments in corporate services, operational delivery and policy roles. My first role is as a policy officer for the Welsh Government where I’ll be working on developing the system for funding local Government. On a day-to-basis it will involve developing policy, stakeholder engagement, leading consultations, advising ministers and I’m sure much more besides!
The assessment process involves a number of online tests, e-tray exercises, video interviews, and finally an assessment centre. The assessment centre is tough but I found it to be a really fair process – there are no trick questions and everybody really is rooting for you (they’ll even pay your travel expenses and book you a hotel for the night before to make sure you get a good night’s sleep).
There’s been a fair amount of publicity recently criticising the scheme for being too elite. The Civil Service develops and implements policies which have an impact on all of our lives. It’s therefore really important that its leaders reflect the diversity which exists in our society and I’m desperate to encourage people from all backgrounds to apply (if you would like more information, contact the department office who will give you my details and I’ll happily answer any questions you have).
Finally, my plea to you is this: don’t do anything for the sake of it. If you volunteer, do it because you’re interested, because you want to make a difference, because you enjoy it. Don’t bother doing it just for the sake of your CV. You’ll be wasting your time! Equally with your degree, don’t chase an arbitrary grade for the sake of it. Choose topics you find interesting, be creative, and you’ll reap the rewards.