All interviews, no matter if you get the job or not, are great experiences
More about Lois
Employer name: Civil Service Fast Stream
Job title: Project Manager
Did your placement turn into a graduate role; if not how did you source your graduate role?
I came across my graduate role at the NTU graduate fair. I then went on to attend a talk and mock assessment centres held at NTU to learn more about the role and the application process. I heavily researched each of the schemes and what a role in the Civil Service would be like in order to guarantee the role was right for me. This was also beneficial when it came to the interview stages of the application form in order to show my motivations for joining the Civil Service Graduate Scheme.
Did you get support from the Employability team during your search for this role? If yes, what support did you get and how did it help you?
They helped me prepare for the stages of the application process by organising mock assessment centres and also holding one-to-ones with me in order to feel prepared for the kind of questions they will ask at interview. This helped improve my confidence in order to progress onto the Civil Service Fast Stream. I also attended some of the sessions that the Employability team held for general job application prep including CV writing and interview tips. These were extremely beneficial both in the short term for joining the Civil Service fast stream, but also further on in my career as I am starting to apply for further jobs.
What was the recruitment process like for this role?
The recruitment process for the Civil Service Fast Stream is challenging and hugely competitive, but don't let this deter you from giving it a shot. There are several stages which comprise of online tests, a full day assessment centre and an interview spread over around 5-6 months in order to be successful onto the scheme. You also have to pass security clearance in order to enter.
The support from the Employability team and attending the mock assessment and interview was hugely beneficial for succeeding at the later stages of the application process. In order to prepare for the online tests, I made sure I did several practice tests, as well as fully understanding the Civil Service behaviours that would be assessed in order for my answers to be suitable.
How has the pandemic affected your job search/working experience compared to expectations?
Starting a new job straight out of university in the middle of a pandemic was extremely challenging, it has meant that I have only ever been into the office once and have never met my work colleagues face to face.
Working in the virtual world initially made it harder to get things done and learn new processes and it required a lot more effort in order to network with colleagues. However, I am actually grateful for this challenge; it has made me think more proactively about prioritisation and networking in order to develop strong working relationships. I have also found that the support from the Civil Service and my colleagues has been unaffected.
I have felt fully supported and able to reach out when needed. My attitude to remote / hybrid working has changed to be a lot more positive and this is beneficial as it seems a lot more roles will transition to this way of working.
Did you do a work experience placement whilst at NTU, if so how has this helped?
During my time at NTU I trained and served as a special constable for Nottinghamshire Police for two years. This experience was invaluable to me providing and improving a multitude of key skills that have gone on to benefit me in job applications and during my graduate role. Not only did it massively improve my confidence, but I was also able to develop skills such as working under pressure and delivering at pace. It presented many real-life challenging experiences that I believe I would not have been able to develop elsewhere.
I was able to transfer to a local police force and the Civil Service allow paid volunteering days in order to complete my duties as a special constable. I am extremely grateful to be able to carry on this invaluable experience alongside my full-time employment. I also applied for and was awarded a scholarship by NTU to study in law, crime, and psychology in Prague during my first year of study. This was an amazing opportunity to be lectured by some of the top criminology lecturers from around the world and provided me with invaluable information that not only helped me with my studies but also my knowledge in order to bring to interviews and assessment centres.
What advice would you give to NTU students applying for graduate roles this year?
My biggest piece of advice is to just be yourself and talk genuinely about your experiences. You don't need to have the top experiences or internships (although strive for those nonetheless), and often this can make graduates worry that others will outshine their applications.
However, it is so important to focus on the experience you have (volunteering, summer jobs, etc), and speak passionately about them and what transferable skills these have provided. Use the Civil Service behaviours online in order to make these relevant for the Fast Stream application. These examples are often the strongest, because the interviewer gets to see your personality and passions, but also that you have thought in advance about what skills the job you are applying for will need and how you can evidence them in real life.
I think it is also important to not be disappointed if you don't get exactly where you want to be first time, applications and interviews are a skill you have to learn. All interviews, no matter if you get the job or not, are great experiences. It is important to remember that the transition to remote working means that job applications may be more saturated than several years ago and therefore competition is high, so give it your best shot and learn lessons from each experience.
Although graduate schemes provide great opportunities, there are many more positions open to entry-level graduates. If you have an idea of the sector / job you would like to be in, make sure to check their individual websites for opportunities. For smaller companies, don't be afraid to reach out with your CV, even if they aren't advertising roles. For the Civil Service, make sure to explore the SDIP / EDIP programmes, or alternatively look at entering at EO level if unsuccessful on the Fast Stream. There are always opportunities!
What is a typical working day/week like for you?
It can be extremely varied and unpredictable as often urgent requests for briefings can come in at any time with tight deadlines, which means having to reprioritise work. There is also a need to keep an eye on current affairs, as this can impact work, especially with my current job role that involves a lot of international engagement.
My usual working day involves working on strategy papers and briefings, keeping trackers up to date with the latest information, and also a lot of stakeholder / departmental engagement, keeping looped in with different teams on work streams. I also get involved in a lot of additional 'extracurricular' work including interviewing, women's and LGBT networks, as well as being a rep for the Fast Stream.
What would you consider the top three transferrable skills acquired in this role?
The top three transferrable skills I gained from university that have been extremely useful for this role are: time management as often you have to reprioritise and access workload due to urgent requests and busy work schedule.
Secondly, leadership is imperative for this role. As an accelerated leadership graduate role it is important to be able to use your own initiative and confidently take lead when necessary, trusting your own ability.
Finally, adaptability has been especially important joining at a time of remote working. In such a fast-paced, challenging role, being able to adjust to changing priorities and circumstances has provided vital to settle into the Civil Service working life.
How would you sum up your job, in only three words?
Challenging, rewarding and leadership.
Do you have any additional information or comments you'd like to mention?
Here's more information about the Fast Stream programme.
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