The third of our postings this week on Civil Service opportunities. This time we interview a Bath Graduate working for the Civil Service Fast Stream.
Degree: French, Italian and European Studies
Graduation Year: 2015
Job title: European Fast Streamer in the Civil Service
Employer: UK Civil Service
Can you briefly describe your job and how you got it?
I’m currently in my second year on the European Fast Stream in the UK Civil Service. I’ll be doing 6 different postings in 4 different departments over 4 years, one of which is with the European Institutions in Brussels.
I began in the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) working in the International Biodiversity team, negotiating with the EU and the United Nations on behalf of the UK on environmental issues. I then moved to the EU and International division at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), leading UK policy on a couple of EU initiatives and exploring domestic implementation of EU regulations. I'm currently on secondment, working on the Arctic Policy at the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels.
The application process for the Fast Stream was very intense. After the initial numerical* and verbal reasoning* and situational judgement tests, I made it to the e-tray stage. This was a two hour online exercise that combined reading and processing information at pace with a situational judgement test, followed by a timed essay. Finally, I attended an assessment centre, a full-on day of interviews, group exercises, timed essays and presentations. As I applied to the European Fast Stream, my application was reviewed after the assessment centre in a final sift, during which they made sure that my previous responses showed that I was suited to the role, and to ensure that I met the language requirements.
*Careers Service note: in 2016 the tests will be situational judgement and behavioural: https://faststream.blog.gov.uk/2016/10/04/fast-stream-2017-the-online-tests/.
Did you have any work or other experience that helped you work out what you wanted to do?
Through my year abroad, I realised the important work that is done through the EU, both for me on a personal level, but also for some of the poorer regions in Europe including places that I had lived. A career in the Civil Service gives me the chance to give something back to society. The European Fast Stream enables me to look specifically at European projects being implemented in the UK, and I also get the opportunity to be involved in the creation and implementation of these projects at the heart of the EU.
It is currently a really interesting time to be working as an 'EU expert' in any area of the UK Civil Service, and the skills that I am developing on the European Fast Stream will be extremely useful in any core work being done by the Civil Service over the next few years.
Did you come to the Careers Service for help? What stage where you at in thinking about your future?
I made use of the Careers Service a lot during my final year. Initially, I was unsure of what I'd like to do and a little daunted about having to map out a career for the rest of my life. The Careers Service were very reassuring, encouraging me to think about what I would benefit from more immediately, which led me to the Fast Stream. This is an ideal scheme for me because of the wide variety of skills, competencies, and experiences that I will gain by doing 6 different jobs in the first 4 years of my career.
How did the Careers Service (staff and resources) help you?
Once I'd made my choice, the Careers Service were able to help me by providing information about how the application process worked, interview techniques, and reports from previous Bath students who had successfully applied. Representatives of the Bath Careers Service had also been invited to watch an assessment centre, and were able to give me advice based on what they had seen.
What was the outcome?
Having a good overview of the application process and hearing about first-hand experiences made me more confident on the day of the assessment centre, which I am sure is one of the factors that secured my role on the Fast Stream.
What activities outside of your degree have you been involved in that you think will or have made you more employable? Did the Careers Service help you to understand how you explain them to employers?
Working and living abroad definitely made me more employable. As well as my language skills, I was able to demonstrate my understanding of different cultures which is something that employers are increasingly looking for. The Careers Service at Bath were able to advise me on how to frame these experiences during applications and interviews to ensure that I made this clear.
Soft skills that I developed on my year abroad, such as adaptability and resilience, were also attractive to employers. More importantly, these skills have been vital in my current role, as I change role, Department, and (potentially) location every 6 months.
Do you have any tips or advice for Bath students in general and/or from your subject which you would like to pass on? This could be tips on applications and interviews or broader advice about career choice.
I struggled to find work abroad for a month at a time, but actually it is easier than you might think! For anyone interested in working in Europe, EURES is a pan-European jobs portal where you can find vacancies in the EU and EEA. Although these jobs are not usually graduate-level, working abroad as a receptionist, English teacher, and au pair gave me a great advantage during applications and really set me apart from others.
Civil Service Fast Stream applications close on November 30th 2016 for Autumn 2017 start date. Visit their website for more information.