As a former fast streamer, one of my (many) recommendations is that if you've got your heart set on it:
(Original post by coolh5000)
The more I read about the Fast Stream, the more I start having doubts. I've had my heart set on it for so long but the last year or so at uni have given me a much better idea about me and the kind of things I would like to do.
I'm still going to apply and see how far I get - it could be that I'm just convincing myself I don't want to do it because i know how competitive it is.
I know what to do something with a lot of people interaction - whether co-workers or members of the public, I definitely need to be able to speak to someone during a day or I'll go mad!
Working my SU this summer has shown me how much I love a role where I feel like I am actively helping people/making a difference. All my previous work experience has been in retail and I hate sales and the feeling that you're just trying to get each person to buy as much as they can. Obviously all jobs have targets and pressures to a certain extent but I feel like I need to be doing something where the outcome is more than just making the most amount of money possible.
I feel like I know a lot about the application process etc for the fast stream, but not what it's actually like to work for it day to day. I have no idea the kind of tasks etc that fast streamers are expected to do.
Whoops, that turned into a bit of a ramble.
Btw, if anyone has useful links to practice tests or anything else, let me know and I'll edit them into the first post as an easy reference for people who don't want to trawl through the rest of the thread (if it's anything like last year, this thread will get bigggg)
a) go for it
b) keep pushing back those horizons and boundaries
a) is self explanatory
b) is less so - and by that I mean that half the challenge both before the application process and for those who are successful, is finding your boundaries. I found on the fast stream that I was not fully cut out for being a senior civil servant - I'm too opinionated (in particular for the current administration). That said, learning how 'the system' - and large organisations function - has served me in good stead.
As I've said before to a number of people and on previous threads too, in a policy role your job is to help ministers solve the problems of society. Your recommendations to ministers have to be based on evidence and have to be politically impartial. (It's written into your contract, it's in the civil service code and also in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 too). For those who have little experience of working with people who are at the sharp end of society's problem - health, education, multiple deprivation etc, now's the time for looking for opportunities (whether via volunteering or otherwise) to get a feel for them. This could be as simple as asking the local Citizens' Advice Bureau if you can shadow someone for a week to get a feel for the types of problems that people face - or even meeting your local councillor to get an idea of what they have to deal with. Go to a local council meeting to get a feel for the sort of thing that comes across their desks - as chances are in the civil service these issues will come across yours.
Speaking to a number of ex-Fast-Streamers who went into local government on secondment, they all said that in hindsight, in policy teams they'd have given far greater consideration to the role of local government in terms of solving problems. You will definitely need to be aware of this because of the Localism Bill - which sometime soon will become the Localism Act 2011/2012 - and gives a significant number of powers to local councils to deal with issues locally without reference to Whitehall - in particular the "general power of competence."
If you're a policy adviser, in the world of social media you want to reassure yourself that:
1) You or your minister has the evidence base to justify your actions (if not, social media people will have you for breakfast)
2) Your minister has the legal powers to act in a given manner (because if not, your opponents will shout the phrase "judicial review!" before you've even finished your sentence - and ministers DO NOT like appearing before the High Court to justify bad advice from people like civil servants)
3) You have consulted widely before proceeding - because these days a key stakeholder (banks, big business, the voluntary sector, specialist groups who will have to deliver what you are recommending) could be the difference between a policy succeeding or failing. Which ones are the difference between a daily media firestorm (which ministers can deal with) and an entire policy crashing and burning (which ministers have resigned over less about).
In terms of the world of social media, my advice in the thread Leaving the civil service applies. Don't post anything stupid - like the sort of stuff that could get you sacked - or worse - prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act 1989. If you find yourself in the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office, Home Office or the Treasury, please take note. (Especially with viewing stuff on laptops on trains or in waiting rooms. Smartphones are increasing in the resolution of their cameras - you have been warned!)
Warnings aside, working in the civil service is damn good fun - and I am gutted that I felt it necessary to take the redundancy package and run; but it was right for me at the time. Given the same circumstances I'd make the same decision again and not look back.
You'll get to see how power is exercised - by which I mean you'll learn very quickly the difference between conspiracy theory and cock-up. (99.9% are the latter - no large organisation can rely on the competency and compliance/agreement of that many people across that many sections).
You'll see how laws are made - by which I mean you'll find out how lobbyists function. If they find out that you have got the ear of a minister, they will be all over you like a rash - and more. Also, your word potentially is as good as the minister's - which means that the media - the 'trade press' (who focus on your policy area to a particular group of people - e.g. health or education professionals) in particular will be more than happy to attribute your name to a quotation or a spun headline even if you said nothing of the sort. Make friends with your press officer, legal team and minister's private office BEFORE this happens. (I got lucky and did all three before I got stung - thus it was a storm in a teacup).
You'll be watching the news thinking "That journalist doesn't have a clue what s/he's on about!" when your department and/or minister is in the news. (You'll find out quite quickly who are the reporters who are worth their salt and those not).
You'll be amazed how a simple phone call or email from yourself to someone on the frontline in your policy area can get stuff done. It's not just you on the phone, it's your entire department that's on the phone - and people act accordingly, especially if you are flexible and pragmatic in your approach and/or have a 'tag-team' "good cop/bad cop" joint approach with someone else in your team with a given issue. I've been the good cop (people coming to me first, people knowing I'll be flexible and pragmatic) as well as being the bad cop (colleagues saying on the phone to people "I'd love to but I'd never get it past the guard dog sitting next to me") during my time.
You'll get to go to some of the most amazing social gatherings and get to know some very talented people across a number of different fields. Be nice, but be genuine. There's nothing wrong in forming genuine friendships with people that you meet on a regular basis. However, if there is ANYTHING that could compromise your impartiality, declare it - seek advice from your line manager or your legal/ethics/propriety team.
Politics and public administration can be exciting and stimulating if you want it to be. Mine was a roller-coaster. There were days where I was urging the tube/train to go faster because I wanted to be in earlier, as there were days where I wanted to hide under the covers. There were people who I wanted to spend every other daylight hour with just as there were people who I couldn't stand - a microcosm of the society we live in. The discipline is in treating people in a manner that does not compromise your duties as a civil servant. That means not giving special preference to people you like and kicking sand in the faces of those that you do not; it can be the latter who get you out of very sticky situations.
Finally, please please please please please treat your junior admin staff with dignity and respect. Chances are you'll come across someone in your department who is of a grade more junior than you who has been in the civil service longer than you've been alive. (Yes - it happened to me on a number of occasions). You will have been to university and be familiar with the latest development in social and digital media. They probably won't have been to university and may not know the first thing about social and digital media. (If 9million people in the UK have never used the internet, how many only have a very basic understanding of it - and how many of those are in the civil service (which is over 400,000 strong?)) I made it my business to give short 1-2-1 sessions to those people in my team who wanted them - which not only made my day-to-day life easier in the office but made a massive difference to the people I was working with at a time when many of them were potentially fighting for their livelihoods. (Imagine yourselves in your mid-40s, lifelong civil servant, mortgage and children facing the prospect of compulsory redundancy - there are a lot of frightened people in the civil service).
One of the quotations I'll never forget was Fabian Barthez mentioning what Andy Cole said to him not long after joining. "We win as a team, we lose as a team." In the civil service, the same is true - only your team is far beyond your immediate policy team. It's your legal team, finance, communications & press office, ministerial private office and your colleagues in other departments. Stand by them and they'll stand by you - in particular if that means taking a hit for the team. I did that once for a junior member of staff who was mortified over a mistake she'd made. Even though on paper it was her mistake, I said that I should have kept a closer eye on what was going on, and that if there was any 'comeback' on it, to escalate/refer it to me and I'd deal with it. (Her immediate boss was the same grade as me at the time). Money cannot buy the reassurance that call gave that member of staff - and in the same situation I would have been just as grateful for a more senior colleague grade-wise making that call - as others did on other occasions. That's accountability for you.
In a nutshell, look after your team. If you have knowledge that others want to find out about, share it. If others are beacons of light/expertise in an area you're interested in, learn from them. And never forget that as a public servant, ultimately your role is to serve people many of whom are less fortunate than you are.
On social media, you are heading into a world where the civil service is still getting used to it, so until it does, have a look at this short clip from the Department for Justice in the State of Victoria, Australia.
Last edited by Prince Rhyus; 27-10-2011 at 01:40.
Indeed. Our generation has been royally screwed over and will continue to be by the baby boomers as they get older. To be honest I'm very worried about getting any kind of job that will make the last three years worthwhile; despite having decent academic results and extra curriculas. So I'm not getting my heart set on anything, I'd love to get through to the Fast Stream (or NGDP) but we've got to be realistic about it, any graduate job would be great.
(Original post by Daniel Cooper)
I’m trying not to get my heart set on it. For every Prince Rhyus there will be several more who were unceremoniously spat out for a social faux pas in a group exercise or for a mediocre interview performance. There are 2.5 million on the dole at the moment and frankly you can’t be picky these days. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Many of my friends graduated last year and I saw how difficult it was for people with good degrees who wanted to work and make something of their lives. Some had to do lengthy unpaid internships just to gain the experience for the possibility of a paid job. I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here but it is a scary time to graduate.
Last edited by ajp100688; 04-09-2011 at 17:20.
Personally I'm crazy about South America. I mean don't get me wrong, I would love to see all of the world, but South America really appeals to me. Especially Argentina and Brazil. If the fast stream doesn't work out I'm just going to get a job here, purely for money, then get the TEFL and move out abroad so I can learn a foreign language whilst immersed in the culture, which would mean either Spanish or Portuguese.
(Original post by ellie_flower)
I'm saving up now to do a masters, but I think the sad reality is isthat I'm going to have to take out a hefty loan
My dream would be to be given Romania or another Eastern european country to familiarise myself and just learn the total history, language and culture of the place: develop an understanding of somewhere so totally that it could be home! And I LOVE eastern europe!!
How about you?
You sound like my girlfriend; she loves that culture, which makes it hard to compromise!
Last edited by Arteta; 06-09-2011 at 02:51.