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Civil Service Faststream

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    http://www.faststream.gov.uk/index.asp?txtNavID=71

    I've been thinking about it as a possible career path, so is anyone else interested? Has anyone here applied?
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    I applied, a few years back. I was rejected following the online tests, which was odd, as I normally ace those kinds of tests. (In fact, my feedback said that my numeracy was fine, literacy was fine and problem solving was fine, but still I got rejected... not particularly useful feedback )
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    I've thought about it myself, and there are certain bits of it which appeal, but remember you have to sign the Official Secrets Act and you won't be able to tell anyone about most of your work. It's also largely office-based, which is not the most exciting environment in which to work.
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    (Original post by ThePants999)
    I applied, a few years back. I was rejected following the online tests, which was odd, as I normally ace those kinds of tests. (In fact, my feedback said that my numeracy was fine, literacy was fine and problem solving was fine, but still I got rejected... not particularly useful feedback )
    When did you apply for it? I know it can take a year, so would you do it during your last year at Uni?
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    I applied last year and got through to the final Assessment Centre but was rejected in the last cull.

    It's a great opportunity but the application process itself takes a LOT of effort for something which is not likely to work out. They usually get about 18000 applications for 300-400 jobs, which are obviously mental odds, especially given that some of those will go to internal applicants. If you do apply, prepare yourself for the fact that rejection is by far the most likely outcome, and anticipate spending a lot of time doing tests, filling in forms and attending assessment centres. The FSAC is utterly tiring; it's a full day and involves all kinds of interviews, assessments and exercises so you're constantly under pressure.
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    It's one of the options I'm seriously considering at the moment along with Law and Public Relations.
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    The 18,000 applicants is what I remember, but I thought there were far fewer jobs than that.
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    Semi-relevant, but does anyone know how competitive the diplomatic service fast stream is?
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    Semi-relevant, but does anyone know how competitive the diplomatic service fast stream is?
    very very very very very.

    I think it is one of the most competitive jobs there are. I know a few people who got rejected.

    However, looking at your Uni choices, if you make it into Oxford you definitely put yourself in good standing. As much as they might deny it, the FCO still maintains an unsaid bias towards Oxbridge students. The people I know who have made it the furthest through the recruitment process were Cambridge students, even though they weren't necessarily the brightest of the applicants I know. In fairness though, Oxbridge students do often have the right kind of personality and image that the FCO needs in a diplomat. Their environment (and often their upbringing) fosters it. They need a certain image to be maintained, and I think Oxbridge students have that image most naturally.
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    I was thinking of going for it too!! I don't graduate for another 2 years though, so I've got another year to think properly about it. (You apply when you're in your 3rd year, right?) I reckon the assessments would be ok-they've got an example e-tray on the website so you know what to expect in terms of how you'd be tested...and I'm hoping the other assessments will be ok. If all else fails, it's certainly an experience!!

    Does anyone know of anything (apart from being Oxbridge typey :P) that would possibly put one ahead of others....i.e. job experience, extra curriculars and so forth!! My CV looks kinda bare in comparison to what they're probably looking for!!

    I don't mind the whole official secrets act thing. I'm sure nowadays most companies make people sign stuff saying they won't divulge info about the company and so forth.

    I don't mind the office-based element of working for the civil service, as if you're working with the right people you can have a laugh, and not every day is going to be the same so you'll have challenges, and maybe even get to go to other departments and see how they work etc.

    Someone at work told me they thought I'd end up working for the Civil Service after my degree...I so agree with them lol. However, that's not gonna happen if I can't get off TSR and down to some pre-reading for my course next year!!
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    Suspecting that there would be something of a backdoor into both the Fast Stream and the diplomatic service, I set out to get onto the Fast Stream but only after having "lived" a little and gained experience in other areas before committing myself to any employer.

    4 years after graduating, I put my application through the "in-service" scheme and was fortunate enough to get onto the Fast Stream via that route - having got into the civil service as an admin officer some 2 years previously.

    My line was to find out as much about the culture of the institution, get to know people who had been successful on it and learn from them - which is what I did and it paid off handsomely.

    It's like with university - once you're in, it's much easier to move sideways and do secondments and placements than to go through the trench warfare that is the external path. (Only about 5% of people make it from the initial application stage to the Fast Stream itself.)

    With the in-service scheme, you need the backing of line manager, head of HR and head of department on your initial form. If that passes the sift, you go through to an internal assessment from your parent department (which in most cases is a formality, but not always). Once past that stage you are through to the final assessment centre - in which statistically 50% of applicants pass.

    See my posts on:
    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=430403

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=427351

    and

    http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=420531

    My big recommendation?

    Don't go into the Fast Stream straight out of university unless you are specialising in a field - e.g. economics or statistics streams. Get some wider experience under you first - especially stuff that involves dealing with people.

    You'll find it will pay off later.

    All the best

    PR
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    (Original post by JohnyJ)
    very very very very very.

    I think it is one of the most competitive jobs there are. I know a few people who got rejected.

    However, looking at your Uni choices, if you make it into Oxford you definitely put yourself in good standing. As much as they might deny it, the FCO still maintains an unsaid bias towards Oxbridge students. The people I know who have made it the furthest through the recruitment process were Cambridge students, even though they weren't necessarily the brightest of the applicants I know. In fairness though, Oxbridge students do often have the right kind of personality and image that the FCO needs in a diplomat. Their environment (and often their upbringing) fosters it. They need a certain image to be maintained, and I think Oxbridge students have that image most naturally.
    Which is why they are bringing in more people from other departments. This is especially useful when you need someone in a specialist area. I work for a department that normally has nothing to do with other countries, but because of the area I'm currently specialising in at the moment, I'm going to one of the foreign embassies in London to do a presentation next month - something one would normally expect to be covered by the FCO.

    The mistake a lot of students and graduates make is the expectation of having to apply for the Fast Stream straight out of uni. The most successful Fast Streamers I've met are the ones who've taken time to branch out after university to gain some life experiences that will help them come the application process.
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    (Original post by Dionysus)
    I've thought about it myself, and there are certain bits of it which appeal, but remember you have to sign the Official Secrets Act and you won't be able to tell anyone about most of your work. It's also largely office-based, which is not the most exciting environment in which to work.
    Not necessarily true. Yes you are bound by the OSA but unless you are in a particularly sensitive area you can still talk to people about your work, so long as you are careful not to divulge confidential information. This is something that could apply to any area of work where you are dealing with personal information covered by the Data Protection Act. There are lots of things I could talk to people about in my area of work - but that's because I've spent the past 6-9 months trying to publicise some new reforms in this area and working with interested parties to get their take on the Government's proposals.

    It is largely office-based, but there are opportunities that go far beyond it, and the ability to really influence what is going on in a large organisation is fascinating to see, especially when some of the things that you have come up with are taken on board.
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    I'm intrigued as to which department you work in, PR, but I guess you can't divulge that information!!

    I guess if all else fails, I could work my way up from an AO or EO, but it would actually take forever. It's hard enough trying to get into the Civil Service as an AA!! (I have tried). I've worked with complete idiots (I do mean idiots..and lazy so-and-sos) who have permanent jobs in the CS, but when it comes to decent, hard workers who know what they're doing, they're not given the job. The CS lose a lot of good workers all because of the whole head count and temporary staff thing...then again I don't know anything about the economics of the CS so I'm probably missing something!!
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    (Original post by Hana_1987)
    I'm intrigued as to which department you work in, PR, but I guess you can't divulge that information!!

    I guess if all else fails, I could work my way up from an AO or EO, but it would actually take forever. It's hard enough trying to get into the Civil Service as an AA!! (I have tried). I've worked with complete idiots (I do mean idiots..and lazy so-and-sos) who have permanent jobs in the CS, but when it comes to decent, hard workers who know what they're doing, they're not given the job. The CS lose a lot of good workers all because of the whole head count and temporary staff thing...then again I don't know anything about the economics of the CS so I'm probably missing something!!
    Hmm...I could divulge that information but that would mean I would be identifyable and thus all of my comments would start to sound like government press releases.

    If all else fails, get in as an AO/EO and once you've passed your probation, start applying. (It's far less painful doing the in-service than external.)

    I know what you mean about people who really shouldn't be in the service. The problem is that the unions and management are tied by some very restrictive agreements that don't allow either room for movement.

    There is also a poor management culture that was not addressed until very recently. Sir Gus O'Donnell (GoD) has basically staked his reputation on the new Professional Skills for Government agenda because he knows the gap that needs to be covered.

    I would like to see a more effective management culture within the service. The great thing about being on the Fast Stream is that I'm actually in a position to do something positive about it.
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    You're gonna have to say something like "the views in this post belong to the OP and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the gov't" or something like that :P

    I got told I'd be a good EO today, as I'm good at training people and delegating duties lol!! Hmm..wasn't my intention, honest!! There was just little work to do so I shared it out.

    Good luck with the making changes for the better Hope I see them one day!!
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    I personally disagree about uni being important for the FCO. I know quite a few people who have got in without an oxbridge education. I agree the better your university, the better your chances, however to claim its only those from oxbridge who get in is in a big big generalisation.

    From what I gather of those I know who made it in.
    -Ridiculously competitive achievements ie national prizes
    -language skills i.e chinese, arabic, swahili ( surprisingly zero EU languages, tho hardly representative of those who make it)
    -Extremely articulate
    -Passionate travellers

    Your uni is immaterial if you can demonstrate those. I've seen the final round 'specimen' information, as long as you are clued up on economics and politics to a very analytical degree and can provide solid analysis of current affairs, you do have a chance.

    But I do have to agree, even though the FCO deny this fervently, they do lean towards oxbridge. I find it a real shame that the job market esp for the most competitive come down to alma maters rather than one's education.
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    Someone told me that when you apply, you don't put stuff such as the uni you went to, so they can't 'discriminate' on that basis, but I don't know if this is the truth. I think I may look it up!!

    I was thinking of learning Persian, so I'm guessing this would look good if I were to apply for the FCO..however actually being able to speak it is a different matter from it being a hobby :O
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    hi ive just left the civil service to study at uni used to live in blackpool. i couldnt wait to leave was on helpline just felt like a slave. dont get chance to make friends alsways stuck on the phone. if your gona go into the civil service id advise checking what you do i was an ao. aa's do a lot of clerical but best if you can get an ao job on an operational team. i wouldnt expect for promotion or to work up they stopped nearlly all promotion boards when i was there.
    my partner also worked there for ten yrs and he just hit a dead end after becoming a deputy team leader.
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    (Original post by wilksjo)
    hi ive just left the civil service to study at uni used to live in blackpool. i couldnt wait to leave was on helpline just felt like a slave. dont get chance to make friends alsways stuck on the phone. if your gona go into the civil service id advise checking what you do i was an ao. aa's do a lot of clerical but best if you can get an ao job on an operational team. i wouldnt expect for promotion or to work up they stopped nearlly all promotion boards when i was there. my partner also worked there for ten yrs and he just hit a dead end after becoming a deputy team leader.
    One of the features of the civil service is that to get anywhere, you need to spend some time in London. I started off in a regional office but when I got down to London I found out why you need to spend some time down there.

    There are crappy jobs in the service just as there are some really good ones. That's the nature of an organisation that employs over 400,000 people.

    I sympathise with you in wanting to leave - a lot of my mates from my old workplace have done what you have done - left to go to university. (We were going through a "restructuring process" which everyone knew meant "job cuts". I knew that this was the time for me to up-sticks and leave. It was fortunate for me that out of all the application processes I went through - including the 5 failed EO interviews, I ended up getting the plum one - one grade higher than EO and on one of the most sought-after programmes in the country.

    The problem I have with the service is the poor management. It is something that Gus and some of the other Perm Secs are passionate about sorting out. But it needs people who are passionate about sorting these things out. ("Gus" being the Cabinet Secretary.) I've given my own Perm Sec a bit of a rough ride on this, but it's help raise the issue within the office as well as my own profile. (My own view is that an effective management culture nips in the bud lots of other problems.)

    Getting through glass ceilings often means moving on. Operational teams can be really interesting - this is often the stuff where you get to meet the public face-to-face. (Job centres, courts services, immigration etc.) Once you've spent some time in there, you stop believing tabloid newspaper headlines.

    For those of you who want to get into Europe, get into the Civil Service - Fast Stream or otherwise. Via the civil-service gateway you have access to all of the vacancies in the EU. (Of which there are loads.)

    Why go through the trench warfare of the external system when you can go through the back door?

    If you want further info, PM me. My only "request" (if I can put it like that!) is that you are passionate about people and are motivated by the desire to make people's lives better, and are not motivated by money.

    PR.
Updated: June 14, 2009
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