My placement year taught me what employers are looking for

Photo of
Tom Fletcher
Undergraduate student
BA (Hons) Economics and Politics with Employment Experience
Thanks to his dual degree in Economics and Politics BA degree, Tom knew his skills were perfectly suited to a future career in the Civil Service.

What was your placement year and why did you choose that organisation?

I worked for the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) as an Oil and Gas Economist, in the joint DECC/Foreign Office International Energy Unit. DECC is the UK government department responsible for managing the UK’s energy supply and promoting global action to mitigate climate change.

I knew I wanted to work for the Civil Service when I graduated, so I saw this a great opportunity to test out my potential future career. I also saw the Civil Service as the meeting point of politics and economics, which was great for me, considering my Economics and Politics degree.

I produced briefing material which went to the Prime Minister, and other ministers – this really built upon my ability to explain complex economics to non-economists, and taught me how to effectively summarise my work in order to ensure ministers got the most out of it given their busy schedules.

Tom Fletcher

Department of Economics

The great thing about doing an economics placement with the government is that you apply centrally via the Government Economic Service (GES), and then get to rank departments and roles in order of preference.

This gives you a real opportunity to explore the breadth of different roles available and rank in order of what interests you most.

What was your favourite experience during your placement year and why?

I would say the day-trip to Paris. Along with my team, I got to visit the International Energy Agency headquarters in Paris, in order to meet their team and discuss their work.

A close second would be when I got to sit on the interview panel for my replacement, which was first for me. It was really useful to be able to see the recruitment process from both sides, and the fact that I got to ask some questions, and was involved in the decision-making process, really opened my eyes and allowed me to see things from the viewpoint of a potential employer.

What important skills did you learn from your placement year?

My placement year was invaluable in that I gained skills in many different areas. In terms of technical skills, I learnt how to apply the economics I was taught at university to real-life situations and global markets. I also gained advanced Excel skills and got some experience using EViews and STATA.

In terms of transferrable skills, I really built upon my organisational, presentation skills. I made regular presentations to the wider team and senior civil servants from across Whitehall.

What are your plans after graduation?

I have just been accepted onto the Civil Service Economics Fast Stream, and am due to start work at the Department for Transport in July 2016. Personally, I feel like my placement year was at least in part responsible for me getting my job offer – it really taught me what employers are looking for, and gave me the skills I needed to step into the working world.

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