How my course prepared me for my future career

graduate Hannah McLennan
Hannah McLennan
Graduate Trainee, Civil Service Fast Stream
BA International Relations and Politics
2018
"I sat front row at Trudeau’s press conference and met journalists from all over the world. The whole week just reminded me how grateful I am to the University of Sheffield for giving its students such brilliant opportunities you don’t find anywhere else."

During her time at Sheffield, Hannah took part in many opportunities both in the UK and around the world which not only enhanced her employability prospects, but also made for some fantastic memories.

Why did you choose to study politics?

At school I was incredibly passionate about public speaking, competing at a national level for many years. This exposed me to the world of politics from a fairly young age and so choosing to study it at university was a pretty easy decision. Initially, I only applied to Sheffield on a bit of a whim because my favourite band (Pulp) were from there! But as soon as I came and looked round on the open day I knew it was the place for me. I could tell the lecturers' were genuinely really passionate about teaching, I liked the design of the course and I got along with the other students I met at the open day. A lot of people I’ve met said they just had a ‘good feeling’ about Sheffield after the open day, and I felt exactly the same.

Sheffield was my first choice after that and that’s definitely my number one tip for anyone who’s going through the application process at the moment: go on your open days. You wouldn’t buy a house without seeing it first and you certainly shouldn’t choose where you study based just on the brochure.

What have you enjoyed most about studying politics at Sheffield?

This is such a hard question because there are genuinely so many things I’ve enjoyed. Firstly, just how much I’ve learnt; from international relations theory, to the ins and outs of British politics, to environmental security, the breadth of what I know now has completely exceeded my expectations. I’ve also really enjoyed the flexibility of how different modules are evaluated. Personally I don’t perform very well in exams, so having the opportunity to pick modules where I could just be evaluated through coursework allowed me to tailor the degree to my own needs, which I’ve really appreciated. And, of course, the people I’ve met have been amazing too! My classmates have become my best friends and roommates, and my lecturers and the academic staff have become an amazing support network in times of need. The memories I’m graduating with thanks to these people are definitely one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the course.

An image of the peak district

How was life as a student in Sheffield?

Sheffield is such a fun, down to earth city. It’s full of other students and there’s always been something to do on the weekends, from food markets, to football games, to music festivals and nights out. I’ve spent nights at the theatre and whole days getting lost in the Peak District, and I can definitely say I’ve never been bored! It’s also so well connected to other Northern cities. Before I studied at Sheffield I’d never even visited Leeds or Manchester, but over the last three years I’ve taken full advantage of travelling round as much as possible – even popping to Scunthorpe for two gigs. I grew up in London and I was slightly worried I wouldn’t find enough to do in Sheffield, but I’ve had these preconceptions completely shattered… and it’s all seemed delightfully cheap in comparison too.

What has been the main highlight from your time as a student in the Department of Politics and International Relations?

A personal highlight was definitely getting my Submission of Evidence published on the Houses of Parliament website. My submission was about how PIP forms evaluate people’s disabilities. This is something I have a lot of strong feelings about, having helped people fill out their PIP forms at Sheffield Citizens Advice for the last two years. I submitted this piece of work as part of Matthew Flinder’s amazing Parliamentary Studies module, where students are asked to create a Submission of Evidence as 50% of the modules evaluation, rather than a standard piece of coursework. We were then encouraged to actually submit our piece of work, and many of us were lucky enough to have it published. This module really personifies the Politic Department’s desire to be forward thinking and original in the way modules are designed. It was great to know my work might have made a genuine difference, and it’s been a really useful tool in interviews and on my CV as well.

Another clear highlight was attending the G7 trip to Quebec where myself and 7 other students spent a week in Canada working as policy analysts. We co-authored blogs and wrote our own policy briefs which were then published in the Global Policy Journal. It’s really exciting to know I’ve published a piece of work than can be found online.


I sat front row at Trudeau’s press conference and met journalists from all over the world. One person in our group even got a selfie with Emmanuel Macron! The whole week just reminded me how grateful I am to the University of Sheffield for giving its students such brilliant opportunities you don’t find anywhere else.

Hannah McLennan

BA International Relations and Politics graduate


The week itself was amazing; I sat front row at Trudeau’s press conference and met journalists from all over the world. One person in our group even got a selfie with Emmanuel Macron. The whole week just reminded me how grateful I am to the University of Sheffield for giving its students such brilliant opportunities you don’t find anywhere else.

Finally, finishing my degree with the news that I had received the departmental award for best overall mark in my year definitely stands out as a highlight. It was great to have all my hard work acknowledged, and really made me feel as though I made the right decision coming to the University of Sheffield.

How has the course prepared you for your future career?

In September I’ll be starting on the Civil Service Fast Stream, one of the most competitive grad schemes out there. I initially heard about the scheme at a networking event organised by the department, so that’s the first way the department prepared me for my chosen career. The department is amazing at informing students in potential job opportunities, and the university career service is always on hand to help with CVs or assessment centre prep. I’m going to be starting on the Government Social Research scheme and I also really owe my interest in social research to the department, who have allowed me to integrate research techniques and the use of SPSS and excel in to my degree. I studied Maths A Level and have always been a bit of a stats nerd, but didn’t expect to have the opportunity to learn research skills as part of a BA Politics degree. Again, this reflects the department's overall commitment to allowing students to tailor their degree to their own interests. But most importantly the department inspired me with the initial confidence to even apply for such a prestigious grad scheme. In fact at each stage of the application I was convinced I wasn’t good enough to make it any further. Luckily my support network in the department, particularly my lecturers and personal tutor, really inspired me with the confidence in my own abilities and I’m so grateful for that.

In the summer of first year, I interned with the London based charity Generating Genius, a not-for-profit dedicated to ensuring children from disadvantaged backgrounds make it to the best universities in the country. I really enjoyed this experience, and it definitely taught me how important it is for me to work for an organisation that makes a genuine difference. My role was very research based, which once again helped me a lot in my decision to apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream. Having office experience has also prepared me for the working world that awaits me at the Civil Service, and has helped me feel a lot less nervous about starting. Also in terms of my CV and job interviews, getting work experience was probably one of the best things I did. Unfortunately jobs are getting more and more competitive, and it’s so important to have things that make your CV stands out. The Politics Department at Sheffield is brilliant at encouraging its students to apply for all sorts of internship, summer school, and study abroad opportunities.


In terms of my CV and job interviews, getting work experience was probably one of the best things I did. The Politics Department at Sheffield is brilliant at encouraging its students to apply for all sorts of internship, summer school, and study abroad opportunities.

Hannah McLennan

BA International Relations and Politics graduate


I completed the work-based learning dissertation (WBLD) in conjunction with Sheffield Citizens Advice Bureau. I’ve volunteered with CAB since first year, which meant I had a good pre-existing relationship with the management team. I went and spoke to the CEO at the end of second year and we agreed on an area of research that I found interesting and would benefit their team. They helped me source the individuals to be interviewed and supported me every step along the way. I found the work so much more enjoyable because I knew it would make a genuine difference to the organisation, and I believe the First I received reflected how passionate I felt about the work I was doing.

The interviewing skills I gained will be really useful in my job next year, and the confidence inspired in me by my dissertation tutor, Matt Bishop, is something I’m planning on making an effort to carry with me in the future. I would completely recommend the WBLD to anyone considering it. It’s hard work, as all dissertations are, but it’s easily the most rewarding piece of work I completed whilst at University.

How did the department support you during your studies?

Whilst applying for the Civil Service Fast Stream, I reached out to a lecturer who specialises in social research to see if we could go through some answers for one of the practice tests. Despite the fact he had never taught me and we’d never met he was more than happy to set aside a morning to help. Going to see him really aided my preparation, and I don’t think I would have received the job offer without him. This moment always stands out to me as to just how kind and down to earth the lecturers are at Sheffield. You hear all sorts of awful stories these days about students paying so much for university and getting so little back, but in the Sheffield Politics Department that is simply not the case. The lecturers genuinely really want to help their students, and in so many cases they go above and beyond their required role. I’ve had lecturers set aside a whole day of office hours for students when coursework is due, or stay late when I’ve not quite grasped an idea. I’ve been told not to be so hard on myself when I’ve not done as well as I hoped. Despite the fact they’re literally world-class experts in their field I’ve never been patronised or treated like a student; I’ve been treated like a friend or colleague.

For me, it’s that experience that makes the Department of Politics and International Relations at Sheffield stand out and makes me so glad I applied on a whim all those years ago!

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