Standing out in the post university job market
Why did you decide to study at Sheffield?
For me, it was a combination of the location and the course design. The open day was the first time I had visited Sheffield (or the north!) and the city left with me with a really positive impression - for a city of its size Sheffield is really walkable and has tons of green space.
I was also really drawn into the research-led philosophy behind the politics course that meant there would be plenty of opportunity to actively feed into the research process - this set Sheffield apart from some of the others institutions I was looking at where you wouldn't get the same level of access to "big names" in the department at undergraduate level.
What was the best or most useful thing about the course you studied in the Department of Politics and International Relations?
The focus on “practical politics” on the course is a real highlight; the department makes good use of its alumni and wider professional network to really give its students a grounding of how policy making happens in practice. A highlight here would definitely be being taught by Lord Blunkett in third year as part of a policy making module.
If I were to narrow it down to one thing specifically as most useful, I’d put my money on the Parliamentary Studies module. The first of its kind in the UK, the module uses practitioner insight to give a depth of knowledge to students about how Parliament functions - culminating in the chance to publish coursework as part of a real parliamentary inquiry. A growing number of former Sheffield Politics students in the Alumni network I am close with attribute interview success to insights and knowledge gained on this module - it really does stand out.
I’d also shout out some of the modules offered where, at the time, the content seemed less tangible, but over the course of time the value add has become clear. Thinking here both about the focus on creating a foundational knowledge of quantitative analysis and in debates about how we explain politics. Concepts presented in the latter (“superforcasting”, the specialist vs generalist debate) are very much at the forefront of discourse now whereas they seemed more novel back in 2016/17.
Did you take part in any opportunities or extracurricular activities during your studies? If so, what did you do and how did it help enhance your career prospects?
Quite a few! I took a year out to go abroad and study at the University of Wollongong, Australia and had a fantastic time. It has a smaller but focused politics department and was a great place to get an in-depth understanding of the Political Economy. The support I got from Sheffield throughout the process was brilliant, it really was a catalyst for both professional and personal growth.
The other thing I would highlight is the work placement I undertook with the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics - housed in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Sheffield which reinforced the learning of the “practical nature of politics” referred to above.
What is your fondest memory from your time in Sheffield?
I was lucky enough to take part in a trip to the G7 in Sicily. The whole experience gave a real working insight into the day to day operations of an international insight of that level. It also gave us the ability to publish insights from the field in an internationally recognised policy journal - a working example I leaned heavily on in the post university job hunt.
What has your career path been since graduation?
I joined the Civil Service Fast Stream straight after graduation, firstly working in Sheffield before moving down to Whitehall. During my time of the Fast Stream I had a number of roles in the Cabinet Office and the Department for International Trade. I finished my time on the programme at the end of 2019 and moved to lead on a workstream at Government Digital Service focused on delivering Digital Capabilities to Government at the best value for the UK Taxpayer.
What piece of advice would you offer to new and existing students in the Department of Politics and International Relations?
The demand for talent with strong political knowledge in the labour market seems to only be increasing, especially where candidates are able to demonstrate how that knowledge will further a wider organisational goal - whether that be in how a situation/piece of legislation will impact a companies bottom line, or in the Whitehall context how that knowledge can further the goals of the Government of the day.
It is also clear, regardless of career intention, that having a working understanding of quantitative data analysis is going to be an expectation of what to have in the job market going forward and so I’d advise taking all the opportunities open to you to further this. The same applies to emotional intelligence, the methods of development here are probably less tangible - but the course will give you plenty of opportunities to develop these skills - whether that be directly (e.g. seminar debating) or as part of the wider University experience.
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