Blog: DWP placement gave me a clear and positive vision for future career

During the summer, a group of faculty students spent 10 weeks on work placements at the Department of Work and Pensions. Politics student Laura talks about her time in the Children, Families and Disadvantaged division.

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As a politics student entering my second year of university, I became very aware that most of my friends had set career paths due to studying subjects such as Engineering and Medicine. In comparison, I had little direction or experience in a ‘proper’ job and even less idea of what opportunities were available to me, after years of people assuming I was studying politics because I wanted to be the next PM!

When the opportunity arose for a policy internship in the Department for Work and Pensions, I knew I had to apply. I already had some interest in the Civil Service from hearing about the Fast Stream but was quite clueless about what civil servants do so hoped this placement would help me learn more and decide if I should pursue this type of career after university. Even if I decided I didn’t want to be a civil servant, I knew the placement would give me experience and skills that would help with job applications elsewhere.

After submitting a competency-based application form online and a tense week-long wait, I was invited to interview for a place on the internship. Although I felt the interview had gone fairly well, I wasn’t too hopeful when I was told the process had been very competitive. However, a few weeks later, I was excited to find out I had been offered the placement.

Before I started work at the DWP, I was told I would be working in the Children, Families and Disadvantaged division (CFD). I couldn’t have been happier with this placement, particularly after learning about the programme I would be working on, something I would never have imagined to be within the DWP’s scope of work.

Although I had worries and slight nerves on the first day, they quickly went away after meeting the other interns and the CFD team. Everyone was extremely welcoming and the office had such a friendly, positive atmosphere. Even better, we were treated like regular employees and were trusted with our own work almost straight away.

My first task in the department was collating and analysing data, assisting another team member in Leeds with the creation of a funding formula for the programme I have been working on. This required several check-in phone calls a day, quickly forcing me to overcome my slightly irrational anxiety of how to answer the phone.

My role in the department has since been extremely varied but a particular highlight for me was attending an ITT event where providers interested in bidding for government contracts were introduced to our programme. Following this I was able to get involved in evaluating the bids put forward by those providers; a very daunting but equally exciting experience.

Overall, work in the DWP has helped me to develop many skills such as communication due to constant meetings both in-person and via telephone or video call. Along with this, I’ve been able to improve my email correspondence which is a surprisingly important skill, particularly as everyone is too busy to read long emails.

Learning to deliver under time pressure has also been an important development for me as working on a policy in its implementation stage meant that there were tight deadlines to meet as everything needed to happen promptly to ensure targets were met and the next step of the process could go ahead as expected.

Aside from being able to develop numerous skills, the most valuable aspect of the internship has been meeting so many people who have experience in different job roles across various departments within the Civil Service. As I started the internship wondering if and how I would pursue a career in this area of work, talking to people who have different experiences within the Civil Service has been very useful in helping me consider the options available to me.

Currently, my plan for the future is to apply for a masters course in either politics or journalism and look for some more work experience. After completing my masters, it’s likely that I will apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream.

Overall, I think my experience in the DWP has been invaluable and has helped me to think about my future career more clearly and positively. I feel the advice and experience I’ve gained throughout the internship will definitely help me pursue the career I want.

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