November 13, 2020, by Jackie Thompson
Local Government: Is It the Right Career for You?
By Sarah Adesikun, Politics and International Relations alumna
As students, it can be difficult to know which career you will enjoy. While studying, I knew I wanted a rewarding career with a social purpose. After graduating I secured a role on the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) run by the Local Government Association.
If you have similar motivations and are considering the NGDP or a career in local or national government, these tips may be helpful to figure out if it’s right for you.
To work in local government, it’s important that you have the motivation and resilience to commit to improving communities. The public sector is facing many challenges, particularly in light of the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.
In your role, you may encounter vulnerable people, and at-risk groups, and difficult decisions will sometimes have to be made. You can’t shy away from these challenges, but it is your commitment to improving the lives of others that can get you through the role. Personally, I enjoy that I wake up every day knowing the work I am doing is vital to local residents.
If you enjoy coming up with innovative ideas for existing problems, while keeping the local community at the heart of these ideas, then local government may be the right career for you.
My tip for you: Don’t be afraid to emphasise this in the application process – it’s really important for employers to see your genuine motivations. And don’t just say your motivations, explain why. What do you feel are the biggest issues facing local communities in the country? If you could, how would you tackle them? Which groups could be positively or negatively affected?
Skills, not necessarily experience
The great thing about most graduate schemes is that you don’t need years of professional experience. Use your module assignments, extra-curricular, and any part-time work as examples in the application process.
One of the key competencies the NGDP is searching for amongst candidates is ‘analysis and problem-solving’. Perhaps think about a recent essay you submitted – how you did extensive research, took varying views into account, and formed an argument.
This can apply to a local government setting, where you consider all relevant stakeholders in making decisions. Lots of our skills in university life can be applicable to a professional setting. Try writing down all of your work and extracurricular activities: explain your role, how you effectively worked with others, the actions you took, and the results which followed.
My tip for you: Try creating this for each key competency from the NGDP framework! Take each competency, think about a time you have demonstrated this at university or work, and what the result was. This can help provide practical real-life examples that show your alignment with the key skills wanted on the NGDP.
Long graduate application processes can feel quite daunting, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. During my application, I booked an appointment with the Careers team, setting up a mock individual presentation before my assessment centre. One of the feedbacks from the Careers team was to be organised and structured in my presentation – this proved to be really important as it was flagged in my feedback report after my assessment day.
Try reaching out to friends and family members that are willing to help, they can help prepare mock interview questions based on the local government competencies. Practice runs really help you get a good feel of what to expect – making the real assessment day a lot less intimidating.
During my application process, I had the opportunity to chat with the BAME Network run by NGDP alumni. They were able to give me more insight into the graduate programme – it’s always useful to get insight from people who have been through the process.
My tip for you: Connect with people on LinkedIn. On the app, simply search ‘NGDP’, click ‘Posts’ see those who have posted that they are on the scheme. Get in touch! Ask them about their application and the projects they are involved in. Remember that as much as you want to sell yourself to employers, employers have a duty to sell themselves to you. Ask about the council’s corporate strategy, its values, and the work culture. All of these things could shape your experience on the scheme and can help you decide if it’s right for you.
Are you looking for a career in the public sector but not sure what’s out there? On our local government and Civil Service pages you’ll find information about the different roles and where to look for graduate vacancies.
If you need help with applying for jobs, go to our making applications pages. We also have advice on getting started on LinkedIn on our website.
Nottinghamshire County Council, Civil Service Fast Stream, HMRC, and the Home Office attended our Management, Consulting, and Finance Careers Fair. Check out who will be coming to our future fairs and events.
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