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November 29, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

Starting Out in Your Career

By Daniel Kibble, Politics graduate now working in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

It was around this time in my final year of university that I was asking the question many of you are probably doing right now – how do I get started in the career I want? My interests were in working on international policy in a practical sense and I am thankful that I do just that in the work I do now. Getting there though was not straightforward and certainly not via a path I anticipated!

First steps

I initially took a broad approach to future jobs, applying for a wide range of graduate programmes with international opportunities and focus. As is the case for many graduates who do my course and share my interests in international affairs, the Civil Service Fast Stream was a natural draw. I reached its last assessment round but was unsuccessful and so left Nottingham without a confirmed role and an uncertain path ahead of me.

I did though spot through my research an opportunity to work locally at the Office for National Statistics and, after six months, I moved to Bristol City Council to help implement the city’s new transport policy. These roles didn’t exactly fit my career interests but provided me with opportunities to develop in the workplace experience of making critical decisions, working with others, being organised and meeting deadlines. These practical examples proved key to my subsequent applications, enabling me to join the Civil Service during an external hiring period.

Once in the Civil Service, I took further opportunities to get new skills and increase my experience. I particularly asked for advice on job applications so I could do myself justice and present my competencies in ways that were sharper and more attractive to employers. This ultimately helped me land a role at the then Department for International Development, the basis of my further opportunities in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Top tips

Graduate schemes undoubtedly provide excellent development opportunities. My experience though shows they are not the only route and that, while they may not look like where you want to end up, different jobs can still provide the foundations to getting the kind of career you want. I recommend thinking about the following as you start out:

Embrace the ‘zigzag career’

You may leave university without a clear career path ahead of you. That is ok! With careers more flexible than ever, focus on finding opportunities that allow you to try new things and build the kind of experience you want to show to future employers. Everyone is on their own journey and yours just might take more steps to get there.

Think about what motivates you and gives you energy

Your time at university provides a great opportunity to reflect on the kind of activities you would enjoy in jobs and identify those where you would benefit from more experience. Thinking about this when it comes to looking at jobs will help you find those which suit you and give you opportunities to enhance the skills you’ll need in the future.

Always ask for help

Entering the working world after university is a transition and requires you to think differently about how to present your experience and consider your next steps. So whether it is speaking to the university’s careers team or friends and family, do ask for help. From reading applications to helping me think through next steps. I couldn’t have got anywhere without some great mentors and guidance.

Explore job roles in the Civil Service, entry routes, and where to find work experience. 

Posted in Choosing Your Career