September 21, 2021, by abrierley
Government Communications Service (GCS) Internship for the Civil Service
By Amirah Hussain, UoN Politics and International Relations graduate
This is the civil service’s annual diversity programme exclusively for BAME and low income students in their final two years of study. It is a paid programme. Read more here: https://gcs.civilservice.gov.uk/career/progress-your-career/internship/
The GCS internship programme gives university students and recent graduates, specifically from BAME backgrounds and/or low income households, the opportunity to work within a government department of public body in communications roles. The placement lasts for a minimum of 6 weeks and you can be allocated to any team across government to work on various projects.
The application process was fairly straightforward: I firstly had to submit my CV and write a personal statement explaining why I was a suitable candidate by referring to the Civil Service success profiles and personal statements. I had to complete an aptitude test and then had a telephone interview a couple of months later. I was initially told that I was going to be on a waiting list but was made an official offer about a week later! I think the longest part of the process is definitely getting security checks completed, as you can’t start the internship without passing through clearance. The internship team were really helpful and advised I send over all required information as soon as – the quicker you send over documentation (copy of your passport, proof of address etc.), the sooner you can start working.
Upon starting my role, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve worked in various social media roles but nothing super comms-related. I just knew that I wanted to get the most out of my internship and get stuck in to a bunch of different projects. Once I found out that my application was successful, I was informed that I’d be joining the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) who are responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of any medicines and medical devices that are authorised for public use in the UK – this has been incredibly relevant given the Covid-19 pandemic! I am currently part of the News and Digital Team – we’re responsible for delivering messages to the public by liaising with journalists, posting on social media, updating the gov.uk website and writing press releases. My team are all so lovely and really approachable – I feel like I can ask as many questions as I want without feeling too annoying!
I’ve found the placement really interesting. I never considered a role in comms beforehand, but now that I have settled into the role, I’d love to continue working in this sector. One of my highlights was writing a press release on a criminal case about the sale of counterfeit medicines. My line manager was really willing to let me work on any projects that took my interest, so once I had communicated to her that this was something I wanted to work on, she helped me write my first press release and we even managed to pitch it to various regional news outlets. One of the main challenges when I first started my role was adjusting to working full time. Luckily, due to the pandemic, I’ve been working remotely for the entirety of the internship which has really helped me have a bit more down time in the evenings.
The intensity of work has been a challenge at times. Because of the pandemic, our work has often had to be reactive (for instance, we put out press releases if the media picks up on something to ensure that information the public is receiving is factually correct). Every day is different and while I have generally enjoyed the wide variety of tasks I can be asked to complete, sometimes having to deal with a breaking news story on a Friday afternoon can be a bit intense! Despite this, my team has been amazing and we always manage to get through the workload.
My main piece of advice would be to have confidence in yourself during the interview stage! Once you start believing that you have the skills for the role, the person interviewing you will also believe in you. Make sure you research the GCS internship and ask a family member or a friend to do a practice interview with you. You’ve got this!
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