Guest blog from Rachel, Bijan and Dan who are SOAS alumni on the Generalist Fast Stream.
Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert firstname.lastname@example.org
Why do SOAS alumni love being on the Fast Stream?
We’re four SOAS alumni who are now in our second year on the Generalist Fast Stream. We all studied different subjects, have differing levels of work experience, and have ended up in diverse roles since entering the Fast Stream. What we have in common is that we all loved our time at SOAS, think the Fast Stream offers a great career, and are keen to do what we can to help our fellow SOAS students get in too! Over the last few weeks, you may have seen us around campus at various events. We’ve got plenty more planned, so keep an eye on the SOAS careers emails or email email@example.com to sign up to our mailing list.
In this blog, three of us share some key aspects of our experiences of the Fast Stream. Don’t know what the Fast Stream is? Skip to the bottom for a handy overview.
Rachel, BA Chinese (Modern and Classical) 2013
I postponed joining the Fast Stream for two years while I taught secondary English with Teach First up in Bradford, which was a really valuable experience. There are several other partner schemes that you can defer your place on the Fast Stream for: Frontline (children’s social work); Police Now; and Think Ahead (mental health social work), to name a few. My experiences of working in frontline public services have been hugely informative in my work within the Civil Service and helped me see the value in what we do.
My Fast Stream postings have been really varied. I started off with the International Visa Operation leading on Workforce Capability. As part of this role, I reformed the way that seasonal staff are recruited to our visa operation in Beijing which actually meant I ended up coming back to SOAS to recruit. I also got to go to Paris to visit our visa operation there. I then went on to the Office for Life Sciences where I was developing the digital health policy for the Accelerated Access Review, an independently chaired review looking into how to speed up NHS patients’ access to drugs, diagnostics, medical technology and digital health products. It was definitely a policy area that was easy to feel passionate about & it was really wonderful to see the impact of the review when it was published in October. I’m currently on secondment to the Higher Education Funding Council for England working in procurement strategy – it’s interesting to have the opportunity to work outside a ministerial department as it really does feel quite different.
There are a few things that stand out for me about the Fast Stream: the breadth of experience you’re able to get; the ability to make a tangible impact on people’s lives; how interesting the work often is, and the level of responsibility you’re given early in your career. The Civil Service is also an excellent employer – as well as a decent salaries, the Civil Service offers fantastic parental leave policies and an enviable pension.
At the induction week, it came up in discussion that many of us felt a degree of ‘imposter’ syndrome – that we didn’t deserve to be there. In fact, the range of skills, personalities and backgrounds of the people on the Fast Stream really show that there isn’t a model ‘Fast Streamer’, so please don’t be put off applying by thinking that you don’t conform to any stereotypes that you’ve heard about!
Bijan, BA Economics and Politics 2014
I’ve had really great exposure to a variety of roles – which has allowed me to understand how to make a difference as a public leader. The Fast Stream gives you real responsibility in a supportive environment – you are encouraged to develop your own ideas, contribute to the teams you are joining and apply yourself to some of the biggest issues facing our society. For someone who has always been passionate about social affairs (not a surprise being a Soasian!), it’s been an ideal graduate scheme.
For example, in my first posting my line manager really encouraged me to build upon my pre-existing interests and use them in my posting, as part of the Offender Management Unit in the Ministry of Justice. I discussed how I’d like to gain practical experience working with international institutions to complement my studies – so I was assigned a role within my team which meant I was responsible for talking to different embassies across the world to understand their offender management strategies, and produce a report for the Secretary of State setting out my findings.
Dan, BA History and Politics 2015
I hadn’t really thought about my career until my final year of university. I hadn’t spent my summers interning, if I was doing anything productive it was concentrating on my studies at SOAS (which I loved!). When I got to my final year and started looking out into the world of life after studying, it just seemed really big and inaccessible. I was overwhelmed by the sense I didn’t know how to get a good job, or what a good job looked like. I just knew I wasn’t ready to pin myself down to anything and I wanted to do something in public affairs, so I could put what I’d learnt at SOAS into practice. As I was looking into things – I started reading about the Fast Stream and it seemed like the perfect thing for me – it promised the opportunity to be right in the centre of politics, and the opportunity to try lots of new things. It’s been everything I hoped it would be so far. Just like SOAS it’s challenged me to think about problems creatively and to think past the initial headline.
I’ve had the opportunity to act as a User Researcher for DWP – meeting real people to understand how changes to the benefit system would affect their day to day lives, and reporting my findings back to project teams and policy leads. Now I’m working on health policy– working to try and find the solutions that will make our NHS as a strong as it can be!
I’m not the old civil service stereotype of bowler hats and suits – my parents arrived in this country 29 years ago, as refugees. Far from being a barrier, today in the civil service, we recognise that valuing people’s different experiences equips us to better serve the country. The Civil Service needs intelligent, passionate people to come and make a difference – I can’t recommend giving it a shot highly enough.
Not sure what the Fast Stream is? Read on!
What is the Civil Service Fast Stream?
The Civil Service Fast Stream has been a key graduate recruitment programme in the Civil Service for over 65 years! There are 15 different programmes which all differ significantly, but include the Diplomatic Fast Stream, the Generalist Fast Stream, the HR Fast Stream, the Project Delivery Fast Stream, and the European Fast Stream.
What do you do day to day?
Fast Streamers’ day jobs vary hugely as we work right across government. You could have one posting developing policy on non-EU imports of porcine semen, and another procuring emergency shelters for DFID. It’s part of what makes meeting up with other Fast Streamers interesting – everyone’s job is really different!
What’s the salary like?
The starting salary is competitive among graduate schemes – £28,000 a year. There are also additional benefits such as funded professional qualifications, an excellent pension, and starting off with a permanent contract.
How do I apply?
All applications are done online. Go to: https://www.faststream.gov.uk/
Where do I find out more?
Check out the Fast Stream website. There’s also a helpful brochure outlining all the different schemes available.
Still haven’t answered your question?
You’re very welcome to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you can’t find the answer to your question on the Fast Stream website.