Insight From Your Fellow Student: My Summer with the Civil Service

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Harmanjit Sidhu, BA History (grad 2017) and Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2017/18, talks through her recent experience of the Civil Service’s Summer Diversity Internship Programme. 


I have to admit, I was quite apprehensive about sacrificing possibly my last ever summer holidays to complete the Civil Service’s Summer Diversity Internship Programme. On reflection, it was probably one of the most beneficial experiences of my life.

For seven weeks, I was based at the Ministry of Defence, working on the Covenant Grant Fund which helps to support ex-servicemen and women through funding local projects. Some of these were based on helping veterans find work after completing their service, whilst other projects focused on aiding veterans who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I was given the responsibility of producing a case study booklet, evaluating the success of some projects the Grant had funded in the past. I had to finally present this to a senior steering group of the fund, which was made up of both military generals and civil servants. It was quite possibly the most frightening experience of my life- but as soon as it was over I can’t remember feeling more proud of myself! The final case study booklet is now used within the department as a key piece of publicity, and is distributed as events to showcase the achievements of the Fund. Therefore, in some ways, I have left behind an enduring legacy.

The range of projects on offer for interns is huge. Following a successful application, you are allocated to a department and project. For most people this is pretty random, however, if there is a project which is aligned to interests you mentioned in your written application, or on the phone interview, you are assigned to it. I was also able to indicate my preference for the type of work I wanted to do, e.g. Communications over technical/ operational. Fellow interns were placed in departments like Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Cabinet Office, the National Crime Agency and so on. Their projects included updating travel advice on the FCO website based on new information, evaluating a project completed by the team in the past, or conducting interviews to gather feedback on a new software.

The project and the overall experience of working within the civil service has provided me with a whole range of new skills. In producing the case study booklet I had to communicate with a hugely varied range of people, from senior diplomatic figures, to army generals, to on the ground grass root activists. As well as this, I had to plan, write and design the content and layout of the booklet too. I was given additional responsibilities of reporting back after attending conferences, attending high level meetings (after signing an official secrets act- all very exciting!), as well as the day to day communications with current grant holders, and chasing end of year grant reports.

Interns were also given ample opportunities to network across other government departments. At the beginning you attend a huge opening ceremony, normally held at the FCO, and there are a number of other events during the summer where the entire cohort of interns gets together. You have the opportunity to meet assessment day coordinators, ask current fast streamers questions, and meet representatives of different government departments who are happy to offer advice and guidance. You are also given a ‘mentor’, normally a fast streamer who can help provide specific advice on the project you are completing, as well as helping you out with Fast Stream application questions. I received some great advice from my own mentor, and have kept in touch with him since I left the scheme.

Increasing diversity and improving representation is a huge objective at the moment, and rightly so. Time and time again, as interns were told about how vital the issue of representation is for the government. The SDIP scheme taught me how much variety there is on offer if you work for the government. If you’re somebody who believes passionately in using your career to create meaningful and lasting change, and you meet the criteria for applying, then challenge yourself to completing the SDIP this summer. It could change your life!

Harmanjit Sidhu

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


#MondayMotivation: Business, Finance & Management Week


The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is today ~ Japanese proverb

Thinking about taking your next steps in to the world of business and finance? This week at SOAS Careers is all about that! Come along to our great range of events and learn more about how you can shape your future.

Get booked on via MySOAS Student here.


4:30 – 6pm Government Economic Service Presentation, SL62


1 – 3:30pm Into University: Volunteer Training Session, SL62


1 – 4pm Business, Finance & Management Fair, Cloisters Paul Webley Wing


1 – 2pm Charity Job: Introduction to Charity Sector, SL62


2 – 3:30pm Open Society Foundations Presentation, SL62

See you there!

Alexis Fromageot

Insight From Your Fellow Student: Working at the Civil Service

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Ranya Alakraa, BSc Development Studies & Economics (graduated 2016) explores her journey from SOAS to the Civil Service Fast Stream. 


It was the end of the summer after our 2nd year at uni, our third and final year was in sight, until this point I had never thought about my career. My friend called me and informed me grad scheme applications were opening soon. We dialled in a few other friends and in the middle of this four-way conversation the panic set in. What were we doing with our futures?

We all met the very next day in SOAS to figure out our life-plans; we climbed up to the Career’s Office and collected every possible leaflet or brochure on grad schemes, jobs, internships, CV and cover letter writing. By the end of this we were all a little overwhelmed.

We went back to the JCR and started sifting through all these papers, circling and highlighting things which appealed to us. Another friend spotted us and came over; he saw the air of panic surrounding me and asked me a really good question that I myself had never properly thought about. He said where do you see yourself in the future, what is the ideal job you would be doing? So I thought about it for a few minutes, and I said I would be working in policy somewhere in the government, with a focus on economic development. So he told me he had been doing the Summer Diversity Internship for the Civil Service, and that I should consider applying for the Fast Stream…and so I did!

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A few months later, in December of my final year, I had a job offer as an Economist in the Civil Service Fast Stream, and it was all thanks to that fateful day when we all sat in the SOAS JCR! It was a rigorous application process, but doing it so early on in the year meant that I already had a job offer before the New Year and I could focus fully on revision and those final essays in the Spring term.

A few lessons I learnt from my own experience, I probably should have started thinking about jobs and my career earlier on. Doing internships and getting work experience throughout your undergraduate degree is very useful. Doing research on what is out there is even more important, I hadn’t even heard about the Fast Stream until my friend told me about it! And finally, I definitely did not make enough use of the SOAS Career’s Service which probably could have told me about all the opportunities out there and would have helped me with things like job applications.

Nevertheless, I am now working as an Assistant Economist in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As part of the Fast Stream I get to rotate after a year to another department, it’s a great opportunity to see how government works from the inside, and how Economics is so crucial to every step of the policy process. I love my job and I can see a really clear future for myself here, but there are plenty of schemes other than the Economics one as part of the Fast Stream, read more about them here!

Ranya Alakraa

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


What’s on this Week: Career Planning Week


This week at SOAS Careers we take a look at how to go about planning you next steps! Come and hear practical, real-life advice and examples about getting your journey started, with great advice from a wide range of people.

Don’t worry if you’re not even at the point of planning – pop by SL57 and we can talk through where to even begin.

Mon 16 Jan, 5:30 – 7pm, B111, Brunei Gallery: Lead Yourself – Developing your Strengths with Teach First:

Wed 18 Jan, 1:30 – 3pm, S118, Paul Webley Wing: Simplifying Global Recruitment through Tier 5 Visas:

Thurs 19 Jan, 5:30 – 7pm, G3, Main Building: Commercial Awareness with PwC:


See you there!

Alexis Fromageot


How to get in to Humanitarian Aid and Organisations


A sobering record was set by the United Nations humanitarian appeal launched in early December. $22.2 billion, the largest sum ever, is needed in 2017 for 93 million people affected by natural disasters and conflict in 33 countries. The Global Humanitarian Overview 2017 provides a more detailed, sobering insight into funding trends and the significant increase in needs over more than a decade.  This is one sector where the growth in demand does not signal a buoyant economy and satisfied shareholders.

If you are considering a career with Humanitarian organisations, how can you research this area and what can you do? Work in this sector is diverse ranging from education to governance and human rights to healthcare. Where do your interests lie?  What you would actually do within humanitarian organisations is equally varied as are the routes into the sector.  There are many different skills and knowledge sets needed so thinking about where your strengths and work interests and practical considerations such as location and the type of working lifestyle that you want can also be a useful starting point.

The size and structure of organisations involved in some way with the humanitarian sector vary considerably from Governmental organisations such as DFID (the UK’s Department for International Development), International organisations which include the UN and its agencies and NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) and charities.  If your interest is in research in a broader context, then academic institutions and ‘think tanks’ such as the Chatham House (known more formally as the Royal Institute International Affairs) work on international and development topics.

Whilst working as a project manager or specialist practitioner in the field may be the first type of work which springs to mind if you are just starting to explore options; there are other possibilities. Humanitarian organisations, like many others, have infrastructure needs such as finance and logistics. Generating income through fundraising  (across a spectrum from individuals to corporate and grant making organisations), educating and informing audiences through communications and media and working in policy and research are all roles that can  in varied ways to enabling charities, non governmental organisations and others deliver.

You can find lots of information on the different roles and employers within the International Development section of Occupational sectors on MySOAS Student. Also in this section are links to a large number of job vacancy sites such as BOND (British Overseas NGOs for Development) and Eldis. Looking at current job vacancies even if these are targeted at more experienced staff can give you a great insight into the nature of opportunities. LinkedIn can be an additional useful resource in this respect, not only because you can begin to network with those working in the sector but because you can follow organisations (could be useful for vacancy posts), look at the backgrounds of people working for them and also join interest groups to further your knowledge and contacts.

Being able to articulate an informed interest in the sector will be crucial to securing opportunities. Volunteering and internships can enable you to build an insight into this multifaceted area. Think carefully about the contribution which you want to make and where your talents, knowledge and skills might best be used. Your overriding driver may be because you want to make a difference – passion and enthusiasm is important but refining your thoughts about the part you can play is important.

How do you want change your world?

Claire Rees, Careers Consultant


What’s on this Week: Assessment Centres & Selection Methods Week


This week at SOAS Careers is all about Assessment Centres and selection methods!

Come along to our whole host of events designed to support you as you navigate your way through your upcoming assessment centres, as well as our one-to-one appointments every afternoon. Don’t miss out!

Mon 14 Nov 5.30 – 6.30pm, B111: Applications & Interviews with PwC:

Wed 16 Nov 1.30 – 3pm, S118: Succeeding at the Fast Stream Assessment Centre:

Wed 16 Nov 6 – 9pm, Venue TBC: Serving the World: Working for the United Nations:

Thurs 17 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, SL57: What I Wish I’d Known with Samir Farrag:

Thurs 17 Nov 5.30 – 7pm, KLT: Problem Solving with Teach First:

Look forward to seeing you there!

Alexis Fromageot


3 days left to enter #changeyourworld & have tea with the UN!

It’s been awesome to read about all the projects you’ve been involved in for the #changeyourworld photo competition! Get inspired by taking a look at some of the incredible photos we’ve had so far.

Taken in the Nkomazi region of South Africa, this one is with a non-profit called Imagine Scholar:

Here’s one one taken during an ongoing community development workshops in Cambodia called The CAM Projects:

Taken in Bangladesh, this picture is in a Shelter House as part of an immersion program:

To be in with a chance of winning this unique opportunity to have tea with the Chief of Outreach at the UN after his talk at SOAS, you just need to upload a photo of a time that you have changed someone else’s world, in the past year. This could be during a great internship, volunteering or work placement that you’ve been involved in, or anything else that has led to you changing another’s world.

To enter, upload your photo with a brief explanation, to our Facebook or Twitter page and tag it with #changeyourworld, or else email it directly to us at

All entries must be in by Friday 4th November and the winner will be announced in our Wednesday newsletter the following week. The winner will be decided by a panel of judges from SOAS, and all runner up images will be displayed at the UN talk.

To register for the talk click here, and to enter the competition just upload your photo with #changeyourworld.

Alexis Fromageot


Something for the Weekend: Public Sector Week


It’s been fantastic hear that Public Sector week has shown you what life working in this sector is really like.

Here’s an easy read for the weekend to wrap up the week! If you’ve ever had to repeat what you’re career dreams are, you’ll definitely relate to this list of 9 Things People With Unusual Career Goals Are Tired of Hearing.

Enjoy your weekend, and see you next week for Media Week!

Alexis Fromageot


Public Sector and LGBT equality: Recognition for 30+ employers in Stonewall’s Top 100


Over 30 Public Sector employers have been recognised as great places to work for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) equality, in the Top 100 of Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index (WEI) 2016. The WEI is a powerful benchmarking tool used by employers to assess their achievements and progress on LGBT equality in the workplace.

The index is formed from a submission from the employer on their policies and practices, plus feedback directly from staff on their experiences of the working culture:

  • Are lesbian, gay and bi people comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation at work?
  • Are there visible lesbian, gay, bi and trans role models in the organisation?
  • Are lesbian, gay, bi and trans employees supported by managers and senior managers?
  • Are staff confident reporting homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in the workplace

Whilst not making it into the Top 100 this year, many more are listed as Diversity Champions in Stonewall’s ‘Starting Out Guide’ – the definitive guide to LGBT-inclusive employers.


Ask employers including the Civil Service and HM Treasury about their policies and culture in person at the Public Sector Fair at SOAS on Thursday 27th October!

Check out the full lists of Stonewall’s Top 100 and the Diversity Champions here.


The Public Sector includes a huge variety of roles and opportunities. Here, we run through some examples of LGBT-inclusive employers and possible routes of entry for graduates.

Civil service Departments and Agencies:

The Home Office receives high accolade as a Star Performer in 2016, having been ranked in Stonewall’s Top 10 three times in the past five years. The Department for International Development (DFID), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Justice feature as Diversity Champions. The Civil Service Fast Stream is a highly rated graduate scheme (currently 18th in the Guardian Top 300 graduate employers) in which staff work across a variety of departments. Also see individual department websites and civil service jobs for opportunities.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) comes in at 36 in the Top 100. ONS offers graduate analytical positions, including Economic Researchers which they are currently recruiting* for 14 positions.

Local Government

In London, Tower Hamlets and Islington are feature in the Top 100 as do, more widely, Birmingham City and Newcastle City Councils. Eight other London Boroughs are featured as Diversity Champions, including Hackney, Newham and Sutton. Opportunities for graduates include the National Graduate Development Program, a graduate scheme run by the Local Government Association in which different councils participate. Also see local websites.

Local Councils, an organisation which represents the 32 London Boroughs and the City of London, also features as a Diversity Champion. London Councils offers opportunities including in policy and research roles.

Devolved Governments and Offices

Wales is strongly represented with The National Assembly for Wales comes in at an impressive 3rd in the Top 100, with The Welsh Government ranked 17th. Opportunities include via the Civil Service Fast Stream, and see their websites.

Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service features at 25th, and offers opportunities including Solicitor Traineeships for law graduates.

Policing and Defence

Six Police Forces and the National Crime Agency are featured in the Top 100, plus many more on the Diversity Champions list, including London’s Metropolitan Police. Originating in the Met Police, there is now a national Policing Graduate Scheme Police:Now.

International Security Intelligence Service MI6 ranks at 36th. Opportunities include language specialists and intelligence officers. MI5 features as the top employer in the Top 100, and offers three different graduate programmes.

NHS Trusts and Emergency Services

These also featured strongly in the Top 100. See local sites for opportunities.


* Live at time of writing

Alice Moon, Careers Consultant


What’s on this Week: Public Sector Week


This week at SOAS Careers is all about working in the Public Sector!

Come along to our whole host of events designed to support you and your career in the public sector, as well as our one-to-one appointments every afternoon. Don’t miss out!

Mon 24 Oct 5.30 – 7pm, B111: SOAS Alumni: What the Civil Service Fast Stream is really like:

Wed 26 Oct 1.30 – 3pm, S118: JET and Daiwa Presentation:

Thurs 27 Oct 1 – 4pm, Cloisters, Senate House North Block: Public Sector Fair:

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Alexis Fromageot