Rejection? Brush Your Shoulders Off

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We’ve all been there: hours of blood, sweat, tears and a fair amount of googling synonyms for ‘passionate’ go in to crafting the most meticulously put-together application that proves beyond all reasonable doubt that it is your destiny to take on this job, only to hear back from a generic HR inbox that they ‘regret to inform you’ that you’re not The One. Or worse yet – a resounding silence.

Yep: rejection sucks, but, dig a little deeper into anyone who’s gone on to do anything genuinely impressive (no, the Yodelling Kid doesn’t count) and you’ll quickly see that failure is a temporary – and important – step towards ultimate success. As Michael Jordan humbly puts it, ‘I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed’.

Never was this truer than when it comes to landing that elusive grad scheme, internship or part-time job for the summer. A lot of the time it’s purely a numbers game – due to the sheer volume of applications you may not luck out first time round and will need to keep trying. Knowing how to deal with this is crucial, and will only help you on your way to future triumphs.

Don’t worry, help is on hand; so sit back and take comfort in this virtual hug from SOAS Careers…

  • Take time out to reflect

Once the initial rage subsides, it’s worth taking 5 minutes to think through why this particular application didn’t work out. Do you need to get more experience under your belt? Could your application have done with being tweaked a little to really showcase to the employer how great you are for that specific role, or have you been going for quantity over quality recently? If you made it through to an interview, could you spend some time nailing your technique to guarantee that you come across as the dream candidate next time round? If you’ve had a few knock-backs, could you start targeting smaller companies rather than just going for household names?

SOAS Careers can support you with all of this and more. Take a look at all the ways we can signpost you to work experience and volunteering opportunities – both great additions to your CV, which will offer you lots more examples to talk about at interview too. CV & Application Advisers are on hand with drop-ins every afternoon between 1-3pm in SL62 to give you feedback, we can run you through a Practice Interview, offer guidance, help with online aptitude tests and lots and lots more

  • Get inspired

Often even those you assumed were born in to success have had to work hard to get to where they are – no matter how effortless it may all seem. Read the autobiography of any great entrepreneur or successful person, and more often than not it is their resilience that has been their Ace card. Identify someone you genuinely admire and dig in to what coping mechanisms they use to bounce-back.

  • Make sure love is all around

As you dive head first into another set of applications, make sure you’ve got friends and family close by, or ready and waiting for your Facetime call. Don’t underestimate the power of their support on your personal well-being, and vice-versa. Make sure you and your close friends are each other’s Number 1 Fans and regularly remind each other how great you are!

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself

There’s no easy way to say it: putting your all into an application and not hearing back would dampen even Mr. Motivator’s spirits. You’ve got every right to be disappointed, so rather than beating yourself up, treat yo’ self (within reason!) and move onwards and upwards.

  • It’s not you, it’s them

As The Beatles forecast, the road may well be long and winding – and it can be all too easy to forget to keep things in perspective. There will always be other opportunities, bigger and better ones that come at the right time for you.

So next time you get that email from what you’d convinced yourself would be your dream company, see the rejection for what it is – a set-back, nothing more, nothing less. Acknowledge it, learn from it and then move on. Don’t let it own you, rather get out there and own it!

Alexis Fromageot, Marketing Manager

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How to Own the Easter Break & Sort Your Summer

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So the Easter break hasn’t been the whirlwind of productivity you’d dreamed of so far? Don’t worry here are some quick-fire ways to get you started with lining up a dream summer…

Lots of you will be reading this far from the bright lights of the JCR, and spending the holiday visiting friends and family. It’s time to tap into those networks! Yep, these people are your ready-made pathway into your dream job – where do they work, who do they know, who are their neighbours, friends, great aunts etc and where do they work? You’d be surprised who knows whom, and who can lead you to that game-changing introduction.

Don’t panic: we’re not suggesting you go straight into a Dragon’s Den-esque hard sell with Janet next door – it’s more about letting people know that you’re actively looking for some experience over the summer. As all good Scouts know, it’s always best to come prepared so spend some time reflecting on the following before:

  • What is it you’re looking to get experience in? Are you tied to a particular industry, or open to any exposure to a set job role?
  • What specific skills or knowledge are you keen to develop?
  • Would you consider volunteering, or a couple of days work shadowing?
  • When can you realistically fit in some experience?

Take some time to revamp your CV as well, making sure that it fits in with these intentions. A sure-way to do so is to make sure it focuses on relevant skills that you can already bring to the table.

As with anything, keeping an open mind is the key to success – don’t be quick to immediately dismiss opportunities that don’t quite meet your ideal. Speak to the organisation to find out more and have a think about what you would get out of it. Remember: real commercial experience of how any business works is great acumen to bring with you into any future applications.

Why not mix it up and do a few different things over the summer?

Employers are all humans too – they understand that spending a summer volunteering or work shadowing isn’t realistic for everyone, and that you need to work to earn some money too! Retail, bar and coffee work over the summer are all valuable experiences and let you build up some cash too.

It’s worth considering fitting in some volunteering or work shadowing for a shorter period or in between shifts if you can. Exposure to as many different skills as you can is a definite win for your future applications!

Ditch Netflix: Get out and About

Know that you’re going to be heading back to where you are now this summer? Use the time you’re there to go out and ask around:

  • Tap in to that network, and ask your friends and family if they’ve seen anywhere advertising for summer jobs. Dust off your CV and get it out there!
  • Go on a job-hunting mission: finally a legitimate way to procrastinate (sorry Netflix!). Head down your local street, ask around at tourist hot-sports, hotels, restaurants, leisure centres. Are there any summer schools or kids clubs that are looking for an extra pair of hands?

Remember to keep your head up throughout: job hunting is a pretty thankless task, but it’ll all be worth it when that first pay cheque comes flying in!

So remember…

  • Whether you’re looking for specific work experience or for a summer job, keep your CV polished and tailored to that opportunity. Make it easy for the employer to realise that you are the best person for the job!
  • Keep an eye on Budiriro and other sites for awesome vacancies at organisations that are keen to hear from SOAS students.

Alexis Fromageot, Marketing Manager

Insight From Your Fellow Student: An Unlikely Entrepreneur

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Olivia B. Zank, MSc Political Economy (2013-4), frankly discusses her experiences at several developmental organisations and how this led to her creating a tech-enabled supply chain finance firm in Rwanda: BeneFactors

Hiking in RwandaOlivia hiking in Rwanda’s beautiful thousand hills, December 2015

After completing a BA in International Development and Economics at UEA, I joined SOAS for a taught post-graduate programme. I was torn between which programme to join though – ultimately, I was interested in financial sector development in especially Sub-Saharan African countries, but I was also very drawn to the political economy analysis and the critical thinking that SOAS is known for. In the end I opted for the MSc Political Economy, but took every finance course that the school of economics offered. This flexibility from the school in terms of curriculum for an MSc allowed me to learn from two of the most renowned thinkers in their fields, Professors Mushtaq Khan and Costas Lapavitsas. I inhaled as much knowledge as I could from these two bright minds and I continue to see the influence on their thinking in my journey since SOAS. Alongside my MSc I was also very fortunate to work as a part-time researcher for Public World, a high-class consultancy specialising in issues of employment around the world. I had come across the Public World while dredging the internet for summer internships between my undergrad and masters and I immediately knew I wanted to work for them. I then proceeded to email the managing director enough times for him to finally agree to give me an interview and subsequently a chance at an internship which turned into part-time work during the year I spent in London. Juggling work, post-graduate studies and social life wasn’t easy but getting work experience while studying turned out to make all the difference for me post-graduation.

There is a well-trodden path from an MSc in Economics at SOAS to the ODI Fellowship programme. I am no exception and applied while still a student. The ODI fellowship is a two-year placement in a developing country government and provides unique insights into especially the capacity constraints in terms of being able to deliver services and effectively enforce regulation. This was the kind of full immersion I was looking for. However, I did not get in to the fellowship when I first applied.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine was just completing the DFID Graduate Placement, and inspired by his experience, I decided to apply and to my surprise, I got in. This (now discontinued) programme was a one-year placement to work with the UK Department for International Development and I was lucky with the team I was placed in – I got to move to Glasgow and work with the Regional Directorate’s Stats and Evaluation Team, i.e. the team of experts that help all DFID’s 32 country offices monitor the extent to which they are effective at alleviating poverty and create opportunities around the world. Having such a bird’s eye view of DFID’s multi-billion-pound country programme portfolio was another wonderful chance for learning – about how the aid sector works and how to know whether what you’re doing even has an impact. I had a wonderful line manager in Glasgow who really helped me improve my skills and become more efficient in my work. Most importantly, I also realised that while the UK civil service was a great place to work, it wasn’t for me – I wanted to be much closer to the action so to speak, and still dreamt of immersing myself in a developing country.

So I reapplied for the ODI Fellowship programme the following year and this time I was better prepared, more qualified and I got in. I was sent to Rwanda to work in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM). In many ways, Rwanda’s civil service is one of the most effective civil services in Sub-Saharan Africa. Corruption is low, the leadership is ambitious, and there is a good amount of debate over technical policy decisions, making for a very stimulating environment for a young economist. I worked alongside local civil servants on donor coordination and planning, conducting bi-annual sector reviews on programme implementation and policy developments in the private sector development and employment space. My time in DFID had prepared me for many of the challenges that plague civil servants around the world (endless meetings, unnecessary procedures, inability to fire inefficient workers etc.), and my frustrations in MINICOM were not unlike the frustrations we had in DFID, albeit at a different scale, which was humbling and eye-opening. After about a year, MINICOM was merged with the Ministry of East African Community and the minister, now in charge of a bigger mandate, wanted more advisory support. Since I’d been delivering good work for the past year, it was decided that I would join the Minister’s Office as his policy adviser. The next year therefore saw me working on various senior government policies such as the Special Economic Zone Policy, the flagship ‘Made in Rwanda’ Industrial Policy and the 2018-2024 Private Sector Development Strategy. Rwandan politics are fascinating, and the end of my fellowship coincided with the formulation of the country’s Vision 2050 and the 2017 presidential election, revealing much about the hopes and dreams of the country, as well as its current capacity to implement transformative programmes. I will forever be grateful for the time I spent as an ODI fellow, despite the obvious challenges and frustrations of working in a low-income country’s civil service.

One issue that always ran through the policy analysis and development I did, was that of access to finance. Rwanda remains a low income country, with GDP per capita at just $702 in 2016. National savings are low, and hence access to finance continuously comes up as the number one constraint for businesses. Without a thriving private sector, Rwanda would never achieve its development goals. The only problem was, despite my strong interest in financial development, as a policy advisor in MINICOM, I was not supposed to work on access to finance, which falls under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and the Central Bank’s mandates. From the sidelines, I could see these institutions focus on making it easier for companies to access loans from banks and micro-finance institutions as well as encouraging people to save. There was some efforts to diversify the range of financial services available especially in working capital, but those efforts was limited, and speaking to my friends in the business community, I couldn’t escape the feeling that introducing different kinds of finance, was actually what was going to matter in the long run.

BeneFactorsOne of BeneFactors’ first clients, Dieudonné (R) speaks to an employee in his chilli oil factory outside Kigali, Rwanda, January 2018

A specific lecture from Professor Lapavitsas’ Financial Systems and Economic Development class at SOAS also kept coming to my mind – modern banking in Europe emerged as people and companies started selling on credit, and thus having claims on each other. Having a claim on someone is not as good as having cash in cash which can be used for further production or consumption. Specialised institutions therefore emerged to buy those claims from the original holders, freeing everyone else up to go about their business. These institutions later on became more sophisticated and started extending credit, offering savings and all the other things that was being promoted in Rwanda as a solution to access to finance gap – in other words they became commercial banks. Yet those products were not how financial intermediation first emerged and banks have kept their first line of business, collecting corporate claims, even as they now offer a more diversified and by now more profitable range of services.

A conversation with a good friend running a logistics company in Rwanda and struggling with cash flow gave me a term to research – factoring. It quickly all came together – factoring, or supply chain finance in general – is exactly the act of buying claims that the first European banks started with. It is strictly working capital products, providing cash flow stability to companies within established supply chains and it is therefore considered as trade finance – and hence within my ministry’s mandate! I could work on it! I spent the next three months going down a deep rabbit hole on supply chain finance, becoming more and more convinced that introducing such financing in the Rwandan economy could have significant impact due to the widespread illiquidity found. I drafted the necessary policy documents and tried to put the issue on the relevant people’s agenda, hoping they would make the necessary minor reforms and regulatory clarifications. The goal, I believed, was to attract an investor who would set up a commercial supply chain finance company and solve the cash flow issues of Rwandan companies.

In the meantime, being very enthusiastic about this amazing opportunity I had come across, I tried it out with a few friends. I knew people in the business community who had cash flow issues and I had some savings I was willing to risk to prove my point. My first trials worked out. I not only got my money back, but also received feedback from these first clients that there would indeed be a huge market for this in Rwanda, across East Africa and beyond. To avoid any issues with the regulators, I registered a company and BeneFactors was born.

BeneFactors TeamThe initial BeneFactors team: Happy (L), Paul and Olivia, December 2017

If someone had told me in 2016 that within a year I would become an entrepreneur, I would have laughed for days. I was always more of the academic type, enjoying research and planning processes, not fast-paced operations and striking deals. Yet somewhere between August and November 2017, I decided to not take another job after the ODI Fellowship and dedicate myself to BeneFactors, to see whether I could make it fly or not. It was perhaps the scariest decision I ever made, and I’m on the steepest learning curve I’ve ever been on, with an unhealthy amount of stress and anxiety. However, with every new client and new issue to solve I’m learning new things – about my client’s specific line of business, finance, operations, HR, accounting, psychology, and about myself and what I am capable of. BeneFactors is still a very young company and it is far from certain that we will succeed. I certainly still have a lot to learn as a first-time entrepreneur and CEO, but it was the best decision I ever made.

BeneFactors is currently recruiting volunteers to start in June 2018 for a duration of 3-6 months. Check out the careers section on their website www.benefactorsltd.com or get in touch with Olivia on olivia@benefactorsltd.com for more information.

Olivia B. Zank

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 careers@soas.ac.uk.

Please also note that SOAS Careers is committed to only advertising paid internships positions, in line with National Minimum Wage regulations. Further information and positions are available here.  

I Bet(te Midler) you’re eager for some more career advice!

 

This week we’re looking at what the multi-talented Divine Miss M has to say that we can apply to our career journey. As a singer, songwriter, actress, comedian, and film producer, Bette Midler is no stranger to success. Known for her quick wit, sharp tongue and eccentric nature, Midler proves that confidence is key! Sadly a great many quotes did not make it in for obvious reasons but below are the some of the most socially acceptable things she’s said and how you can use them to maximise your success!

 

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“I firmly believe that with the right footwear one can rule the world.”

Whilst they might not be the be-all-and-end-all of career success, a snazzy pair of shoes can have a big impact on your confidence and make a great impression. If you can strike the balance between function, comfort and style with your footwear then you’ll really be on top of the world.

 

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“I have my standards. They’re low, but I have them.”

Keeping your standards higher than Bette is advisable (a quick search on the web’ll tell you where her career began) but be pragmatic. Sometimes you need to lower your standards in terms of salary or responsibility in order to get the experience needed to progress. Thinking about things in the long-term will keep you motivated. Jobs that seem mundane are often opportunities to really develop essential workplace skills.

 

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“Cherish forever what makes you unique, ‘cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes.”

Don’t be embarrassed to stand out. Nurture qualities, interests and skills that set you apart from the rest. If you have a niche skillset or ability it might feel like it’s not useful but there will be an opportunity for you out there – fret not! Don’t let what sets you apart slip away – be proud of all you can bring to the workplace.

 

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“People are not the best because they work hard. They work hard because they are the best.”

For most people, The Divine Miss M most of all, success doesn’t come easy! Each and every one of us has a natural talent – something they excel at with ease. It could be maths, or making people smile. It doesn’t matter. Find out what you do the best and work hard doing it.

 

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“A person’s life is a journey, a road. Sometimes you go off the road and sometimes you stay on all the way through. But you are the only one on that road. It’s your road.”

Like a road, there are bumps along the way. Try visualising how far you’ll have travelled in a year, five years or thirty years when the road gets tough and you are feeling stuck. No matter how slow you feel you are going, you are making progress. Each day brings with it new experiences and a chance to develop your skills and abilities, and if you see it like this then you can maximise what you get out it and soon you’ll be cruising along!

 

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“You have to think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, but you have to know that you’re not.”

A healthy dose of confidence can go a long way, yet the line between being confident and being arrogant can be pretty slim. Knowing yourself is an important part of projecting confidence. Know your flaws as well as your strengths, and work to develop those areas you’re weaker in and you’ll be well on your way to being as self-actualised as Bette!

 

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“When I finally did stop and look at my life, I realized that I had done what I’d set out to do. In my pitiful little way, I had climbed the mountain I had chosen. And there I was, on top.”

It’s important to turn around and take stock of all that you’ve achieved – whether that be an academic, a personal or a professional achievement. We’re all success stories in our own way but increasingly people minimise the things they’ve accomplished. Be proud of what you’ve done no matter how small it seems as it’s these small victories that form the foundation of the mountain. Setting long-term goals can help keep you climbing when the incline is steep.

 

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“You gotta have some friends!”

Cheating a bit here, as it’s technically a song lyric but the sentiment stands. Friends will get you through the down days, will be there to celebrate the successes, and above all they’ll keep you sane when work is tough. Find good friends and keep them close!

 

James Hallett – Volunteering Advisor

Insight From Your Fellow Student: Life as a graduate millennial in the charity sector

As part of our Student Insight blog series, Evelyn Snow, MSc Development Studies (grad 2017), talks through her journey from SOAS to making a difference in the charity sector, and her current role as Schools’ Programme Assistant Coordinator at education charity Wings of Hope. 

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Evelyn and the Mayor of Barnet who came to visit a stall that a WOHAA team had at the Barnet Christmas Fayre, where they raised £328

When I applied for a Masters in Development Studies at SOAS at the beginning of 2016 I hadn’t really thought beyond the fact that it sounded like a great course, in an amazing environment filled with inspiring academics and interesting people. When I received my final degree confirmation in December 2017, I was in a very different place to where I had begun with that first application.

My course had a lot of variety in its students – from those who had recently finished undergraduate study, to those who had worked for several years already – so it did seem like some people had a very solid plan, and really knew where they were going in their careers. To tell the truth, having changed so much during my short time at SOAS made me really think hard about my next steps after finishing the Masters, and where I wanted to be in another year’s time. I still don’t have the answer, but I do feel like I am one step closer to working it out!

As anybody who has experienced SOAS knows, the critical stance taken by students and
academics towards the status quo means that finding a job afterwards can be somewhat
challenging – with my other Development Masters peers we often discussed where we would find the kinds of jobs which would balance our grand ideas of ‘the right kind of’ change with the practicalities of graduate life! I also knew I needed some hands-on experience, in order to tailor my patchwork CV to where I thought I was heading later on. Apart from some volunteering work, I didn’t really feel like I had much to offer the kinds of development arenas I was interested in.

When I came across the internship at the Wings of Hope advertised on the Careers network at SOAS, it sounded exactly the balance I was looking for; hands-on experience of charity work in a small team, where student fundraising efforts in the UK are rewarded, and the funds raised go to help educate children in India and Malawi. For that reason I didn’t hold out much hope of getting it, so when I was offered the internship I was delighted – and even more so when it later turned into a permanent position!

My job is hugely varied; from admin tasks to giving presentations, mentoring teams to marketing and organising events, I work with teachers, professionals, and students hoping to engage them all in our educational work. I have given a keynote speech at a careers networking event in a school, presented our work to a business owner who is interested in working together, and researched other similar charity programmes, in the same week as visiting schools to check on the progress of the student teams we’re working with!

A typical day can begin with an assembly at a school, presenting our social enterprise programme (the Wings of Hope Achievement Awards) to students aged 13-18, encouraging them to get involved, then whizzing back to the office to market the programme to more schools, and organise more presentations, followed by catching up on the paperwork of logging students’ details, and often finishes with mentoring sessions with teams who have started their fundraising projects, giving them support and ideas and encouraging them to be the best they can be.

I have been surprised by the variety within my role, and I think this is a huge advantage of working with a small organisation – because we are a team of 4-6 I get to see all sides of what we work on which is fantastic, and means I can be heavily involved in all these sides. This means a lot of juggling too, so there is constantly something else to do, and when I began I found it extremely challenging to keep up with all the different aspects of the programme at the same time, as it felt like having to do several people’s jobs at once. Now I’ve got more comfortable with this, I see it as a steep but impressive learning curve, and I think it would be very hard to go back to working on only one aspect of such a programme at one time.

Life in the charity sector however is full of compromises and stretched resources, something I do find challenging, as there is always so much at stake. My students keep me motivated however – I really get energised when I speak to them and see how passionate they themselves are about making a difference in their fundraising, and this keeps me motivated to continue trying to support them in this and encourage others to get involved at every level.

It has been a hectic few months since I started here in August, and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot already. I’m trying to take graduate life one step at a time, and I may not know where I’ll be in a year’s time, or five, but at least for the moment I feel like I’m managing to achieve some real-world change for students in the UK and elsewhere, and absorbing an enormous amount of experience at the same time.

When it comes to thinking about careers, it can be pretty scary and intimidating, but I think the important thing is to not to worry too much about having the perfect post-graduation plan, and instead to take every opportunity that comes your way. Go for what feels right at the time – who knows where it might lead!

Evelyn Snow

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 careers@soas.ac.uk.

#MondayMotivation: Welcome to 2018!

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Happy new year from SOAS Careers! It might be massively clichéd, but January is as good a time as ever to take a look at where you’re at and where you want to be.

SOAS Careers is keen to make 2018 your best year yet, and to help you smash it we’re running Top Tip workshops every Tues and Thurs from 12 – 1pm in the Careers Seminar Room (SL62). Come along for tangible advice and support on different key aspects of your career journey – from CVs and applications, using social media and LinkedIn through to securing your dream internship.

We’re kicking off the term with these two awesome workshops, come and get involved…

Tue 9 Jan, 12 – 1pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Top Tips for Career Planninghttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=219&service=Careers+Service

Thu 11 Jan, 12 -1pm, Careers Seminar Room (SL62): Top Tips: How to get an Internshiphttps://careers.soas.ac.uk/leap/event.html?id=213&service=Careers+Service

Alexis Fromageot

 

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. 

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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 careers@soas.ac.uk