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

International Women’s Day Celebration Event TODAY


Celebrate International Women’s Day with a whole host of events across SOAS University of London and University of London!

Come and hear from inspiring women talking about their workplace successes TODAY at 1pm City, University of London.

This FREE event is taking place at Northampton Suite, City, University of London, Northampton Square campus, EC1V 0HB

To mark International Women’s Day, inspiring women from different industries will be coming together to discuss what success looks like, both in the workplace and wider life. The panel will be discussing and offering insight on the following:

  • What does success look like for different women?
  • How do leading women in industry achieve work-life balance?
  • What can organisations do to better support women and their progression.
  • Practical tips to tackle key issues such as salary negotiation.

The panel includes women in senior roles from across a range of industries. After a period of panel discussion there will be opportunities to talk to our panellists directly during a Q&A and then following up with some nibbles and networking.

  • Sara Fox, Principal, Fox&Co. Consulting
  • Chloe Challender, Deputy Director of Security, House of Parliament and former co-Chair of Workplace Equality Network, Parliagender
  • Sharon Northey, Securities Associate Manager, Accenture
  • Kate White, CEO, National Centre for Circus Arts
  • Emma Thomas, Head of Employment Law, Essex County Council
  • MaameYaa Kwafo-Akoto, Associate, Allen & Overy 
  • Jackie Wilgar, Senior Vice President, Marketing – International, LiveNation

This event is FREE!

Students and staff can sign up to join, by emailing

Alexis Fromageot

What’s on this Week: Third Sector Week


Passionate about making a difference? Keen to change the world for the better? Then this week is all for you! We’re taking a look at careers in the third sector – both if it’s your first time stepping in to this rewarding industry or if you’re looking to go back in to this sector after a break.

Not quite sure if this is the path for you, or want to explore more about what working within the third sector will look like? We’re open every day in SL57 and would love to talk your next steps through with you.

Here’s what’s on for Third Sector week:


Mon 6 March, 5:30 – 7pm, B111, Brunei Gallery: Working in the Third Sector:

Wed 8 March, 10:30 – 11:30am, Careers Learning Zone (SL62), Paul Webley Wing:  Career options (with IFMR LEAD) for Students with Passion in Addressing the World’s Most Pressing Development Issues:

Wed 8 March, 1:30 – 2:30pm, S118, Paul Webley Wing: CVs for the Third Sector:


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: Humanitarian Aid & Organisations Week


This week at SOAS Careers we delve in to everything to do with working in the humanitarian aid sector! Come and hear more about the realities of working in this rewarding sector, with great advice from people currently working with a range of employers.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t appeal – you can still pop by for the usual support!

Mon 5 Dec 5.30 – 7pm, B111, Brunei Gallery: Working for a Humanitarian Aid Organisation:

Wed 7 Dec, 1:30 – 3pm, S118, Paul Webley Wing: Careers in Not For Profits:

See you there!

Guest Blog: What’s Ambitious Futures all about?

Guest blog from Katie McCallum, who was the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2015/16.

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


For the past 15 months I’ve been a Graduate Trainee at SOAS with Ambitious Futures (AF), a programme for University leadership and management. “What is this?” I hear you ask. My best attempt at explaining AF is that it’s a programme of work that involves a whole host of different elements: three work placements (where you get your work experience), a Leadership and Management qualification (where you get your knowledge), and learning sets (where you get your buddies and pastoral/professional support). You may think that’s a lot to squeeze into 15 months, and you’d be right, but that’s been one of my favourite things about AF; it’s full on and it’s varied.

Each of these elements has proved valuable in preparing me for the next step in my career, and they all work together to give a really well-rounded set of skills and experiences.

For me there are three main reasons that Ambitious Futures is a worthwhile scheme to be part of, which should definitely encourage you to apply!

  1. Learning sets are huge fun and professionally valuable: Throughout the scheme, every six weeks or so, we met as a small learning set of seven trainees and a facilitator. This time was dedicated to working through any issues or concerns we had in the workplace; we talked about relationships with managers and colleagues, difficult tasks we had been set, work/life balance, and a whole host of other topics. Not only did we learn from each other’s experiences but we also had the benefit of a facilitator who had been in the industry a lot longer than us, and was able to bring a different perspective. Learning sets is where the majority of our friendships were forged, ones which will last beyond the scope of AF.

  2. A second placement at a different University: My second placement at the University of Oxford necessitated a commute between London and Oxford, which was a learning experience in itself. There aren’t many other graduate schemes out there that allow you to spend time working in an entirely different institution; my time at Oxford was a chance for me to get out and see how other Universities function. I had the opportunity to build relationships with new people and adapt to a totally different environment.

  3. Building networks of trainees and colleagues: Throughout the scheme there were countless opportunities to build networks with the other trainees as well as colleagues at a number of different Universities. Whilst ‘networking’ may be a bit of an overused buzzword, it essentially means that I’m leaving this job really well-connected with a number of potential future employers, as well as a group of peers that I can continue to go to for advice, whether professional or personal.

To wrap up, beyond having 15 months of University work experience behind me, Ambitious Futures has given me a professional qualification, experience at two different institutions, and a group of great friends and contacts. If you want the opportunity to develop new skills, make new friends and get to know what working in a University is like, then AF is for you!
For more information and to apply, visit the Ambitious Futures website. But be quick as applications close on Wednesday 21st December.

Katie McCallum, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2015/16)

What’s on this Week: Postgraduate Study Week


This week at SOAS Careers is all about supporting you with Postgraduate Study!

Come along to our whole host of events designed to help you with funding, applications and everything else related to Postgraduate Study. Get involved!

Mon 21 Nov 5.30 – 7pm, B111: Working for Adam Smith International with Zane Kanderian:

Tues 22 Nov 10 – 12.30pm, Careers Service (SL57): Mock Interview Session with SOAS Alumni:

Tues 22 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, Caeers Service (SL57): What I Wish I’d Known with James Thorpe:

Tues 22 Nov 3 – 4.30pm, Careers Learning Space (next to SL57): Teach First Leadership & Development Presentation:

Wed 23 Nov 1.30 – 3pm, S118: Post Graduate Opportunities & Funding:

Thurs 24 Nov 12.30 – 1.30pm, Caeers Service (SL57): What I Wish I’d Known with Aji Unni:

Thurs 24 Nov 5.30 – 7pm, KLT: Financial Planning and Wealth Management with CII:

See you there!

Guest Blog: First Impressions of an Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS

Guest blog from Tom Fryer, who is the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2016/17.

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

Buildings: Interiors - Library

The major takeaway from my first few weeks of my placement at SOAS: universities are much more complicated than you think. I figured that after studying at SOAS last year I was roughly up to speed with how universities function in the UK. I was wrong. There are so many roles that aren’t student-facing, i.e. the type of role where you never see a student apart from in the hallways between meetings, but that are absolutely central to the functioning of SOAS.

The Research and Enterprise Department is a good example of this ‘invisible’ work – though it probably also helps that we’re hidden away at the top of the Faber Building (an absolute maze with the same logical structure as Coleridge’s Kubla Khan). I’m on the Research-side of the Research and Enterprise Department, which basically helps researchers apply for grants, sometimes pulling in millions of pounds. My primary task is to undertake a survey and faculty interviews on research data management practices and needs at SOAS in order to better support researchers making grant applications and also throughout their projects. Imagine that you’re a researcher; you meet another researcher at a conference who has just spent a year implementing a survey on maternal health in Tanzania. You were just about to collect very similar data, so you ask to use their dataset for your research question. Problem is, the other researcher’s data makes no sense to you as it’s full of unfamiliar acronyms. The solution to this is a half-decent research data management plan.

I had no prior experience in data management before starting the placement, but one of the great things about the Ambitious Futures programme is that there’s plenty of support to learn new skills over the course of your placement. I’m already in the middle of two MOOCs (which I just had to Google and means Massive Open Online Course) and a bunch of internal training at SOAS, including a session on content management to prepare me to work on the data management sections of the SOAS website. Also, I’m super excited at the prospect of nipping to a few relevant conferences in and around the UK – there’s currently one in Edinburgh that I have my eye on.

There’s also scope to get involved with other projects that are related to the main placement project. Obviously this won’t be possible in every placement, but so far I’ve found that universities are filled with people with more ideas than time. I’m hoping to lend a hand on the work that the Research Office does on ‘impact’, or the effects of academic research on wider society.

For more information and to apply, visit the Ambitious Futures website. But be quick as applications close on Wednesday 21 December.

Tom Fryer, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2016/17)

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

#changeyourworld: Who’s having tea with the UN?

A massive thank you to everyone who entered our #changeyourworld Tea with the UN photo competition, which closed on Friday. We were completely overwhelmed with the quality of your entries – it has been great to read about the incredible projects you’ve been involved in!

The photos were considered by a panel of judges from SOAS, made up of:
– Co-President Activities & Events, Adwoa Darko
– Co-President Welfare & Campaigns, Ayeaha Abbasi
– Head of SOAS Careers Service, Philippa Hewett.

The judges were all awed at the quality of photos presented. Speaking about the competition, Philippa Hewett said: “It never ceases to amaze me that we are lucky enough to have students who care so much about the world and do such fantastic voluntary work. In my view everybody was a winner, and so I’d like to encourage you to continue sharing your images with us via Facebook or Twitter so we can keep showing how SOAS students really do change the world!”.

As it was such a hard decision to make and as the judges were so impressed with the entries, the Careers Service has decided to professionally print and frame all the runner up photos to display in around the Careers Service in SL57 and the Careers Learning Space beside it.

After careful deliberation, the judges selected this image as the winner:


Zipporah’s photo was taken while working for the Goodwill Foundation in central Bangkok. As, for the most part, funding came from only those who had been directly affected by the charity, Zipporah decided to write a few articles highlighting the need to give. Thanks to these pieces, there was an increase not only in donations, but also in others looking to volunteer. This photograph speaks to the giving and charitable nature of the Thai people, who incorporate daily acts of giving, in a scale that Zipporah found truly awe-inspiring.

The winner will join John Ericson, Chief of the Outreach Unit in the Office of Human Resources Management of the United Nations Secretariat in New York in the Careers Service for a reception after his talk at SOAS on Wednesday 16 November.

Keep an eye out for all the amazing runner-up photos, which will be on display around the Careers Service soon and make sure you register your place for the talk by clicking here.

The Runner Ups:


This photo was taken in the Nkomazi region of South Africa, while working for non-profit Imagine Scholar, and leading a Bollywood dance workshop. 


As a member of the Lions Club volunteer organization in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, this student visited orphanages & juveniles centres every month to donate food, clothing and books to the kids.


Taken in the South Sudan, this photo is of some of the students and teachers from Kuda Primary School. Working for The Long Well Walk, this student ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise support for a construction projection in the area to develop community-led water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa. As a direct result, 400 students, teachers and members of the community now have access to safe, clean, easily accessible water.


This entry is of the student arriving in Tangier, Morocco, having cycled from the SOAS Dinwiddy Halls in London through the UK, France, Spain and Morocco in June (2500km) to raise money for Refugee Council and other charities.


The Founder and President of a committee for LGBT+ trainees in the European Commission took this photo at Brussels Pride 2016. Supporting an initiative to create a safe, fun, and educational environment for trainees with any sexual orientation and gender identity from across Europe, this initiative resulted in seminars and social activities taking place throughout spring and summer 2016. This ranged from the Brussels Pride march to a successful love bombing campaign targeting the College of Commissioners.


This photo was taken during a visit to the Democratic republic of Congo as part of the student’s reign as ‘Miss Congo UK’. During the trip, she became aware that there was a campsite in which hundreds of refugees from Brazzaville were living in located by the city. The student contacted the ‘Miss Congo UK’ management team back in the UK to explain the situation, and over the course of the next few days helped to raise funds to purchase food, nappies, toys and milk to donate to the refugees.



Taken in Sierra Leone, this is of the sanitation drying area outside the Ebola treatment centres red zone. The student was working on an accountancy project based here – not your usual life as an accountant!


This was taken as part of ongoing community development workshops that the student started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The ongoing weekly workshops focus on community development, critical thinking and encouraging equality through the medium of various forms of creative expression (street art, alternative music and creative writing). In the foreground this image depicts Khmer orphans, aged 7-10, learning how to create stencils, while the older members practice spoken word poetry in the background. The workshops utilise creative expression to encourage community development in a country where women are often seen as second-class citizens, and creative expression is stifled. 


This picture is of a demonstration, protesting against the government’s plans of privatising waste management services in the city of Pune, India. The student spent 3 years working with a trade union of Dalit ragpickers (garbage pickers). The women are all waste pickers from Pune, belonging to the Mahar and Matang sub castes.

ruwayda-shariffThis student changed a person’s life by buying these Eco-tourism products from family industry every day while in East Africa. The lady pictured asked that the student spread the word of her small-scale business to the ‘Western world’, which the student did via social media.



This entry was taken in Ecuador, following the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake this April, which left hundreds dead thousands more injured. One of the major services effected were schools, and local children had their term start dates delay to allow for emergency schools to be built. To make sure they did not miss out on International Day of Children, the student and a group of friends initiated a campaign, and garnered support from wider society – including lots of mothers and private enterprises. Together they were able to ensure that the Day was celebrated in Pedernales and Muisne, two of the most devastated towns in Ecuador.


Over the last ten years, this student has taken a group of sixth form students on an annual school trip to Uganda and Rwanda. The purpose of this trip is to promote an educational and cultural exchange between the groups of students. The photo shows one of the sixth formers about to meet pupils at one of the schools in Uganda. He was so influenced by the whole experience that he is going again next year, leading sessions with prospective new students to encourage them to go as well. The sixth former will never forget this trip and, perhaps, he will go one better than me by not only studying African politics in the future but influencing it too.


This photo was taken in Kenya, where this student started a group at the age of 12 called “Fab 15” to raise money for those less fortunate. The group focused their support on an orphanage in one of Nairobi’s worst slums. To raise funds for Christmas, the group ran a “Fill-A-Bucket” campaign, where they successfully filled 50+ buckets and raised over 15,000 Kenya shillings. This year, the team aim to fill 100 buckets for the same orphanage, and launch a mentorship program. While the student has started by helping people and empowering them in this village, they’re keen to go further – Kenya, Africa and the rest of the world.


This entry was taken in rural Malawi. The student has been running The Miambe Project for the past 2 years, working on sustainable building and education. This includes constructing buildings made with earth bags, and running distance learning initiatives including an online university programme to support local farmers.  

Alexis Fromageot