|Politics and international relations|
|Senior Policy Advisor|
|Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy|
|Government and civil service|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Senior Policy Advisor in the United Kingdom
The culture in BEIS is great, very supportive and positive, partly because the ultimate aim is such a positive one - to reduce Carbon Emissions.
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
I work in the Department of Buisness, Energy and Industrial Strategy, working to ensure we reach Net Zero by 2050, by reducing our carbon emissions. I specifically focus on ways to reduce carbon emissions from domestic heating. I previously worked for the Department for Education, and DEFRA on EU Exit.
What do you do?
I am currently working in policy development within BEIS, feeding into a number of pieces of legislation and regulation to further support the lowering of our carbon emissions. When in Department for Education, I worked on the emergency COVID-19 response, and on a range of new digital tools to support schools and headteachers, ensuring they have the information required to support their roles.
Prior to these roles, I was working in EU exit in the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs. The start of my career was in Private Office (as an aide to a Senior Civil Servant) and then in a project delivery role, working on a major change programme.
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
I was a politics student at York, with no real interest in politicians or political parties. Instead, I was interested in the development of policy and supporting the government of the day.
I entered the civil service in 2016 via the Fast Stream, and was a "near miss" so was allocated a role in the Department for Education. Since then I have moved around that department, including to other government departments.
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
No. I always wanted to join the civil service but wasn't really sure how to do it, or how to apply. Then I found the Fast Stream and ended up applying through that. However, I didn't know at the time, there are lots of ways to get into the civil service, which I wish I had known- and I am happy to discuss them.
Describe your most memorable day at work
EU Exit! I ended up working in an emergency response team testing various scenarios in the event of a no-deal - particularly focused on food supply and border control issues. It was fascinating, if stressful, as the work was very fast-paced, and uncertain.
Are there any challenges associated with your job?
Not much scope for bonuses etc outside of the payscale - though this is the civil service, and you should not expect to enter for bonuses, instead of the sense of satisfaction from helping develop policies that can improve our lives and making a meaningful impact. I also like that I’m not working to provide profits for a company/CEO.
What’s your work environment and culture like?
All the departments I have been in are very supportive of flexible working and having a life outside of work. I personally think that your life outside work is so much more important than within, and I think the Civil Service support this view. The culture in BEIS is great, very supportive and positive, partly because the ultimate aim is such a positive one - to reduce Carbon Emissions.
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
I was part of University Radio York - and had a show on there. This was great to talk about in interviews and really helped with general presentation skills, perfect for the work environment when sharing work, presenting to large groups or running workshops.
What would you like to do next with your career?
I want to remain in the Civil Service. I would love to go back to the Department for Education at some point, as the work is so varied and diverse.
Ultimately, I would like to find myself out of London, and luckily a number of government departments have hubs in major cities and towns around the UK.
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
EXPERIENCE! This can come from anything, so make use of opportunities to give you more experience, knowledge and things to discuss in interviews.
This includes extra-curricular things at uni, summer jobs (doesn't necessarily have to be internships) but opportunities to develop and (importantly) learn what you like and dislike - for example - do you enjoy working to targets, or in a public-facing role? You will find that once you know this, you can start tailoring your search for roles and industries based on your preferences.
Also, everyone comes in roles differently, and it is easy to compare your journey with others from your year. Everyone is on different routes, and speeds, so keep this in mind!
Always have the following answers prepared for interviews:
1. Tell us about yourself (i/e Why should we hire you)
2. What is your biggest strength?
3. Tell us about a time you failed? (i/e what did you learn)
And always have questions for the interview panel ready- i.e. What are your organisation's immediate priorities? How will Brexit impact your work? What is the team culture like?
What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?
- Civil Service/Government
- Politics at York
- CV drafting- strengths and behaviours
- Interviews in the Civil Service
- General Public Sector questions
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I am a school governor of a inner-city secondary, so happy to chat about that too!
If you like the look of Heather’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Heather a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Heather to be your mentor.