Commercial Manager in UK Government - my journey from PPE into a profession.

About me

Daniel W.
Politics, Economics and Philosophy
Politics, Philosophy and Economics
United Kingdom

About this profile

Commercial Manager - Graduate Scheme
Department for Work and Pensions
United Kingdom
Government and civil service
Large business (250+ employees)

About the job

What I do

Manage the commercial relationships between UK government and its suppliers, from strategic sourcing through to contract management. This has been through a variety of commercial placements on a graduate scheme whilst studying for the MCIPS qualification.

Skills I use and how I developed them

Analytical, Research, Negotiation, Numeric, Persuasion,

All in a variety of contexts dependant on the current project, developed at school, university and the workplace.

What I like most

Running a procurement exercise and saving a shed load of money. It's a really satisfying achievement, and even better if it's for the public good!

The scale of work is vast, small contracts are worth millions, and the larger ones are impacting people's lives on a daily basis, through support into employment or medical assessments. To be able to be part of something which can make a huge difference is both challenging and rewarding.

What I like least

Paperwork and relentless audit trails!

Sitting exams again - 15 exams over 3 years has kept me busy.

What surprised me most

The diversity of careers you can have in government. Even within DWP alone, their are professional opportunities in finance, commericial, policy, strategy, HR, etc, so there is always a way to quickly switch your career path.

Finding and applying for the job

How I looked for work

I had applied to a number of jobs since graduating, predominantly in the public sector, though initially, none were for a specifically commercial role.

I used the usual recruitment websites, civil service jobs and individual company websites to search for jobs. I went through a few applications so most of the hard work was done each time I applied.

The graduate scheme I am now on wasn't widely publicised at the time - I eventually found it on a Capita website. The scheme has now moved into the Commercial Fast Stream - slightly different, and applications go through the standard Fast Stream process.

How I found out about the job

Government job website

The recruitment process

This was a pretty standard affair of online verbal and numeric reasoning tests, followed by an assessment centre day featuring interviews, group tasks, presentations and written work.

There is always a strong focus on competency based evidence in the public sector, so make sure you have worked up some good examples first.

My career

My career goals when I graduated

When I graduated I was keen to work in the public or charity sector, though didn't have much thought on a particular profession. I've sort of 'stumbled' into procurement, though increasingly I grown to enjoy it as a practical use of many elements of my degree.

My career history

After graduating I spent 4 years working in sales. This allowed me to develop my skills in a real life setting and put me in a good position for my current role.

I joined the Department for Work and Pensions in 2013, working on a range of projects whilst on their commercial graduate scheme. I hope to achieve my professional qualification in 2016 and then seek future challenges.

What has helped my career to progress

Persistance and patience. I didn't get the 'dream job' when I first left University, though by challenging myself and developing my skills I've found something that I really enjoy and get a sense of satisfaction from.

Courses taken since graduation

Currently studying towards the Procurement profession, with the goal of becoming a Member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (MCIPS) in 2016.

How my studies have helped my career

My role actually combines a large chunk of my studies (well Politics and Economics at least) which means I have an active interest in my career field. Analytical and numeric skills that I developed at York are essential, and I have complemented these by studying towards a professional qualification.

What surprised me about my career so far

The fact that I fell into it and it suits me really well! When applying I had the opportunity to choose accountancy or procurement, felt that procurement sounded a lot more interesting, and am pleased I chose this path.

Where I hope to be in 5 years

Hopefully I will be a senior commercial manager, likely within the public or third sector. I've found something I really enjoy so intend to stay within the commercial profession, possibly looking at some accountancy training too - learning never ends.

My advice to students

My advice to students considering work

Experience is crucial. Nowadays it seems that organisations want candidates with both a good degree AND relevant experience or transferrable skills.

Whether you get this from work, voluteering, sport or a pastime - always think about how these will make you a more attractive candidate.

My advice about working in my industry

The public sector continues to shrink, but that doesn't mean there are no opportunities for graduates. Increasing privatisation and outsourcing has increased the role and importance of the commerial profession in government.

As always, do your research, look for internships and job shadowing opportunities. Whilst it helps to know people in the public sector, vacancies are almost always through a competitive process, so make sure you are well prepared for interview.

Other advice

Keep trying. If you want something you can't give up at the first hurdle. With the way the retirement age is going, you'll have time for two, maybe three careers anyway!

Contacting me

If you've got any questions you think I might be able to help with please get in touch.

If you are keen on a career within the public sector or the commercial profession, I'm happy to act as a mentor to provide some insight to help inform your career choices.

Ask Daniel to be your mentor Ask Daniel a question