I remember well the first day I walked cautiously into the lobby at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), wearing in my freshly ironed and slightly unfamiliar suit (not previously worn since FSAC) and looked around at all the busy people and felt like I really didn’t have an idea of what was going on, but filled with all sorts of pre-conceived ideas about my job and what it would entail.
I wasn’t entirely wrong, but it’s safe to say that the last six months have been something of a surprise! I’ve learnt a huge amount (and the more I learn, the more I realise I need to learn) about the way that government works and the practical impacts that civil servants can have. I’ve also slowly got more and more involved in the activity of my team and have moved on from my initial slightly clumsy attempts to add value whilst trying to stay out of everyone’s way to my current focus on running our correspondence/briefing unit, which mainly consists of me chasing lead policy officials across BIS and DfE for timely contributions to Bill briefings and PQ responses.
Although I do have a focus on briefing and correspondence, one of the things that I’ve noted is the diversity of my own work, which has ranged from a slightly surreal talk I delivered via a Russian translator, to a delegation of Armenian officials wanting to know about our FE sector (seemed to go well as I was given a bottle of brandy for my trouble! [and which I, of course, declared in the proper fashion.]) to painstakingly putting together a comprehensive benefits log for careers guidance services. I’ve also noted the significant differences between the roles that different Fast Streamers within BIS do. Some of my friends have steered scientific reports through from evidence gathering to publication, whereas others started their jobs by being thrown into intensive Comprehensive Spending Review negotiations with the Treasury. Needless to say, challenging though most of this undoubtedly is, the diversity of the work has kept things interesting, and mostly, extremely rewarding as well.
In short, whichever department you are assigned to, don’t think you’ll be able to predict what the job will be like when you’ve been doing it for a while; and finally, don’t assume all the jobs are the same!