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UCL Careers Themed Weeks 2019: Top 5 Lessons From Government & Policy Week

By Skye A Aitken, on 1 November 2019

Written by Colm Fallon, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

You may have missed Government & Policy Themed Week 2019, but don’t fret, you can access recordings from this year and previous year’s events and related resources by heading to our website.

Panelists sat on chairs on stage

It’s impossible to sum up all of the valuable insights shared throughout the week, but here are 5 things we learned from Government & Policy Themed Week 2019:

  1. Rapid changes are the norm

Working in the Civil Service can sometimes resemble the TV show ‘The Thick of It’. There may be fewer expletives used, but things can change rapidly, and you have to be adaptable. For example, you may be working on and promoting one policy in the morning, but by the afternoon priorities may have shifted and you find yourself having to completely change your focus.

  1. Evidence is key

Our speakers also emphasised how working in a space where the agenda can be set and changed by forces outside of your control may not be for everyone and that’s OK! You may spend months working on a policy but due to public pressure or economic factors, it may not be implemented or may have to be adapted to meet the changing circumstances (the world as it is, not as we wish it to be). The work of advising Ministers means focusing on the evidence and that is not affected by changes in public opinion.

  1. Experience is knowledge

You can gain useful experience working on the fringes of government, e.g. public affairs, lobbyists, think tanks, charities, and so on. You’ll gain an outsider perspective on how government works. Importantly, working in the Civil Service means being apolitical, you need to be impartial and able to provide policy arguments, not political arguments. If you have political ambitions you may be better off gaining experience outside or of course working directly with parliamentarians and political parties. Some MPs would suggest that working completely outside of and removed from politics can be beneficial. Learning about business, people and the world can help you better serve your constituents.

  1. Change takes time but the results can be very rewarding

Influencing policy is being a voice in the discourse, one of many. Although it can be difficult to be heard the most rewarding aspect is seeing the impact on individuals of the policy changes you’ve fought for and implemented. It’s important to realise that change takes time, and the key to success is to make sure that the long term impact is understood and prioritised over short term gains and personal biases.

  1. Everyone gets imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome (feeling like a fraud who will be found out at any moment), can be common and it’s a normal way to feel. Be kind to yourself, have realistic expectations and remember that learning is a process. No one can be expected to know everything right away. The key to success is to work on upskilling and build relationships with colleagues and mentors. Utilise your network for support and advice, most people would have been through the same experiences as you at some stage.

 

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