Life On The Civil Service Fast Stream

Posted on: 21 Jan 2019

Alex Vince, one of our History and Politics Alumni, found himself back in Portsmouth in September 2018, five years after he graduated. This time he’s here, not as part of the university, but supporting the work of the Royal Navy as a Civil Service Fast Streamer.

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The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated leadership development programme that provides graduates from a range of backgrounds with the skills, knowledge and experience to become leaders within the Civil Service itself.

As a Fast Streamer, you can work across a huge variety of government departments in a range of locations across the UK. The variety of experience gained will allow you to develop a portfolio of experience moving between work areas and projects. You have the opportunity to work in front line operational delivery, policy and corporate services. The different paths available include Economic Service; Statistical Service; Social Research; Generalist; Diplomatic Service; Houses of Parliament; Digital, Data and Technology; Science and Engineering; and Finance. Find out more here.

We caught up with Alex to find out more about life following graduation, what led him to apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream and to pick up on any hints and tips he has for our current students who are starting to consider their prospects after graduation.  

Why Portsmouth?

I was drawn to Portsmouth for two main reasons - first, they offered excellent student support. They stuck to this offer when I was there, every experience I had with the University, be it the Careers and Employability Service, the chaplaincy and other pastoral support was warm and friendly. The second reason was due to the strength of Portsmouth’s Politics and International Relations courses. I’ve worked in some form of policy in either the third sector or government ever since - so I feel like Portsmouth prepared me for later life.

Your graduate job search

I started my graduate job search towards the end of my third year. This was a mistake - the earlier you think about these things, the easier you make them for yourselves after university! At work, the strongest candidates we see are those who are taking an interest in us towards the second year of their studies.

I wish I’d known a lot more about what schemes were available and where my skills would be useful. I started my job search being too focussed on one type of work. A more open mind would have let me find something that fit me better straight after university.

Life after graduation...

After I graduated in 2013 I went on to work with Portsmouth Students’ Union. Moving from Students’ Unions to a more full time career has helped develop my skills, me as a person and opened up so many more doors. The lesson I learned was not to stick with what you know, but work out where you could learn brand new things. You never know where you might excel if you never try new careers!

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Applying for the Civil Service Fast Stream

I first encountered the Fast Stream at university. I tried to join and failed to get in. I reapplied many years later and was successful. By building on what I learned at university with experiences from other jobs, I was able to make myself a much more well rounded candidate. You don’t need to get into your ideal job straight after university. You can use other roles to build up more skills and experiences.

In relation to the application process, I had to pick which scheme I wanted to do first. This could be specialist schemes, such as economics or digital, to department based schemes, such as the Houses of Parliament or the Foreign Office, or the generalist scheme - which could lead anywhere! Then I had to do a number of online tests, including a video interview. Finally, I had to pass the main assessment centre - a half day where you get a chance to show what you’re really made of in a number of different exercises. It’s a tough assessment - excellent for those who want a challenge.

I had the advantage of doing some time as an employability coordinator before I applied for the role, so I knew what kind of behaviours they’d be looking for. I also did a lot of research before my application started, including talking to other people in the service. As with anything in life - a little bit of planning made it a lot easier.

The here and now… the Civil Service Fast Stream

My experience has been amazing. I was working in the Department for Exiting the European Union during negotiations, helping to build schools around the country during my time in the Department for Education, wrote speeches for debates in Parliament when I was in the Department of Health and currently work in the Navy! The variety of experiences is amazing - and I know from speaking to other Fast Streamers that each of them have a unique story to tell. It’s been an excellent opportunity to really work out who I really am and what I want to do.

My top tips to students and/or graduates thinking of applying to the Civil Service Fast Stream are...

  1. It’s never too late. Don’t think you have to do it straight out of University - It’s one of the top graduate schemes in the country.
  2. Think about what you can do now to show that you’re a leader, that you’ve got good ideas and you’re someone that we want. Volunteer, be part of a student group, do an interesting project around your studies. Do something that you can then point at and say “I genuinely made a difference to that.”
  3. Make the most of the opportunities available to you. There are fantastic opportunities at university that you can only take advantage of when you’re there. Talk to your lecturers, find out if there’s any work experience you can do from the Careers Centre and get involved in something extra-curricular. Stack the deck in your favour. I was involved with a lot of extra-curricular activities...I was president of the Amnesty International Society, on the committee for Politics and Debating and spent a lot of time volunteering with the Students’ Union. It gave me some good experience that you just can’t get in the classroom - something that I’d recommend everyone does.
  4. Have an end goal. Set yourself an objective and work out what you need to do to move towards it. Working out the smaller steps helps make the entire journey quicker.

After completion of the programme, I plan to stay in government for the foreseeable future. There are some very exciting opportunities I want to explore - there’s a huge amount that I still need to learn.

International students

Further information about the Civil Service Fast Stream

Visit the Government website for the Civil Service Fast Stream for an overview of opportunities.

The Prospects website offers a job profile for a Civil Service Fast Stream - providing more insight into what the scheme has to offer.

Find out more about the career path into the Civil Service Fast Stream through All About Careers.

Research Civil Service Jobs for opportunities after the Fast Stream.

Alex will be at the Careers and Employability Centre on Wednesday 13th February to talk about his experiences on the Civil Service Fast Stream and discuss the application process. Spaces for this session are limited. Find out more and book here. 

Support through the Careers and Employability Service

Starting to think about your plans after graduation or your next career move? The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:

Career options

Further study

CV and covering letters

Application forms

Job search strategies

Interview preparation

And more...

Please visit our ‘Services for you’ section for more details about our support and services.