James Frisby

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Government
Job title: Policy Advisor
Subject of study: History & Politics
Year of graduation: 2017
Type/Level of study: Undergraduate

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Civil Service Fast Stream

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I joined the Civil Service Fast Stream a few months after graduating and am currently working in the Department for International Trade, developing the UK’s anti-corruption and modern slavery policies in international trade. As part of the scheme, I have also worked on Brexit planning in the Department of Health and Social Care; business rates policy in the Valuation Office Agency; and been on secondment to a regional growth company in Birmingham.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I really enjoyed studying History and Politics at Exeter, particularly when I had the chance to analyse how government policy is made and how it affects the UK (and global) population. After completing an internship in financial services in my second year, I realised how I was much more motivated to work directly on policy that affects people and attempt to address some of the biggest issues of the day. Working in the Civil Service has allowed me to work on high profile issues and shape the policy direction of government. It is extremely rewarding and interesting work and provides an amazing variety of experiences which you can’t find anywhere else, such as working with Ministers and Parliament. It also very sociable, involving working closely with an array of people and stakeholders to build relationships and develop cohesive policy. The Fast Stream graduate programme in particular allows you to try out a variety of roles, some of which you may not have known even existed beforehand, and find out where your strengths and interests lie. I was attracted by the diversity of the roles and multitude of development opportunities available, and the fact that you are given a high level of responsibility very early on and challenged to develop rapidly. The scheme equips you to do whatever you want to do in future, wherever your future career aspirations lie.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

Climbing Society, Engineers Rugby, History Society.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I loved getting involved in all different aspects of university life, including different sports and societies, working in the Guild and being involved in Welcome Team.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Exeter has a great reputation, a beautiful campus and interesting courses but I also just really liked the atmosphere at the open day.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

It may not always be clear how the skills that you develop in your degree are applicable to the world of work but the three main things that I developed (and continue to develop) were: critical thinking and problem solving; being able to form and articulate an argument clearly and effectively; and, perhaps most importantly, being able to build relationships with lots of different people.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Some people can blag it; most people (including me) cannot. Speak to people on the Fast Stream; set up a LinkedIn profile and contact people on the scheme to ask them about their experiences and any advice they might have in approaching the application process. I found this invaluable as I did not know anyone on the Fast Stream, even though it felt odd at first to be messaging people I didn’t know. Prepare for each stage of the assessment. There is loads of material online on the Fast Stream website and elsewhere to help you to prepare. Give yourself lots of time to prepare before each stage and make sure you know the kinds of questions that may come up and think about how you might approach them. The Fast Stream also offers summer internships for students from diverse backgrounds. These give you a taste of the Civil Service, provide relevant government experience to take to interview, and can fast-track past the initial online selection stages of Fast Stream graduate application process so are well worth considering, especially if you are still undecided about a career in government.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to graduate from the Fast Stream and move into a managerial position either within Department for International Trade or Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.


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