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(Relatively) new to the Civil Service - AIBU to ask about career progression and other more general advice please?

(62 Posts)
ImSuchABigIdiot Mon 11-Jun-18 00:47:09

Started an entry-level (EO) Civil Service job a couple of months ago. I’m enjoying it so far, although it can be quite stressful.

Aany tips on career progression and any other general advice about working in the Civil Service?


ClareB83 Mon 11-Jun-18 03:37:10

Learn the language eg from the civil service behaviours for use in PDRs etc.

Do plenty of corporate contributions, often more important than the day job.

Be prepared to change teams and departments for promotion. Don't stay anywhere more than two years.

Look for the 'it' projects eg Bills, Ministers' priorities.

Make contacts esp others who've moved up quickly and maintain them even when not obviously useful.

Never give negative feedback. If you have to give constructive feedback make it something the person can check off by end of year.

Go to Civil Service Live every couple of years.

Be memorable.
Work the late shift 10-6 and go for drinks.

madvixen Mon 11-Jun-18 04:59:04

Look into the internal schemes. The MOD has a scheme called MIDIT designed to recognise the internal talent and take them to B band level within 6 years.

ImSuchABigIdiot Mon 11-Jun-18 08:27:10

Thanks so much Clare and vixen smile does anyone else have any more advice please?

BurningGubbins Mon 11-Jun-18 08:32:48

Learn the core transferable skills - taking minutes, writing clear and concise submissions, analysis, presentations etc. Once you have those down you can move onwards and upwards easily, with each new job you just need to learn the context.

BurningGubbins Mon 11-Jun-18 08:33:45

Also, there’s lots of training and development on offer (not just classroom based) - use it!

Princecharlesfirstwife Mon 11-Jun-18 08:38:32

Promotion is nigh on impossible unless you're prepared to play the game. Being actually good at your job has very little relevance. Competencies. Competencies. Competencies. Forget your day job and work on those.

I say that even as someone who managed to get promoted recently.

madvixen Mon 11-Jun-18 08:39:05

BurningGubbins makes a really good point about learning opportunities. Really exploit things like Civil Service Learning as they help bulk up your competencies and show you what the CS expects.

Depending on what department you have joined, it's also worth looking into mentor schemes. The MoD has a great one and my mentor has been incredibly useful as a sounding board and a challenging friend.

JELLYFISHANDCHIPS Mon 11-Jun-18 16:37:55

Get involved in any project you can. Prepare your competencies and be ready to apply for things when they come up. Take temporary roles as they may lead to other more permanent jobs.

Pollaidh Mon 11-Jun-18 16:43:26

G6/7 here

Communication skills seem pretty important. Being able to both write and speak clearly, get your point over quickly. Network and maintain those networks - when you need help on a project you can then just pick up the phone. Some connections don't pay off for years, as a PP mentioned. It can be difficult to influence, especially in a more junior role, so making a personal connection is the short-cut.

If you are from any kind of minority or 'deprived' background, there are now internal schemes to try to speed up progression for talented individuals. Like a longer-winded fast stream, I think, though I don't know much about it. One of the CS Yammer sites might be a good place to ask.

Pollaidh Mon 11-Jun-18 16:45:38

Ooh and see if you can shadow someone in a job you find interesting. I've had a couple of people shadow me, and I'm always happy to help with their development, because it's always a good opportunity for me to assess their skills and aptitude - can be a short cut into a promotion for them if they come over well.

Throwing yourself forward for speaking opportunities is a good way to get yourself noticed.

blueshoes Mon 11-Jun-18 17:01:13

Can someone explain what are 'competencies'?

Non-civil service person who is curious.

Pollaidh Mon 11-Jun-18 17:08:08

Competencies are the 10 knowledge, behaviour and skills considered to be essential in the CS. There's a lovely 46 page document on it, as thrilling a read as any other CS doc. People are recruited, and later assessed, against the competencies, which include things such as leadership and decision making.

Different levels within each competency depending on need and seniority.

blueshoes Mon 11-Jun-18 18:06:19

Polliadh thanks for the info.

WeaselsRising Mon 11-Jun-18 18:18:09

..and EO is not "Entry-level". The grades start at AA then AO then EO, which is considered a Junior Manager grade. Some departments have a skillzone/messenger level below E2, although most are wiping out the lower grades altogether.

minou123 Mon 11-Jun-18 18:25:46

Welcome to the civil service. All the advice you've been given so far is excellent. I second getting involved in different projects and networking with different people and grades. Promotion can be a disheartening process but keep positive and learn from all promotion opportunities. Good luck.

Binkybix Mon 11-Jun-18 18:27:22

To note that the criteria for recruiting will probably be changed soon - so it’s not just competencies, but also technical ability etc, at the discretion of the recruiter. So the focus on the competencies may not be so single-minded. I think this means that networking will be even more important.

siwel123 Mon 11-Jun-18 18:48:42

Jump on any other opportunities you can basically. Network network network

Unhomme Mon 11-Jun-18 19:14:27

Scs1 here. Great advice from everyone above.

It's incredibly difficult to just progress based on being good at the job but you need to be good 'as standard. Keep looking for opportunities, as an EO see if it's possible to cover in your Director/DG/minister private office for leave etc and that will help you get a good view of how things work. Specialise if possible, and lean in to emerging priorities or projects.

AndIWouldWalk500Yards Mon 11-Jun-18 21:19:13

G7 here. All the advice given so far is good. Although I'm not sure Princecharlesfirstwife is entirely accurate. You do need to be good at your job but you also need to demontrate things over and above.

Look for development opportunities - groups you can join to improve the processes/services you deliver, joining and contributing to groups with key stakeholders, joining and contributing to groups to improve staff/management relationships. Everything you do there can be used as a competency example. I sift and interview lots for CS promotions and any examples like these would be good. And also any examples outside work. I've heard some excellent examples from people running Brownie/Guides/Scouts units or other charitable organisations. The key thing is to match examples to the competency framwork. They do not have to be work related.

And at interview structure your answer around STAR.

S - situation - what was the problem you identified and wanted to resolve? Why was it a bad thing? How did it impact people?
T - task - what did you need to do to resolve it? How did you prioritise what you needed to do?
A - action - what did you do to resolve it? How did you convince people your approach was the right one? How did you overcome resistance? What did you need to do to implement your solution?
R - result - what was the result of your intervention? If it worked well, how did you know, measure it? What did you learn from it? Is there anything you would do better next time?

For context OP I spent 12 years as an AO, 6 years as an EO, 2 years as an HEO - throughbanded due to passing professional qualifications - and 10 years as an SEO before being promoted to G7.

I got promoted every time I applied. I just wasn't ready every time opportunites came up so I didn't apply. I probably spent too long as an SEO but I had other responsibilties that took priority.

blueshoes Mon 11-Jun-18 23:59:35

Can I ask - if promotion in the civil service is to hard to come by and hard fought and the private sector pays better and possibly easier to get promotions, why do people join/stay in the civil service?

I hope this does not come across as rude but I am curious. Tell me all the positives.

PaulAnkaDog Tue 12-Jun-18 00:39:02

Not personal experience (I’m private sector) but from family.

Show your worth, work hard, apply for promotions you might not be ‘qualified’ for if you feel you have the drive and ability to do the job (and you can back it up). If I didn’t have a decent job with comfortable benefits in the private sector then I would have joined the civil service. It pains my family I didn’t sometimes. The only thing I’d be wary of is certain department. A decent starting off point to get in the door but staff are massively overworked and vastly underpaid.

BurningGubbins Tue 12-Jun-18 02:45:44

blueshoes it’s different for everyone, but for me it’s not about the money. I don’t want to spend my working life making money for a company. I believe passionately in democracy and our system of government (despite its ills) and want to contribute to making our country a better place. Which I have done. People’s lives have been saved as a result of the work me and my teams have done, which to me is better than earning a bit more in the private sector.

Also, despite the bureaucracy and sometimes aggravating pace, I think the civil service is a great employer - flexible working, good annual leave and still one of the best pensions in town (for the moment). And humanity when it comes to family crises. Other people may have had different experiences but whenever I’ve had emergencies my managers and colleagues have always said “what are you still doing here then, go home, we’ll cover and sort out the paperwork afterwards”.

And finally, I am currently living on the other side of the world working hard and having some amazing experiences as a U.K. civil servant. There is adventure to be had if you want it! Here endeth the lesson.

madvixen Tue 12-Jun-18 04:53:13

@blueshoes I came into the CS from the private sector. For me, the chance to work in this particular department was something I have wanted to do since I was small. I'm lucky enough to have had some incredible experiences while working in the CS and opportunities that few people in private sector roles could even dream of.
I get to work with some amazing people, people who genuinely want to make things better.
I get to work flexibly and my disability isn't held against me (as it was in the private sector).
Don't get me wrong, it's not all a bed of roses and there are days where I get immensely frustrated with the role but I would recommend the CS to anyone.
If you have Twitter, search for #mypathtothecivilservice for loads of stories as to how people came into the roles and why they love them

BarbaraofSevillle Tue 12-Jun-18 05:16:15

To note that the criteria for recruiting will probably be changed soon - so it’s not just competencies, but also technical ability etc, at the discretion of the recruiter. So the focus on the competencies may not be so single-minded

Thank fuck. As others have said, the CS can be a great employer but shit like this is an infuriating waste of time designed by people who must not have any actual work to do. Pointless mandatory training every five fucking minutes too.

I stay because the workload and travel is half what it would be for the same job in the private secfor the same job for about 70-80% of the salary.

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