Looking at the questions the Fast Stream Facebook page receives, I’ve noticed a common theme – quite a few applicants are wondering what a typical day looks like for a Fast Streamer.
It’s a tough question to answer as every day (and every new role) is different, but I thought I’d give you some idea by taking you through what I have done today. I’ll leave out the details like what I had for breakfast (ok, it was a bagel from the canteen…) and start when I got to my desk at about 9am.
First thing I did was to catch up with colleagues in my team in Ministry of Justice Management Accounts. Communication and working across teams is, as with most jobs, vital to success, so it’s no wonder your ability to communicate and judge how to work with others is tested in the e-tray and at the assessment centre. My current team are a great bunch of people, and have helped me to understand the vital work we do to monitor spending within the whole department – no small task considering our annual budget is around £8 billion.
My manager then had a piece of work to delegate to me, which was to lead on writing the finance paper to present to this month’s Board of Management. It’s a daunting prospect as it’s crucial that we report accurately to them so they can make important financial decisions based on the right information.
I’ve got a lot of support from colleagues though, and the main work will be taking contributions from different areas and melding them into one coherent document – which is actually a fairly similar skill to when I was writing briefing papers in my policy role last year. This skill is really useful as it’s rare that you’ll be working on things alone in Government, hence the written exercises in the Fast Stream recruitment process will also test you on pulling together information from different sources. In real life though, it’s much more about picking up the phone or running down the corridor to catch up with people, which is what I spent the rest of the morning doing today.
That piece of work will take up most of the next three days for me and might mean staying until after 6pm on one or two days, but it’ll be good to have a tangible document to show for my efforts at the end – plus I’ll probably leave early the day after the deadline to make up for it.
Before lunch, I went to the coffee shop for a meeting with Jan, my Fast Stream Director Sponsor. She is a senior civil servant who I meet for an hour every month to talk through my long term career strategy. We talked about what my next placement should be, which needs to offer different skills development from my previous roles to ensure I gather enough experience to compete for promotion. As ever, she had some wise recommendations, plus a couple of contacts that she will put me in touch with. For the final ten minutes of our meeting, we went a bit off-piste and chatted about good places to eat lunch nearby, but I’m going to stick to my claim that that was part of “developing our rapport” and as such was definitely not procrastination!
I grabbed a sandwich and took a lunch break in nearby St James Park for 45 minutes, then spent the afternoon catching up on emails, making a couple of calls to push the finance paper along and putting together an outline of what the final document will look like.
Late in the afternoon I went to meet with my Fast Stream buddy, Paul. He started on the scheme the year after me, and was assigned to me as a buddy. I act as a source of advice and support if he has any questions on the scheme or wants an objective view on training, development etc. He was asking me about working in corporate finance versus other operational areas, so we discussed the finer points over coffee for half an hour or so. You’d have to ask him if he found it useful (though I hope he’d say yes!); I certainly find it a fulfilling role and it allows me to reflect on my own career planning too.
All of that pretty much took me to 5pm, so now it’s just a matter of writing a few emails and finishing off this blog post (nearly done!) before a few of us head out to a colleague’s birthday drinks in a nearby pub.
I hope that’s given you some idea of what it can be like on the scheme, for me at least – although, as ever, tomorrow will be very different I’m sure!