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Rachel Gibbs (English with French)

Civil Service Fast Stream

I went to a comprehensive school in Tewkesbury. It’s a small town and although it was a lovely place to grow up, I was one of a handful of non-white kids at school and I was keen to get out and see the world. My English teacher was amazing and a real influence on my life: she’d studied at Exeter so I decided to apply there too. The course was amazing and I enjoyed student life, spending my third year living in Rennes in France.

Just before my final year at Exeter I did a diversity Internship programme with the Civil Service. It was summer 2012 and an exciting time to be based in the Foreign office with the Olympics happening and visitors coming from around the world.

I applied to the Civil Service Fast Stream in 2014. I applied on the website to a few of the schemes and was accepted onto the Generalist one. You can apply from September to the end of November every year and then start your first placement the following September.

In the first two years of the scheme you do four postings. My first posting was in the Cabinet Office, working with key departments like the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence, Department for International Development and the Department for Communities and Local Government on their departmental plans. Then I moved to the Ministry of Justice and now I’m with HMRC working on an innovative digital childcare service. Next up is a secondment to the charity, private or wider public sector. After that I’ll do two longer postings in departments I’ve already worked in.

My first posting was intense. I was in the Cabinet Office helping to monitor progress on the PM’s top priority projects. It was high profile and fast moving. I learnt that people have different working styles and sometimes being direct and frank is the best way to communicate. I also learnt I could handle more pressure than I thought I could.

With the Civil Service you have lots of options open to you. Don’t be intimidated by the Fast Stream scheme or think it’s not for you. The Civil Service wants a diverse pool of applicants for a wide variety of roles all over the country. There will be something that meets your interests and matches your skill set. Be as relaxed as you can through the application process and just be yourself.

I’m going to start mentoring Exeter students soon. I’d particularly like to encourage BME students or economically disadvantaged students to consider a career in the Civil Service. These groups are underrepresented in senior Civil Service roles and as an organisation we want to change that. I’d like to play a small part in helping to make that happen.