Christina completed their placement with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Christina was also awarded the winner of our 2019 PDM Placement Student of the Year Award. Read about their experience below.

How did you get your placement at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government?

I found out about the Government Economic Service placement scheme while researching civil service work experience opportunities. I applied within the specified 2-day window for the role, as well as for a year-long leave of absence from the university. 

I made it through the sift process and was then invited for a numerical skills test and interview at the department, before being offered the position.

Could you tell us some of your duties whilst working for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government?

My main area of work was the £675m Future High Streets Fund, for which I authored the economic case. This involved synthesising a broad range of local growth evidence while continuously engaging with stakeholders. The timelines were tight, the stakes were high, and over 50 high street regeneration projects hung in the balance.

I was also involved in spending review preparation. This involved gathering information from policy teams and developing a strategic overview of departmental spend. By far the most hectic project I worked on was the autumn budget announcement, where myself and a small team worked against the clock to put together a presentation for the chief economist, which was to be delivered later that day.

What has been your biggest challenge?

As an analyst, it was my duty to remain objective, factual and loyal to the evidence. However, for colleagues who had high-profile initiatives to push through under ridiculous timescales, having a (20-year old and technically unqualified) economist tell you the data just doesn’t agree, was less than ideal.

Over time, I learnt that getting people to listen to the evidence is just as important as presenting it; if you can deliver the key messages in a compelling way, they will stick. By improving my presentation skills and building relationships, I began to communicate persuasively and increase the impact of my work.

What did you do on your first day?

My first day was mostly spent getting to know my team. I got to know everybody in personal intro meetings where they told me about their role as well as how our work is likely to connect and crossover. There was also lots of reading to do, as expected, in order to learn about my policy areas. 

How do you think this experience will help you when applying for jobs after graduation?

The role has helped me in two main ways. I was able to build up a vast range of skills, most notably communication with policy colleagues and impactful presentation of analysis. In the future I can draw on these skills and competencies while applying for jobs and talk about how I learned to apply them.

On the other hand, the role also taught me a lot of about myself. Going forward I have a better idea of the roles and environments in which I will thrive and can look and apply for opportunities accordingly.

Do you think opting to take the professional development module will help you in your career development?

I have already drawn out so many lessons from my placement experience due to this module, and these lessons are actively shaping my decisions for the future. In general, there is not enough focus on development in the workplace. Despite this, I think it’s massively important for professional and personal wellbeing. Taking this means that even if the opportunities to reflect and develop aren’t provided through work, I have the skills to do so myself.

The process of self-reflection is something I want to exercise regularly into the future, allowing me to evaluate where I am going professionally and whether it fulfils my aims and ultimately makes me happy. 

How has reflecting on your experience supported your professional development?

Like many others, I have been on a constant treadmill from school, to university, into my placement and back to university again, solely with the intention of securing a little opportunity to exercise judgement about what I really want.

This module is the first opportunity I have had to step back and observe changes in myself which have occurred, as well as those I would still like to see. Having done so, I have stepped off the treadmill, and can make decisions which will not only develop my career but help me grow as a person.

Would you recommend students take this module?

Absolutely. The PDM will help you to wring your placement for everything it's worth. Taking the time to explore your placement from a fresh, ex-post perspective will bring so many benefits that I think a lot of people miss out on.

Even if the experience was a negative one, you still have so much to gain understanding why it was negative and what to change and avoid in your next position. You will be able to draw on these substantial reflections in interviews; discussing competencies, for example, will come naturally because you have studied them in such detail for the reflective journals. This is an extremely useful module to take – dig deep to make the most of it. 


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