Getting involved with Careers at Lancaster - my experience

by Faraz Khokhar

Hello, I’m Faraz, a first year studying Economics BSc (Hons) and a Digital Content Ambassador.

I came to university wanting to expose myself to the world of work and gain as much insight as I could into different careers during my time at Lancaster. In my first two terms, I have already had one-to-one meetings with the careers coaches and attended various careers workshops and networking sessions with high profile employers including; PwC, Civil Service, Morgan Stanley, Deloitte, TeachFirst,and Deutsche Bank.

I feel grateful for meeting the different business leaders, entrepreneurs and speakers that the university invites. I have learnt from listening to various careers journeys. Hearing other people's experiences has not only made me more aware of potential careers but has also taught me real life lessons.

Reflecting on my learning so far, I think I have benefitted most from the sessions run by the Careers team. The workshops covered a wide range of topics including; CV’s, application forms and cover letters, interviews, presenting, networking, finding internships, and personal branding. I've found these have increased my drive to find out about careers even further.

I feel I've grown in my time at Lancaster through the support of the community here. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone and taking part in events has made me a more confident person and ready to spend the Easter break exploring my career options. In this blog will be sharing and reflecting on my learning in my productive break!

Future Leaders Experience

I spent the first part of my Easter Break at Future Leader Experiences: a 3-day free leadership development programme delivered at Lancaster by Common Purpose, an independent international leadership organisation. It counts towards my Lancaster Awards and offers the opportunity to:

  • Develop your confidence and networking skills
  • Explore the nature of leadership
  • Meet leaders from the private, public and third sectors
  • Visit an organisation in the Lancaster Area on the 2nd day
  • Network with fellow students and potential employers

Day 1

On day one, we had introductions. The Common Purpose team met with us and I got to introduce myself and meet the other students on the programme. Being a first-year, I found it valuable to meet students who had been at the university for a year or two already, some were pursuing a masters and even a PhD. This was a great opportunity to network and make friends across campus.

Learning on day one included the concepts of cultural and emotional intelligence (CQ and EQ). I quickly learnt how these are essential in a good leader. One aspect I found interesting was the idea of a core and a flex, something everybody has and can change. This is all summed up in this fascinating video which we were all shown.

A large group of students sitting on chairs in a circle in a workshop session

Day 2

On day two, we were set a raid challenge. We had already chosen a business that we wanted to visit and solve a business challenge for. I was grouped with other students who also picked Virgin Trains and we went to Lancaster train station where we met with a Regional Talent Partner. Our contribution was an effective action plan to help develop and grow engagement with their new online learning platform. It was rewarding knowing that we could suggest ideas to help with a real-life challenge the organisation was facing and that these could be implemented.

A group of 6 male and 1 female student on Lancaster train station platform

Day 3

On day three, we met more business leaders who came to share their career journeys. This was a brilliant opportunity to ask open-ended questions and seek advice on good leadership and our future careers as the speakers were credible and experienced. The programme came to an end after we, the students graduated each other, and we celebrated our learning and growth of confidence over the three days. Finally, we had become proud Common Purpose alumni of which there are 80,000 and rising.

The programme was truly beneficial as I got to reflect on my own leadership and how I could develop. Meeting Lancaster students, building relationships and networking with business leaders was an opportunity for me to grow. It was a real pleasure being a part of the three-day leadership programmes I developed practical skills that could come in use at university and beyond.

A large group of students in a seminar room holding certificates

Early Diversity Internship, Civil Service Fast Stream 

After the Future Leaders Experience, I headed to London where I was taking part in the Civil Service Fast Stream’s Early Diversity Internship. Interns on this scheme get the unique opportunity to shadow Fast Streamers at work and gain a real insight into their role. 

 The internship includes: 

  • A series of stimulating corporate networking and social events
  • An assessment survival workshop with all you need to know about applying for graduate vacancies
  • An allocated Fast Stream buddy
  • An opening and closing reception attended by high-profile speakers, such as Civil Service diversity champions and inspirational external figures

I was shadowing a Fast Streamer in the Work and Health Unit (the WHU), which is a cross-government unit, jointly sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Health and Social Care. The work involves improving health and employment outcomes for disabled people and those with health conditions. The work is driven by the government’s ambition to see a million more disabled people in work by 2027.  

Day 1

The opening reception kick-started a brilliant week. It was amazing to meet so many new and inspiring students from universities across the UK. There were around 200 interns from top universities.

Two keynote speakers gave incredibly powerful talks on their journeys. The lessons I took away from these were:

  1. Life does not happen to you; it happens for you.
  2. Success means different things to different people. Be proud of your achievements and remain humble
  3. Your current situation is not your final destination.
  4. Finally, at the end of the day, no matter how much or how little support you receive from family or friends; change comes from within. We have the power to set our own destiny.

Day 2

I travelled to Caxton House (DWP) from my hotel nice and early where I met with my mentor. Even though I was based in DWP, my fast streamer along with some other interns and their mentors gave us a tour of Westminster. We saw the Department of Health & Social Care, Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to name a few.

I had the pleasure of listening to senior civil servants in DWP and they shared insights into their long journeys in the Civil Service. Followed were several networking exercises which focused on leadership and personal development such as the personality type test. The Future Leaders Experiences the week before was great preparation for this!

A female speaker presenting at a workshop

Day 3

On the morning of day three, we were all in Regent’s Park for another activity on networking and had some exercises like the ones in Fast Stream Assessment Centre’s (FSAC). After this centrally organised event, everyone reported back to their fast streamers in their corresponding departments. 

I got the train back to St James’ Park tube station (closest to where the DWP office is). I got to listen to several fast streamers present their work related to campaign and communications on Universal Credit. After this, I got to work with another intern on a policy brief and role play. Our mentors were playing the role of Ministers and the interns as civil servants. This was a fun and interactive activity seeing how civil servants undergo research and planning ready to brief ministers. We worked on some policy work to encourage and get disabled people back into work with the focus on collaboration between the government and small businesses.

St James Park in London

Day 4

Day four was the most exciting day for me as we had a Parliament tour. I got to sit in the public gallery and watched the parliamentary debate in the House of Commons. I saw the PM address the house and saw notable MPs, Secretaries of State, Ministers and even my own local MP! 

After the tour, I headed back to Caxton House for further shadowing. I raised my interest in the Foreign Office and so my mentor arranged a meeting with a fast streamer in the Diplomatic Service, giving me the chance to find out more and gain insight into a different department. A highlight was being present in meetings with my fast streamer along with colleagues more senior. I just loved how friendly and supportive the environment was!  

Big Ben under scaffolding

Day 5

The end of a great week! This was another centrally organised event in BEIS, Westminster with keynote speakers and the chance to be inspired and motivated once again.

One piece of advice given was to be comfortable in being uncomfortable, meaning that it is fine to feel uncomfortable especially when you explore opportunities outside of your comfort zone. I suppose this resonated with me well and I got to reflect on my learning over the past week, meeting some fantastic people in the government.

Having done the internship, I am looking forward to a potential career in the public sector working on and implementing national and foreign policies that will have a direct impact on society. After further research and discussions, I would love to hold a position of leadership in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Reflections

What fascinated me about the Civil Service was the extensive nature of the work. With so many departments and different types of work available, it is hard to be disinterested working as a civil servant.

One thing I have taken away from my leadership programme and the internship is that we are more similar than we are different, and we should champion diversity whilst ending things that divide us. Both of my Easter programmes focused on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace to become a leading nation.

My next steps will be to carry on working hard at university and hopefully, I can gain work experience in my second year with the possibility of exploring the private sector with the help of the Careers team.

a group of 5 male and 1 female students standing in a row

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