Civil Service / Fast Stream / General / Government

(Tips on) Moving onwards and upwards

Earlier this year I attended a talk by one of the PM’s speech writers at the Civil Service Fast Stream conference. He talked about how he got to his position, and suggested several tips for moving onwards and upwards in your career.

The speaker was talking with specific reference to the Fast Stream, but the points are relevant to all career paths and most are also helpful guidance for getting a job in the first place. The talk may not have been ground-breaking or controversial, but it was a useful summary and is certainly worth sharing.

The speech writer summarised his points as follows*:

Presentation notes

1. Private Office
– Get experience in a minister’s office to understand processes, decisions, and priorities, and to gain visibility
– If you’re not in the Civil Service, this can be interpreted as “get experience at the heart of the decision-making process and/ or from the front line”
2. Mentors/ Managers
– Have at least one mentor, preferably more. Aim high (in terms of grade). They could provide opportunities as well as advice
– Have an open and honest relationship with your manager. Learn how to effectively manage upwards
3. See the bigger picture
– Don’t become insular; keep a perspective on things. Get experience in the front line as well as different sectors (private/ public/ third/ etc.)
4. Communicate
– Respond quickly and professionally. Know what you’re talking about
5. Ambition
– Have it and act on it!
6.  Break the norms
– Make sure you stand out. Take risks and break some rules if appropriate; people who blend in are less likely to move up
7. Image
– Present yourself appropriately (this doesn’t necessarily mean business dress, but usually means being smart). It helps
8. Network
– Both across government and outside of government. It will be useful in your current as well as future jobs. Network in meetings, at conferences and seminars, and online
9. Emotional Intelligence
– Have it. Practice and get better if it makes you uncomfortable. Ties in with “4” and “7”
10. Temporary promotion
– Get one. It proves you you’re ready to move up (to both your manager and yourself)

(Explanations summarised by myself so they may not be a complete reflection of what was said.)

*All of which conveniently spells “PMs Cabinet” (using the first letter of each point)


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