Before I joined the Government Communications Service Fast Stream last October, I had no idea of the scale and range of the communications delivered by government. Across Whitehall and across the world, government communicators are involved in supporting and promoting just about every aspect of government policy, from countering Daesh propaganda to encouraging people to get their tax returns back on time, and everything in between. I had grown up with the Think! road safety campaign, seen the Change4Life posters on the tube and the Power to Switch hoardings on the motorway, I just never thought about the people behind it all before.
My first placement was at Air Command in High Wycombe. In all my prep for the Fast Stream Assessment Centre, Final Selection Board and nervous anticipation of my start date, it had honestly never crossed my mind that I could be placed on a military base, that my boss could be a Group Captain in the RAF or that I could find myself firing an AK47 during my first month on the job (I suppose I should add that this was on a firing range, fully supervised etc. etc.). Six months flew by, as I refreshed the contents of a website, managed the delivery of a piece of research, worked on branding and campaign identity, managed an actual physical person (by far the scariest thing) and much more.
All of a sudden, I found myself at the Department for Transport. After the glamour of the MoD, I was quite disappointed. Could they not see I was destined for the bright lights of the Foreign Office? Again, I failed to imagine the level of responsibility and exposure I would get in my new role. From representing the Department at the weekly No 10 planning meeting to organizing and accompanying Ministers on various visits (a Space Operations Centre in Surrey was a highlight) and getting a behind the scenes look at this summer's Waterloo works, I have fallen absolutely in love with transport.
The best thing about working in government communications so far? We make the news, for better or for worse, and seeing things I worked on on the front pages and on the six o'clock headlines has not got old yet.
Having extolled the virtues of communications for three paragraphs, I am now off to do a policy secondment at the Department of International Trade. Variety is the spice of life after all. I am about to read-up, and the best advice I can offer to potential applicants is to do the same, using all of the resources available to you. The Government publishes absolutely loads of stuff online, from strategy documents and ministerial speeches to statistics and reports. Much of it will be of little relevance to you, but it is worth a click-through the gov.uk pages of Departments you are interested in. The National Audit Office website, for example, has an amazing section that explains Value for Money in plain English, a competency I had previously shied away from because I didn't understand it. For budding communicators, the Government Communications Plan is a goldmine and is published annually. And if you are thinking about applying, think bigger than I did. You won't be disappointed.