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My Journey from Durham Law to the Civil Service

From the start of my time at Durham, careers had been on my mind. Having studied Law, I had planned to train as a solicitor after University. There is a rigid timeline of applications for insight days, internships, vacation schemes in order to eventually gain a training contract.

Unlike others, the preparation for a career in the legal sector starts from the first year, meaning I had been fixated on achieving the next step each year of my degree – without really considering whether a legal career was right for me. In the summer between my second and third year, I was rejected without interview from all of the training contracts I thought I was passionate about and decided to reconsider my career path. I had ignored most of the emails and talks about careers in anything other than Law, so had to catch up quickly.

I found more grad schemes and internships than it would have been physically possible to apply for, however this time I was actually excited about the prospect of them. More and more companies care less about the specifics of your studies and work experience, instead prioritising your skills and attitudes.

Whilst the application process for grad schemes is long and difficult, meaning I spent most of the first term of my third year filling out application forms and doing video interviews, it is a refreshing way to apply for a job. Amongst the many applications I did was the Civil Service Fast Stream – rather than sending a corporate CV and personal statement, I was asked to complete ‘real-life’ exercises, testing my suitability for the role and working environment.

When applying for the Fast Stream, you can select four streams that you would like to join. After having my heart set on my first choice and being rejected from it (alongside two others), I was in two minds about whether to continue the process with my last remaining scheme, HR. Initially, I had only applied to it to fill the final space but the more I thought about it, the more attractive HR seemed as a career. I attended the Assessment Centre and heard back a week or so afterwards to say I had a place on the scheme!

After filling in many security clearance forms and finding out that my first 18-month placement of the three-year scheme would be in the Department for Work and Pensions in London, I met up with some of the other Fast Streamers at the ‘Discovery Day’. We met with line managers and other cohorts of Fast Streamers to learn more about the position, and I’m so excited to move to London and get started.

Coming from a small village in Cumbria, London will be a big change, but one that will provide me with so many opportunities. The skills I gained at Durham set me up well for the Fast Stream, and will be useful for applications in the future – whether I decide to remain in the Civil Service, explore HR in another business, or go somewhere else entirely.  

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Astrud Turner

Hi, I'm a Hild Bede student who has recently graduated in Law. While at Durham I loved spending my time volunteering, doing theatre (I don't act - I was a technical director!) and travelling! The majority of my student loan was spent in cafes and on stationery, which is 100% money well spent. You can find me on Instagram

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