Below, a recent entrant describes her time in the office so far.
"I joined the FCO in January 2007 after a long year and a half of working numerous temp jobs after completing my degree in Public Administration with Managerial Studies at De Montfort University, Leicester. Finding a permanent job that encompassed what I learnt with my degree as well as building upon the skills I had gained throughout my work experience was tough. I was on the verge on looking at another career path when an Administrative Assistant vacancy appeared in a national newspaper. I applied for the position like so many others and waited for a reply, whilst applying for other jobs (can’t keep your eggs all in one basket!).
After a long process including online tests, an assessment centre and an interview, I was informed that if I were successful there would be a 6-9 month wait due to vetting procedures. I got a call the next day informing me that I got the job - I was elated! However, it soon dawned on me that I’d have to wait over half a year to begin work. A lot can happen in 9 months! Although I accepted the job offer, I still searched for other jobs because student loans needed to be paid off sooner rather than later. I was on the verge of becoming a recruitment consultant when my clearance came through and a start date was offered to me.
I must say how that you get your first A1 position in the FCO is very different to other organisations. On the last day of the induction week, everyone was given a brown envelope with the first job that they would be doing in the office. I opened my envelope, read it and was baffled. ‘Vetting Unit’ was underlined in bold. I read the job spec and couldn’t understand why I was put there! However, once I met my team, and was talked through the vetting unit’s crucial role in ensuring that the character and personal circumstances of an individual are such that he or she can be trusted with sensitive Government information or assets, I was immediately put at ease.
Working within the unit gave me a broader insight into both people and processes.
Yes, you do come across mundane tasks such as filing and data entry, but you soon realise that it needs to be done in order for the rest of the team to function! As an A1 you are a small but vital cog in the grand machine of the FCO! There are loads of learning and development opportunities at this grade, as well as time to think about where you and how you want to develop within the FCO.
At the end of my tour I had many paths I could choose from in order to further my career. But the opportunity to work alongside the Foreign Secretary was too good to miss. I’ve been working in the Foreign Secretary’s Private Office over three months now and I love it! Working as a Support Clerk to the Foreign Secretary has allowed me to use more of my interpersonal skills as I get to meet and greet dignitaries and diplomats as well as dealing with correspondence from members of the public and other governmental organisations. My workload is varied and I am constantly kept on my toes, with the prospect of travelling with the Foreign Secretary in the future. This role will enable me to develop a greater understanding about the foreign policy issues the office faces and how they are handled, first and foremost by the Foreign Secretary himself."