A Day In The Life Of A Civil Servant
One of the best things about being a civil servant is that there is no such thing as a typical day. There is an enormous amount of variety both within job roles and between them.
It’s true that some civil servants spend their days advising ministers, and yes, it can be slightly like ‘Yes, Minister‘, though that’s by no means the whole story, and the people staffing your local Jobcentre are all civil servants too, as are British Embassy staff throughout the world, Crown Prosecution Service lawyers and even intelligence officers at MI5. As well as in offices, you will find civil servants in laboratories carrying out scientific investigations; on farms, ensuring food safety and of course in the Houses of Parliament, supporting the passage of new legislation.
Let’s take the example of a London-based civil servant who is leading on a particular area of policy. It’s your job to work with colleagues to supply ministers with the right information to make the right decisions about one particular aspect of your department’s work. Your day might begin with reading emails and media coverage concerning your department’s business. Some civil service work is very high profile and attracts a lot of journalistic attention. If there’s something unexpected covering your policy area, you might have to spend the morning working with Press Officers to draft a response to the media coverage. You know when an article says: “a Government spokesperson said …”? That Government spokesperson is a civil servant too.
Perhaps one of the emails in your inbox is about a meeting that your Minister is attending tomorrow. The Minister’s private office has got wind of the fact that she is likely to be asked about your policy area, and you will need to provide her with some urgent briefing. Some of this might be able to be taken from documents you have already prepared, but other parts will need to be drafted, and you will have to get contributions from several other colleagues. Once you have a complete draft, you will need to get it cleared by your superiors, all to meet the minister’s midday deadline.
After lunch, you have a meeting yourself, with colleagues from several other Government departments. You’re discussing a new cross-government strategy. Your job is to represent your own department’s interests, while at the same time looking for a win-win situation that works in everyone’s favour.
The last item in today’s diary is a visit to one of your department’s ‘operational’ areas, a call centre where members of the public can ring up for information. You meet the frontline staff who will be carrying out the policy you will help to make, and learn from their everyday experience.
This article was written in association with Badenoch and Clark, leading recruiters for council jobs in the UK.