Michael Asimah writes about his turbulent journey into the public sector…
“It was supposed to be straightforward, after all that was what my Master’s Degree was for. However, my journey following university has been one of difficulty.
After completing my first degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do so when I was presented with the option to study a Master’s Degree I took it in hope that an extra year would provide me with the clarity I needed.
My ambitions to get into a public-sector career started after I’d arrived home from university. I spent days refining my CV and cover letter and browsing websites like Indeed for hours on end. During this period, I also signed up to the Civil Service job portal and began my journey to become a Civil Servant. I applied for the Civil Service Fast Stream for the first time, which was the beginning of my frustrations as the rejections started to arrive.
After my Master’s graduation ceremony in January 2017, it was back to the drawing board. I applied for an internship with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Corruption office and it seemed certain I’d be shortlisted, except it was only open to students. During my communication with the OECD, they advised me to inquire if my university would extend my student status for internships, but I was informed that this was no longer possible and thus I was ruled unsuitable. Shortly after that, I gained my first interview with Intelligence Squared for their work experience programme, however again – I was unsuccessful.
More disappointing interviews followed with the Department of Education, Transparency International and various others, so I decided I needed to strengthen my CV. I volunteered with the Citizens Advice Bureau as a Researcher in working on a project to document the experiences and problems encountered by homeless people using housing charities and local housing associations. Following this experience, I had more interviews, most notably with the Institute for Business Ethics (IBE) and the Department for Work and Pensions. The latter went well, and I left feeling positive, then came the feedback: I’d scored enough to meet the minimum criteria, yet due to the volume of applications received, the pass mark was raised, and I’d fallen short. This was devastating news and it severely knocked my confidence. Likewise, the interview with the IBE also proved unsuccessful.
Following Elevation Network’s Great Debate Tour 2017, I impressed the founder of the event by articulately expressing my opinions and following a conversation with him he offered to help me obtain work experience. Shortly after, I started a six-week work experience programme in the busy office of a prominent MP. Within this period, I undertook an interview for a permanent role in another MPs office, yet once again it was unsuccessful as they went for “a more experienced candidate”. My time in Parliament soon came to an end and what seemed like a breakthrough soon fizzled away and it was back to reality.
As 2018 got underway, I was back to the applications. I was fortunate to secure a 3-month internship with GovRisk – a training and consultancy firm that specialises in anti-corruption training. I was invited onto a joint project with The Department for International Trade, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development aimed at producing anti- corruption advice for exporters. Towards the end of my internship, I developed a working relationship with one of the civil servants on the project and they offered to help me with an application to the Home Office to be a User Researcher. After a series of phone interviews, written assessments and presentations, the verdict was yet another failure to progress past the interview and assessment stage.
What was supposed to be a straightforward journey has in fact, turned out to be a stern test of my resilience. Nevertheless, as I await my breakthrough with hope, I find it useful to look back at my journey and how I got here and I find it gives me the strength to keep on going.”