The Sky’s the Limit with Statistics


Many students cover research skills, statistics and SPSS on their courses, but may not have considered how these abilities could help them in their career. Patrick graduated from BSc Psychology in 2014. Here he explains how his aptitude for figures led to an exciting career opportunity as Statistical Officer for the Civil Service and how research modules and careers support helped him on this journey.


“I currently work on the Statistical Consultancy and Survey Support team. We offer an internal support service for anyone in the department. Customers can come to us with any issue related to analysis, research, or surveys and we will help resolve their issue efficiently and professionally, from delivering advice to taking on the projects ourselves and returning to the customer with a tailored analytical report. Highlights of this role include working with many different customers allowing me to see a range of work across the department, as well as allowing me time to meet other young statisticians at networking events and conferences, the most recent being the Young Statistician’s Meeting 2015 in Cardiff.

After graduation, I worked briefly (4 months) as a Research Analyst Trainee for a private sector market research company. This was a great development role as it gave a first taste of full-time employment. As it was a trainee role it also helped develop analytical skills I had gained at University (Excel, SPSS, and PowerPoint etc.) and apply these in a real-world setting. I then accepted a role with the Civil Service. I mainly use analytical skills in my current role, so everything learnt in our research methods modules from my Psychology degree has been useful. I also use a lot of SPSS to conduct analysis, so learning that was helpful. Knowing how to conduct research and how to conduct it ethically is a big help in my current role, as this is where a lot of our work comes from. Finally, an official writing style learnt from writing essays is helpful when drafting reports or briefings.

The Careers and Employability Service were vital to my getting my current role. It was following an ADAPT session (personal development module) that I begrudgingly went to the careers office to start thinking about what I’m going to do after third year. It was there I was told about the Civil Service Fast Stream Recruitment. I applied and eventually made it through every step, going from online numeracy tests to two full day assessment centres held in London. I unfortunately didn’t get the Fast Stream role, but due to my statistical knowledge was offered a general stream role instead, which only really adds a couple of years to my progression ladder so isn’t too much of a letdown!

To prepare for my interview, the main thing I did was revise all my statistical notes from the last three years. There was a statistical techniques interview that was a large part of the assessment and so revising for that was a must. I also booked in to have a mock interview with the Careers team. It was quite a scary process as I’d never really had a proper interview before, but the team was very helpful and provided me with lots of feedback on how I did, as well as where they thought I needed work. It was a very helpful process and definitely helped me improve my interviewing skills.

 I would advise students to make sure you use the careers team, my employment adviser was immensely helpful in finding me roles to apply for (She also emailed me about the research analyst trainee role that I mentioned earlier) so without her I wouldn’t have had either of the jobs I’ve had! Definitely make use of the mock interviews too, it might seem daunting but trust me it helps!

 I’d like to stay in this career for a while and make my way up the ladder to a more senior role. There lots of opportunity to move to different teams, with the option of staying analytical or not. This should allow a lot of variation in work whilst maintaining nice job security. Later in life I’ll probably head back to the private sector in another analytical role, or try to move abroad, possibly to Canada as there are plenty of statistical roles over there.”

Interviewed by Caroline Hanson, Employment Adviser, Careers and Employability

Disability, Diversity and Career Ambition  


I caught up with Politics graduate Henna Khan, two years on from leaving Sheffield Hallam. Henna now works as an Early Talent Policy Manager with the Civil Service. We discussed how her career has progressed and how she tackled challenges through her own determination and the support of others.

Henna speaking

“My life and background is based around challenges I have dealt with threefold; my disability, my race and religion, my gender. Each stage of life I reached be it school, college, and university had its own unique challenges for me dependent on the situations and environments I entered.The one thing I refused to accept growing up was that there was a limit, an end to my ambition, I didn’t let the negativity that faced me falter my ambition. I often felt that the “barriers” I faced growing up were inflicted on me by someone else, but I quickly realised that it was me letting them create a barrier for me to then feel trapped within, it was not the way you define your life. Your actions define you and your life’s route. Because I didn’t believe in barriers, they didn’t exist when I was one of the only disabled Pakistani women who graduated with a 1st class Honours, and got onto the sixth out of top 100 graduate schemes in the country, leading changes at the heart of government on the Civil Service Fast Stream.

cv image_mini

 I applied for Politics at Sheffield Hallam as I was interested in the breadth of topics the course had, with modules on Anarchy, British Parliament and Failed States. When I started university I loved the diversity of knowledge the course gave me, from classic to contemporary political conversations. I was also interested in applying for the Erasmus exchange programme which took me to The Hague University in the Netherlands, where I took part in internships at the United Nations and Embassy of Pakistan. Each lecturer  challenged me intellectually and I enjoyed the environment university provided for me to nurture my academic thinking to what it is now. My university helped me in two ways, firstly student support services provided me with a bespoke learning agreement, a contract which allowed me to have access to the support I required as a disabled student. This allowed me to work in an environment where I was on equal footing with fellow peers. Secondly, the careers services my university offered provided me with various opportunities. Firstly I had a career mentor, I attended mock assessment centres, and mock interviews, and my career advisor Caroline Hanson was extremely supportive when I decided to apply for the Fast Stream.

I initially applied for the Summer Diversity Internship Scheme and a year later for the Fast Stream. For both roles I received coaching to help me prepare for the tests, the e-tray and the assessment centre, successfully securing a place within a week of my assessment day. My university equipped me with the skills I required to get the job I wanted.

After graduating I worked in the private and charity sector for a year, and then successfully applied for the Civil Service HR Fast Stream, which is one of the top graduate schemes in the country, I am currently on my first placement based in the Fast Stream Team at Civil Service Resourcing. I am due to start a HR Business and Management Masters later this month as part of my scheme. I am really enjoying my time on such a fast paced and challenging scheme, the challenges I have in this role are very unique with decisions shaping the very graduate scheme that is internationally known. The benefits of this role are also the same as the challenge, every email or meeting brings an exciting piece of work, and I look forward to coming to work every day so that I can make a change to the way the public sector works in order to make a positive impact to this country.”

Caroline Hanson, Employment Adviser


Further information: The Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme aims to give people from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to see what a career in the Civil Service is like, you can find out more here:

The Careers and Employment Service offers specialist information and advice for disabled students:

Disabled Student Support identifies any barriers and obstacles to learning and aims to remove them thus giving disabled students the opportunity to realise their full potential. See:



Civil Service Fast Stream Road Show comes to SHU

The Civil Service Fast Stream road show came to Sheffield Hallam today. A packed Careers and Employability Centre heard about the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme, and specifically about working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Speakers gave insights into what it is like to work for the Foreign Office, and described their experiences as Fast Streamers.


Tips for applications to the Fast Stream

In addition to the detailed information and competency framework on the Fast Stream website, speakers gave students these tips:

  • PRACTISE the online tests including the e-tray exercise beforehand – use and
  • You will be asked to give written submissions as part of the recruitment process. It can be a good idea to use a structure to help frame your answer, such as: SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) or PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental)
  •  Use STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to help you talk about yourself and evidence your achievements in the application and at interview
  • You are likely to be faced with tasks where you are given lots of information of different types including statistics and opinions to read through. There will be far too much to read in the time available, so you will need to skim read and pick out the key points. You will probably be asked to make recommendations or decisions – use the full range of types of information to back up your answer.
  • Certain schemes will have a Final Selection Board – for this you will be role playing, and responding to scenarios played out by actors. The scenarios are likely to involve dealing with a confrontational or challenging situation – so prepare for this. Practise responding to a difficult situation with a friend, or ask for support with this at the Careers Service.

Key points relating to applying for the Foreign Office (Diplomatic Service)

What are they looking for?

  • Can you use your brain? Can you absorb information, take notes, notice what is happening around you, inwardly digest, and then draw conclusions, and make decisions about courses of action?
  • Can you communicate? Can you talk about decisions, policy and strategy clearly – in writing, by email, in reports for Ministers. Are you confident enough to communicate to large audiences – in Foreign Office roles you will appear on TV and radio, and will be quoted and interviewed by the Media. Take opportunities to practise public speaking – on your course, or elsewhere.
  • Have you got people skills? Can you work with others, and will other people work with you? Are you able to influence others?
  • Are you resilient? Often you will be delivering messages that might be unpopular, and may receive a hostile reaction. How will you cope with this?

If you are interested in applying for the Fast Stream but aren’t sure about which scheme to apply for, or would like support with your application, call in to the Careers and Employment Service.

Interested in a career with the Civil Service?

Tomorrow (15 October) we have representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office visiting the Careers and Employability Centre, here to talk to students about the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme:

The Civil Service is aiming to recruit graduates from a diverse range of backgrounds. To find out more about life on the Fast Stream programme, about life in the Diplomatic Service, and about life as a diplomat from an ethnic minority background, have a look at these case studies:

James Kariuki blog


Elizabeth Bennett