Graduate story: My experience on the DFID graduate scheme

anumAnum Ahmed, English Literature graduate

I was thrilled to learn that I had secured a place on the Department for International Development’s (DFID) Graduate Scheme in 2014, immediately after completing my degree in English Literature. It goes without saying that this wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities I seized at Queen Mary. QMUL is a haven for extracurricular activities and work experience placements; there’s something for everyone! Currently, as a QMentor I ensured that my mentee visited the Careers & Enterprise Centre during her first year.  Some might say that’s too early, however, in my experience, it was Careers & Enterprise who shined a light on how I should build my skills and experiences over the course of my degree to secure my desired job. 

It was during my first consultation with a Careers Consultant that I was introduced to the concept of competency based applications. The importance of ‘evidence, evidence, evidence’ rang loud and clear. Additionally, by attending QMUL networking events, I learned that successful applicants should have a plethora of examples, demonstrating their team working, leadership and communication skills. It became clear in my first year that I needed to broaden my work experience portfolio and then draw on these examples when drafting applications in my final year. Therefore, as I had a passion for journalism, I partnered up with a friend and ran my own radio show on Quest Radio (Queen Mary’s online radio station). I also contributed to Print (formerly known as QMessenger), Cub Magazine and QMTV. 

Some of the most valuable experiences I gained during my time at QMUL were through my QProjects placements. Again with the support, guidance and encouragement from Careers Consultants, I was able to strengthen my CV and complete two placements during my first two years at university.  My QProjects placements at StudentVoice and the Ragged School Museum enabled me to develop vital competencies. I also discovered that there were opportunities outside of the Students Union and in my second year, I secured an internship as a junior journalist at MigrantVoice. I also undertook my own research and attended Channel 4’s 4Talent Day and attended a careers talk at BBC’s headquarters to hear from industry experts.   

However, it was in my third year that I shifted the direction of my career. In fact, whilst flicking through the ‘Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2013-14’ book, I came across the DFID Graduate Scheme and knew that this was exactly where I wanted to apply!  I knew that I was passionate about contributing to socio-economic changes in the developing world and learning more about the challenges people face in the Global South. Therefore, in my third year, I utilised the skills I gained whilst contributing to QMUL’s media platforms by spending my Christmas break filming a documentary with survivors of child marriage in Pakistan. Throughout my degree, I was able to develop my knowledge of international development issues by specialising in post-colonial literature.

I submitted my application to the DFID graduate scheme and was delighted to be invited to the assessment centre stage. I sought the support of Careers & Enterprise to refine my interview techniques by undertaking mock interviews and mock assessment centre days.  After submitting my dissertation, I was overjoyed to receive the news that I’d been selected onto the scheme. During my DFID graduate scheme placement, I was able to gain exposure to drafting ministerial speeches, overseeing the management of development programmes and organising high-profile events. After completing my graduate scheme, I secured my place in the department and am currently working as a Digital Knowledge Officer in the UK Government’s Stabilisation Unit.  

Learn more about my experience of the DFID Graduate Scheme by attending the Careers & Enterprise talk on 8th December 2016 (details will be available at careers.qmul.ac.uk/events shortly).

The DFID graduate development scheme is reviewed annually.  Details of any future scheme will be posted here.

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