Originally published in edited form on the Civil Service Blog for World Autism Awareness Week 2018
Autistic people have ‘special interests’: subjects about which they are passionate and knowledgeable. My special interest is current affairs and policy, and so when I saw that Ambitious about Autism’s Autism Exchange programme was running a placement in the Civil Service, I jumped at the chance!
At this point I was working voluntarily building a start-up micro record label with my partner, after graduating with a first class photography degree in 2015. I was responsible for marketing and social media management, which I had taught myself after finding it difficult to gain full-time employment.
I applied for the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate scheme before the internship in 2016 and attended the assessment centre in March 2017. My interest in government was piqued after graduating, when I struggled with the transition from student to employed life, and spent some time on sickness benefit whilst being treated for mental health illness.
I was placed in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The interns were matched to departments that suited their interests, and so my experience of working in small businesses had contributed to my placement in BEIS.
The placement was only two weeks long, but I learned so much in that short period. I worked in the Commercial New Nuclear team, and was tasked with researching nuclear technologies for a short presentation and in-depth document to refresh the team’s knowledge. I was pleased to have been given a brief that would build on my research skills, and that I would have the opportunity to meet senior civil servants, such as Si Dilks, to aid my research.
I also met with members of my team to discuss their career progression and experience of the civil service. This gave me great insight into the working life of a civil servant, and helped me to imagine myself in the role. I was surprised by the breadth of roles available within the departments: from coders to communicators to commercial.
The civil servants who worked with us were supportive of our needs, and at our final meeting we discussed some of the barriers to employment: namely, the interview process and reasonable adjustments.
I am ambitious to secure a role within the civil service. Unfortunately I did not make it to the Fast Stream assessment centre this year, but I have been applying for roles through the Civil Service jobs website and have been building my skills in web coding and research in anticipation of vacancies.