Danielle June joined the Department for Education through the care leavers internship programme two years ago, and now has a permanent job in the DfE’s planning, analysis and operations unit. With the internship open for applications in 2020, she shared her experience with CSW.
How did you hear about the care leavers internship?
I found out about the internship through the civil service jobs website. I was in my final year of university and needed to have a job lined up for when I finished. I didn’t know about the internship and there wasn’t a lot of info on the internet either, so I was a little doubtful (it was two years ago I applied, I know there’s a lot more available now).
I decided to apply as a back-up, but after attending my interview (which felt more like a friendly chat rather than an interview), I knew this was the job I wanted and accepted the second I was offered a position.
Can you remember what your first day was like?
My first day was really daunting! Walking into a professional office with security and a picture of the queen on the wall, it can make you feel very out of place. Imposter syndrome, I believe they call it. The nerves quickly went, however. My manager was amazing! We went very slow to start with, discussing the basics of working in the civil service. She had been with DfE for many years so had loads of experience.
"The best thing was being treated like an adult from day one. I was given responsibility and trusted to do my job from the start"
The best thing was being treated like an adult from day one. Care leavers are often looked down on or viewed as inferior, so to come into a new job and be told I can manage my own work schedule (my working days/ hours, when I take breaks, where I work, how I work etc) was a breath of fresh air. I was given responsibility and was trusted to do my job from the very start.
How soon did you decide that you would apply for a permanent role?
After about two weeks, I knew that the civil service was for me. Not only due to the work we do, but the community within the organisation. I can honestly say I haven’t had one bad day in the civil service. DfE really cares about its employees and has some amazing leaders and managers. I was still at uni when I started on the internship and they did everything they could to accommodate that. I even came into work to find presents, banners and cards when I received my first-class degree. I’ve attended therapy for childhood trauma while in the civil service and there has been no judgement or discrimination, just 100% support from everyone I work with. It’s a family.
What is your role now?
I’m still in DfE and within the same directorate I started: children’s social care, which is fitting having been a care leaver. After about six months into the internship, a temporary promotion was advertised. My manager at the time encouraged me to go for it and helped me with the application. It was successful and I was promoted.
I’ve now been a programme manager for a year and have started exploring how to progress my career further. I’m due to start a part-time master’s degree this month and I’m also in the process of applying for a new role in the civil service with the help and support of my manager and colleagues. The civil service really is a career for life.
What advice would you give to people applying for the internship?
For the application stage: don’t be put off due to lack of experience. The internship isn’t looking for care leavers that have tons of skills or experiences. The important thing is a willingness to learn, grow and make the most of what the internship has to offer.
For the internship itself: expand your comfort zone. Support and development opportunities come in bucket loads in the civil service. If there’s a skill you want to develop or something you’re not confident in, this internship is a great opportunity to address this. Don’t be afraid of a challenge, embrace it and grow!
Read more about the care leavers intership scheme here.