Phoebe Topping

Degree: BA Combined Honours Politics and Spanish

Year: 2014

Current place of work: Civil Service Fast Stream

What is your current occupation? How did your Politics and Spanish degree help you with your career decisions?

I work for the civil service. My degree helped me to pinpoint the sort of area I wanted to work in and helped to equip me with the skills I would need. Two of my politics modules particularly helped demonstrate where I might find a career that would suit me; these were a second-year public policy module and a third-year module in local government. This final year module involved a placement where I observed meetings between decision makers and their stakeholders. Learning two languages at Exeter (Spanish and Portuguese) allowed me to develop a number of useful skills; a logical approach to problem solving, patience (mostly through being regularly bamboozled by the subjunctive tense) and people building skills from having to develop relationships initially without a common language during my year abroad. 

How did your career path develop whilst at University?

One of the obvious benefits of a university degree is that you learn to deliver at pace and to deadlines, which is important in many workplaces. But as well as my degree, extra-curricular activities were hugely important in guiding me towards the public sector. During my time at Exeter I volunteered with St Johns Ambulance as a fundraising officer and in nursing homes with Community Action, and found it very fulfilling to be part of activities which benefitted other people. I also developed self-discipline, endurance, resilience and self-belief through bleeding green on the pitch with the university women’s rugby team. These experiences allowed me to start developing the personal attributes which I now rely on to do my job and which I hope to continue to build on in future.

What advice would you give current students?

Ideally, take your time in finding a job and to consider what it is that you would like to do. I found breaking this down into smaller, simpler questions helpful; do I like working in big teams or more autonomously? Am I more of attention to detail or big ideas thinker? Could I do both and where would that leave me? How proficient am I at using technology and computers and would I want this to be a mainstay of my job? I found investing time in extra-curricular activities hugely valuable while I was at Exeter, and I am sure they will have helped to differentiate me from other candidates during the application and interview processes. There is so much on offer to choose from, and you never know where it might lead you.