A quick reflection on where I’m at so far, and generic advice to others

In 2012 I decided to change career from large scale IT project management to war prevention.  I have made progress in doing so.

  • I’ve nearly finished my ‘Peace Studies’ Open Degree.  In the next few months I’ll be putting in applications for doing a Peace Studies Masters Degree starting in 2018.
  • I’ve a few years experience at volunteering in the sector, giving me work experience to talk about.  I also have and have had director-level voluntary posts in the sector, giving me kudos and credibility.
  • I read everything I can so can hold meaningful conversations with interested people about peace work.  I think I can just about cover a stand at a conference or exhibition on my own (having just done so under tuition and supervision of an expert) although I need more practice.
  • I am working for an employer who advertises roles I would like.

That is in accordance with the plan I had in 2012.  I have not done everything in the plan as some has not worked out – I was too optimistic about being able to change the world quickly.  But I am getting there.

My ‘how to change career’ plan came from books I read about 5 years ago, and the generic advice boils down to this:

You need three things: relevant qualifications (to get your CV through the tick-box checklist); work experience (nobody wants to give training or risk taking on someone who may be unable to do the job); to know the culture (so you can get through the interview).

To get these three things:

1. Volunteer for anything in the same sector or doing the same kind of work. This gives you knowledge of the culture and starts your people networking. Volunteering is way to get work experience.
2. Make sure your study is appropriate for what you want to do. I am doing an Open Degree because the OU doesn’t do a Peace Studies degree. Check the careers information on government and academic resources for what qualifications are expected and decide if you need anything else. Sometimes free courses through MOOCs can be a good enough substitute
depending on what you want to do.
3. Read everything you can about your desired role / sector. Wikipedia, text books, online articles, journals, e-journals, blogs. Get to know how things are done, what is the jargon, who are the big names.

Also, networking is essential these days.  See who is doing the job you want on LinkedIn and try to join the same groups as them to see what is being discussed and what is important. Also, try to make connections with them.

Getting a job doing what you do now in an organisation which also does the job you want, and then moving sideways, can be much easier than trying to get the job you want straight away.

I would also suggest self-advertising.  Blog about what you are doing and how you are getting on. Create a web site about it. Have business cards describing you in your new role. Give them out and tell people what you are doing: strangers like to help and offer advice and there can be gems in that free advice.

That is what I have been doing, so I do follow my own advice.  🙂

Work experience request

I have asked the lobbying organisation Conscience:Taxes for Peace not War if I may do a couple of weeks work experience next summer.

This is my formal request:

Dear Mr Dolan,

I am seeking the opportunity to gain work experience in the peace sector next summer and hope Conscience:Taxes for Peace not War would be able to provide that for me.

By 11th June 2018 I will have finished my undergraduate degree which covers social science, history, philosophy and psychology aspects regarding peace and war. I hope to start a post-graduate Master’s Degree in Peace Studies in October 2018. My academic experience to date has covered the ethics of war, 20th century European political history, how society is controlled by the state, the use of violence by states as a management tool and why people act and think how they do even when it is illogical. This has included use of online databases, independent research and producing reports and analyses of existing academic writing.

I can offer a week full-time on site and should appreciate the opportunity to shadow you as Campaigns and Communications Manager and/or your experienced peace worker volunteers. Although I should like to invest longer than a week on site, personal finances, accommodation requirements and my wife’s leave constraints will prevent that. So, if you can think of a specific project, possibly research, possibly writing something up, that could take another week or so that I could subsequently do at home, that would be excellent for me.

If I could end the summer having done a work experience ‘project’ with something tangible to show for it, it would be good for my CV and future study. If that would be of benefit to Conscience:Taxes for Peace not War, so much the better!

I should appreciate it if you would consider my application and identify a useful project I could undertake for you.

I look forward to hearing your decision.

Simon.

I’m feeling optimistic!

Civil Service Fast Stream

In today’s Civil Service News bulletin email, there was reference to the Civil Service Fast Stream.  This I took to be the Civil Service’s new graduate recruitment and fast progression scheme, intended for young people just leaving university.  It seems I thought wrong:


Fast Stream opportunities to advance your career

Did you know you don’t have to be a graduate to join the Civil Service Fast Stream, the development programme for our future leaders? And you can apply from within the Civil Service. Applications for the 2018 intake are open now.
Find out what’s new in the Fast Stream


So I had a butcher’s and saw I can apply now for entry in the scheme in 2018 when I have completed my degree.  I can also apply now as a Civil Servant, regardless of having a degree.  Any Civil Servant can.  Link.

There are apprenticeships – no, thanks – internships – no, thanks – and the various schemes organised by government function.  Having gone through the schemes, one says:

Safeguarding the UK’s national security by…working to reduce conflict…
…prevent and resolve conflict; and build stability overseas.

That’s me that is!  That’s what I want to do!  Those items are listed under the responsibilities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office within the Diplomatic Service Fast Stream.

So I have started my application.  🙂

All I need to do is the two online questionnaire tests, the e-tray exercise, the video interview and see if I have passed.  Then the application form and see if I pass the sift.  Then attend the half day assessment at the assessment centre to such exercises as the leadership exercise, the group exercise and the analysis exercise and see if I pass that.  (I have done part of one of those days before some years ago and it went horribly wrong for me; they had the wrong exercises and, well, what do I know about being an HR Director?)  Then it is the final selection process will be an assessment at an assessment centre with specialist assessments to assess capability and motivations.  If assessed as successful, I presume one has jumped through the acceptance hoops.  Then it’ll just be probation, training, assessment, placements for 2 to 3 years, resulting in a potential salary of £28k circa 2021 but doing a job I passionately want to do.

If I don’t get accepted the first time – as many don’t – I can reapply a year later.  That will be after my Master’s Degree so is better anyway.

This is the sort of work I want: peace informatics

There is a group on LinkedIn called Peace Informatics describing itself:

This group brings together researchers, practitioners and other professionals who want to explore how Big Data can be applied in the field of peace and security. The group’s moderators provide regular updates with cutting edge information about related developments and aim to exchange views among network members about lessons learned, latest insights and potential collaboration.

Peace Informatics is initiated and run by the Peace Informatics Lab at Leiden University (Campus The Hague). The Peace Informatics Lab consists of a number of interconnected projects that explore new ways of Big Data methodologies in the field of peace & security.

I’m not convinced about the hype around ‘big data’ (my views come from decades of experience working with large databases, data analysis and business analysis rather than marketing bumf), but I am impressed with what I have seen of Leiden University, having done some of their MOOC courses.

But this could be a field where my IT experience would be very useful.  Now, how to get my foot in the door…?