THE CIVIL SERVICE
It was when Spencer Mahony, 27, was teaching in rural Japan in his gap year that he first had some contact with the UK foreign office. "I thought, ‘Wow, that seems like a great lifestyle," he recalls. "I’d always been interested in politics, and I heard there was this fantastic training programme within the Civil Service where you can change jobs all the time. So I decided to apply, although I never thought I’d get in."
He was wrong. "The assessment process was hard, but really enjoyable," admits Spencer, who gained a 2:1 in Journalism, Politics and Business from Sheffield Hallam University in 1999. "I learned a lot about myself. Even if you don’t get on, it’s definitely worth applying just because of that," he says. The next step was being sent some job descriptions, from which he chose his first role at the DTI, dealing with employment law.
"Even in the first week, I was in meetings with trade unions and the CBI and the next thing I knew, I was off on the Eurostar to Brussels, sitting around tables with all the plaques of the countries, watching the UK government give its employment proposals," he says.
Spencer’s next placement involved working with agencies that tackle imbalances between regions. "The bit I most enjoyed there was managing a large MORI national poll. I had to see if people liked an idea, check ministers were happy with it, get people to agree to it, go out and run a tender and manage the entire project, including planning the results to the media," he says.
Some of his most memorable experiences were taking a Bill through Parliament and attending meetings at Number 10. But the best was still yet to come, with Spencer’s favourite role being his third and current one as Private Secretary to Rt Hon Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. "It’s a dream job. I get to meet the people he meets. I get to read and check all the papers he has. I go with him wherever he goes, including overseas and to the House when he is speaking." Spencer has been impressed with the support and training he’s received and is looking forward to his next post, this time with promotion.