The NCVO A Day in the Life work-shadowing scheme enables civil servants and staff from the charity sector to spend a day with one another. My aim in taking part was to learn about how the Home Office works – its structures, teams, hierarchies, roles, priorities, culture and staff.
In December, my partner came to spend a day with us here at Missing People. She came with a host of questions about what it’s like to work for a charity, as well as wanting to learn all about our services and the people we work with. I arranged for her to spend time with colleagues who work on the helpline, as well as colleagues who deal with the media, policy campaigning, partnerships and development, and information and evaluation. After visiting us for the day, my Day in the Life buddy returned to the Home Office and gave a presentation to her colleagues about her day with us. She also shared her thoughts with me:
The first thing to hit me was the sheer scale of the building. It’s imposing, yes, but not intimidating. I liked that there are lots of places for people to sit on comfortable chairs – with a laptop, with a coffee – and get on with some work or an informal meeting. Being tied to a desk and screen all day isn’t necessarily the best way to get work done.
My partner explained the project she’s currently working on, and showed me the complexity of her work. One thing she’s working on is a clause-by-clause commentary of a new piece of legislation. It’s detailed and difficult work, but so important to make sure that new laws are understandable to lay people – not just lawyers!
I spent most of the day meeting key people in her work group, which me an overview of the work they do. I was struck by how committed everyone was. Some of them work in policy areas that are deeply harrowing, but they all expressed their desire to do a good job and to make a difference.
Here at Missing People we have a relatively small team (compared to many charities, let alone the civil service!) and that means that each of us can see the impact we make. In the Home Office, each member of staff is a cog in a massive machine, but the people I met all know that their contribution is essential. I was struck by how adaptable they all are – their roles and tasks can change regularly and they have to be ready to hit the ground running.
Spending a day in another sector has made me hugely grateful for the things I value about working here. We’re passionate, nimble and energetic and we have a very positive culture of supporting one another. I feel privileged to work in a role that allows me to hear directly from the people we work with – from family members with a missing relative, from young people and adults in crisis, and from police officers working to find missing people. I am also very grateful for my short cycle commute, much nicer than the tube!
I would highly recommend others in either the charity sector or civil service give this scheme a try. I learned a lot that will help me in my role, and felt I got a true insight into the day to day working life of government.