For the second instalment of Grad Talk, we spoke to Ruby Stewart-Liberty who recently graduated from Jesus with a degree in history. Now working for the Civil Service, here she shares her sparkling insights and pearls of wisdom on how to shine bright post-Cambridge.
So, what do you do now?
I’m a civil servant, on the Civil Service Fast Stream.
Describe a typical day.
My day begins by squeezing myself onto the tube at 8.20am. The heady days of walking through King’s to late morning lectures are long over. Aside from that, no two days are the same! I’ve been to training sessions in the Locarno Room at the Foreign Office, attended select committee hearings at the House of Lords and I get to travel across the UK for meetings with regional teams. I’m currently writing a communications strategy for an exciting project.
What do you like about it?
I love working on issues that matter to people in the UK and around the world. It’s refreshing and motivating to know the work I do every day makes a difference to people’s lives. The Fast Stream is a great grad scheme; it invests a lot of resources in its graduates, which is pretty rare in the public sector. I’ve received a lot of training and exposure to different aspects of government, all of which will help me in the future.
What do you dislike about it?
I’ve only been working in government for a few months, so I’m still getting accustomed to all the different department structures and acronyms. It’s difficult; there’s a lot to learn!
What do you miss about Cambridge?
I miss being surrounded by so many talented people just doing stuff all the time. I found it so inspiring to see my friends putting on plays, starting bands, and launching new initiatives (like Girl Talk!). I also miss the beautiful things you can do at Cambridge. Go to the candlelit compline at Trinity: it’s pure heaven and afterwards you’re given mammoth strawberry tarts and port – much better than Cindies.
…and what do you not miss?
I don’t miss the concentration of devil’s advocates, the boys who dominated lectures with their crackpot theories, the many people who wouldn’t recognise the privilege rising up from every worn flagstone in Cambridge. That last bit is taken really from Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’; the first chapter is all about the ancient privilege inherent in the very buildings of Cambridge (the whole thing is great and definitely worth a read).
What are your personal aims for 2017?
My aims for this year aren’t particularly groundbreaking. Since summer I’ve been swimming as much as I can, so I want to keep that up. It’s good to move your body after sitting in an office all day, and swimming makes me feel better in every way. I also want to build some real life skills: I’m doing a coding course this month (I’m *almost* a master of HTML) and I want to learn first aid too.
What’s your pipe dream? Be bold.
This is difficult! I want to work to change the world for the better, but I don’t know how (yet?). Everything is in so much flux right now; I’m pretty sure many institutions and organisations will change quite considerably over the next 30 years. I want to be in that melee, leading and taking action. As a more concrete pipe dream: I dream of being an ambassador one day.
Name a woman you look up to.
My friend Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan has the most amazing blog. It’s called The Brown Hijabi: https://thebrownhijabi.com/. Suhaiymah writes about race, gender and Islam (and more) in powerful posts which are beautifully written, in her inimitable sharp style. The blog opens my eyes to my own privilege and makes me question and learn. One of my favourite pieces is ‘On Desire and Being Desired’.
Any words of wisdom for undergrads apprehensive about job prospects?
Until graduation, life has always had a neat rhythm; every holiday is bookended by the reassurance of a new term. But once you’ve finished it’s easy to see your world stretching out before you in a scary way. It can be tempting to jump into something without thinking about whether it’s right for you.
I would recommend three things:
1. Make the most of the Careers Service. You can sign up for interview practice and register for weekly vacancy emails once you’ve graduated
2. This is very practical… Lots of employers use competency based interviews. It might be useful, while you’re still an undergrad, to look at a list of typical competency questions and think about how you’d answer them. Afterwards you might be able to identify qualities you want to build up.
3. Always remember there are options beyond the typical grad schemes and masters degrees!