Laura Herbert, Graduate & Apprentice Manager for Shropshire Council

Laura Herbert, Graduate & Apprentice Manager for Shropshire Council discusses her previous role as a graduate trainee on the Shropshire Council Graduate Programme and making the big step into the post-university world. Follow Laura on twitter @lauherbs

The illustrious quest for the golden graduate role with a ‘Top 100 Graduate Employer’, complimented by a staggering salary, lavish lifestyle and penthouse apartment overlooking the Thames as a reward for the years spent living in fear of essay deadlines, is proving to be borderline mythical for the majority of graduates and final year students. This seems to be further exacerbated by the astounding youth unemployment figures and constant negative media coverage illustrating the fact that we are a doomed generation with no job prospects, no money and we can forget about ever owning our own home!

Nonetheless, despite the pessimistic rhetoric, I believe that the current economic situation provides the perfect opportunity for any ambitious, determined and savvy graduate to secure employment upon graduation if they think outside the box. Opportunities in Local Government may not seem to be the most obvious, attractive or even secure choice for graduates, but they provide a wealth of opportunities and experiences with the added bonus of making a real difference within the local communities.

I secured a role onto Shropshire Council’s Graduate Programme in 2010 after completing a Master’s in History from the University of Edinburgh. Born and bred in Liverpool, with my undergraduate career spent in Edinburgh and a brief stint in Sydney, Australia, you must be questioning why I would want to move to one of the most rural counties in England.

Frankly, it was hard for me to turn this job down; I wanted to join an organisation where I could make a real difference, stand out from the crowd and not become ‘just a number’ in a corporate conglomerate at the start of my career. I think graduates who are serious about developing a successful career need to be flexible about where they work and be willing to seize opportunities regardless of geographical location.

During Shropshire Council’s graduate recruitment campaign last year, I spoke to many talented graduates who were interested in our programme, but reluctant to move to Shrewsbury in order to develop their professional ambitions. I understand the rationale and reluctance to move to a rural county, and I admit I had my own reservations. However, these soon evaporated once I realised what an innovative and forward-thinking organisation I had chosen to start my career with.

I believe that I as successful in securing a role onto the graduate programme after demonstrating a strategic awareness of the wide range of changes currently taking place in the public sector, both on a national and local level. I emphasised my desire to work in this rapidly changing environment and how I wanted to be at the forefront of implementing a radical programme of change. I also made it clear how the council could benefit from the skills I had acquired during my academic career and previous work experience, tailoring them to the core skills, behaviours and competencies that they were looking for.

However, a career in local government, especially during such tough economic conditions, isn’t for the faint hearted. I’ve been working in a rapidly changing environment that many local authorities are not accustomed to, and it is imperative to have a strong desire to be a future leader of the public sector.

I would advise any graduate considering a career in local government to do thorough research into the opportunities available. Many local authorities run their own in-house graduate programmes but lack the financial means to pursue large advertising campaigns so some fantastic job opportunities often go unnoticed. I’d recommend getting in touch with the local authorities that you wish to work for and actively find out if they have a graduate programme or offer internships.

My decision to move to Shropshire has been a very positive experience and whilst some of my friends are still struggling to get a foot on the career ladder, I have completed a graduate programme, landed my first management role and currently completing my post graduate qualifications in order to progress my career in talent management.

The penthouse apartment on the bank of the Thames is still a distant dream, but I am excited to be climbing the career ladder in Shropshire and happy with my home by the River Severn – London will just have to wait!


Shrop Grad Shrop Grad

Laura Herbert is the Graduate & Apprentice Manager for Shropshire Council and the manager of ShropGrad, the organisation’s Graduate Programme. Over the next few months, the graduates on the programme will be chronicling their progress, discussing key themes within graduate employment and offering advice and shadowing opportunities for local graduates.

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