Fiona Stone (Social Psychology 2003) is the Head of Youth Strategy and National Citizen Service (NCS) at the Office for Civil Society, where she uses real-world experience to influence policy and funding for young people.
Fiona applied for the Civil Service Fast Stream during her 3rd year at Sussex and went on to work in Government for the next eight years. She has also been a youth worker and secondary school teacher and likes to keep bees in her spare time.
Time at Sussex
Fiona says her degree in Social Psychology taught her to think about the social responses to her actions and what drives them. Outside studying, Fiona worked at University Radio Falmer and loved the freedom of playing what she liked and being given the forum to express her opinions.
Getting onto the Civil Service Fast Stream development programme enabled Fiona to work in many different Government departments and over the following eight years, she had a variety of roles from managing teams of people reviewing benefit decisions, to working with the Met Police to reduce burglaries in London.
Working with young people
After years of also volunteering at a city farm youth programme, Fiona made the leap into secondary school teaching via Teach First and subsequently specialised in environmental youth and community work.
She says that her time as a maths teacher was one of the hardest things she has done in her career, but also one of the best. Working with young people tests you intellectually, emotionally but also brings joy and humour every day.
Current position within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
Fiona currently works in the Youth Division the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport actively working with and engaging youth. She leads a team which works out the best ways the Government can help young people to develop the skills they need for life and work outside of school. She also oversees the delivery of the National Citizenship Service to make sure it’s bringing the best value for money and has the best impact it can for young people. Day-to-day, Fiona's role involves lots of thinking through interesting policy issues, motivating her team and advising Government Ministers.
Gaining a good work-life balance
Fiona says that one of the key things that drew her to working in Government was the flexibility it gives you–both the ability to work less than 5 days a week and also having ‘flexitime’ where you can take back overtime on days that suits you. Prior to her degree in Social Psychology, Fiona studied Art and she is still highly creative in her spare time – she plays in a band, produces art and is currently building an off-grid house. Working four days a week affords her the time to fit in her other commitments in life, including playing with her very fun 4 year old.
I loved the idea of working to improve society.” Fiona stone, SPEAKING AT MAKE IT HAPPEN 2021
Fiona's top tips for getting into the government sector
- Have Civil Service job alerts on, so that you are the first to know about vacancies when they arise.
- Don’t be too selective when applying for government jobs – only a small proportion are advertised externally – so to get a foot in the door, keep your options open.
- Volunteer where you can, so you can build up experience to get past that initial barrier. Look out for volunteering opportunities at do-it.org.
Meet Fiona (and her cat Barnaby) in this short video where she shares an additional tip for those who aren’t quite sure what they want to do yet career-wise:
Fiona kindly appeared as a guest speaker at our Careers in Government and Public Services event, which was part of the Make it Happen with Sussex Alumni 2021 series. Fiona shared her story and her advice for current students and recent graduates.