Career as a Divisional manager

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Jane Smith is a senior manager within the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU), which is part of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). She is responsible for putting into action policy decisions agreed by the government.

How would you describe your role?

The SEU is a part of government that looks at problems such as unemployment, poor education and skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, poor health, and family breakdown. The SEU publishes reports on ways to take action on these problems. Recent reports include the low educational attainment of children in care, and another on mental health.

My role is to make sure that the actions set out in the reports are taken forward by government departments and result in real improvements for disadvantaged people.

What are your main work activities?

Typically, I attend two to three meetings a day, some internal to the SEU and the ODPM, others involving other government departments and outside organisations.

I try to visit different areas and people facing particular problems. I might discuss particular projects or hear about how government services are working for some of the most disadvantaged members of society. I also give presentations at conferences on the work of the SEU.

Where do you work and who do you work with?

I work in central London in fairly modern offices with a view over the city.

I lead a team of around 15 people, which includes people from a variety of backgrounds. Some have worked in the voluntary sector with vulnerable people. There are also communications specialists and generalist civil servants like myself. The people I work with are relaxed and friendly, with a real enthusiasm for their work and the SEU.

What personal qualities do you need and why?

Determination and commitment are needed to push forward the actions from our reports and make real improvements.

What do you like about your work?

I chose this career path because I wanted to do something that involved working to improve public services.

I like the feeling that I can really change the way policy is developed and services are delivered for the most disadvantaged.

What is challenging about your work?

Staying focused on what we need to achieve for the most vulnerable in society, while at the same time keeping in perspective the competing demands on government.

What are your plans for the future?

In terms of my current job, I plan to stay for another couple of years to really see through some clear improvements for particularly vulnerable groups, including children in care and adults with mental health problems.

My personal long-term ambition is to try to find a secondment in an organisation outside of government that deals with the issues at ground level.

Jane's route to her career as a divisional manager

  • Degree in Modern Languages and Philosophy.
  • Entered the Civil Service through the Fast Stream programme, starting in the Welsh Office in Cardiff.
  • Worked way up to current role as a grade 5 senior manager within the SEU.

Jane's divisional manager tips

  • Interpersonal skills are hugely important. You need to get on well with people from all walks of life.
  • Make sure you want to be involved behind the scenes in policy development and that it's not just a general interest in politics that is driving you. Civil Service life can be very unglamorous, but it is rewarding!

Divisional manager related jobs












  • Business analyst
  • EU official
  • Health service manager
  • Management consultant
  • Manager
  • MP/Politician

Salary of a divisional manager

  • Grade 5 senior civil servants usually earn between £53,541 and £74,298, with top performers potentially earning up to £112,248.
  • However, if you have the ability, you can progress to higher grades, with top performers at the highest levels potentially earning more than £150,000.

Career as a Divisional manager

  • There is no fixed career path to become a senior civil servant. Most senior civil servants have either been promoted after a number of years in graduate or Fast Stream positions, or they enter after gaining relevant skills and experience outside the Civil Service.
  • Most of the training is on the job, gaining knowledge or skills specific to the post. This is supplemented by formal training and other development opportunities as required.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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