Coco McKeever

BSc in Social Policy,  2011
Policy Adviser,  HM Treasury

Please describe your career path to date

After graduating from LSE in 2011 I started applying for jobs to work in charities and think tanks as I’d always wanted to work in an area where I felt I could make a difference. While job hunting I volunteered at a number of different charities. After a year of volunteering 4-5 days a week I got a job at Hackney Council working as the Executive Assistant to the Assistant Director of the youth services (Young Hackney). This was a brilliant environment to learn more about issues affecting young people and government initiatives to help them. After working at Hackney Council for 10 months, I got a job on the HM Treasury graduate scheme – where I have now been working as a policy adviser for just over 2 years.

Has your career path developed as you planned?           

From about the age of 15 I was interested in working in Government but never thought it would be an easy career path. When I graduated in 2011 the jobs market was very difficult to get into. I found it hard to get my first job but was fortunate enough to be in a financial situation which meant I didn’t need to desperately get any old job to be able to survive. I only applied for jobs I was genuinely interested in and knew that I needed to avoid catch 22 of not getting a job because of a lack of relevant experience. This was part of the reason why I was so keen to spend as much time as possible volunteering. It also gave me a chance to find out what really interested me and the skills I excelled at.

Looking back on it now, I am extremely glad that I focused so much on getting unpaid experience in areas I felt passionate about. Without that experience I would not have gotten my first job at Hackney Council and would not now be working in a Government department.

Tell us about your current job   

One of the things I love most about working at the Treasury is that each role usually lasts for 18 months. As the roles are for a relatively short period, it encourages you to grab opportunities which you might not usually think you would be interested in. The roles are also very varied in terms of the type of work you do and the policy area you cover. You therefore very quickly gain a variety of transferable skills and exposure to exciting current policies.

After my first role working on domestic VAT policy I managed to get onto a 6 month project to be the Assistant Bill Manager to pass a Bill devolving Corporation Tax to Northern Ireland through Parliament. This was an exciting opportunity to experience the process of policy change become legislation. The best part was supporting Ministers while the Bill was debated in the House of Commons and House of Lords.

It’s a fast paced environment which requires good organisational, prioritisation and communication skills. It is an extremely exciting place to work and, considering the seriousness of the work and has a much laid back working environment.

Why did you choose this job?   

I wanted to work at HM Treasury because it’s a central and small government department which means it has a very flat managerial hierarchy so you get a lot of responsibility very quickly. I knew it would expose me to some of the most interesting policy questions around dealing with the UK’s deficit while trying to protect as much public spending as possible.

I also knew that each role in the Treasury typically lasts for 18 months, so it would be a way to further find out what I enjoyed doing and excelled at, while building up a wide range of transferrable skills in a politically exciting and stimulating environment.

What career plans do you have for the future?                

I’ve never really had a career plan set out. I feel very strongly that, whatever I do, it needs to be something where I know I can make a positive change to social issues. While it feels like the perfect place for me right now, I don’t think I want to stay in the Civil Service forever. I’m open to options which will mentally excite and stretch me.

Thinking back, why did you choose your degree subject and why did you choose LSE?  

Whilst at school, I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Social Policy is a very broad subject and includes studying issues such as social exclusion, crime, health, housing and pensions and how different policies impact people. This really appealed to me and was not a subject I was aware of when I was first considering what to study.

Having grown up in rural Dorset, I wanted to go to university in a vibrant and multicultural city where I could experience as many new things as possible and achieve a sense of freedom I never felt I had growing up in the countryside. I knew LSE is an extremely prestigious university and the best in the country for Social Policy so I was very excited about the prospect of studying there.

How has your time at LSE helped you so far in your career?       

Studying at LSE definitely helped my career as employers are very aware of its status. LSE has a great work ethic and everyone who is there, wants to be there and knows how lucky they are to be studying at one of the UK’s best universities. As London offers so many exciting social opportunities, doing well on your degree course requires a lot of dedication and discipline to not get distracted and get on with your work

What advice would you give to prospective or current LSE students?    

Try to find a sensible balance between work and play. I found I had to work extremely hard to do well as the social policy degree required a lot of reading each week and it definitely seemed completely unrealistic at times. I had to learn to find a balance between doing enough work each week to be prepared for seminars and essays, and finding time to do things outside of studying and relax. 

Make the most of the societies and the general social life in London. London can feel like an enormous city so societies are a great way to meet like-minded people. 

I would also advise current students to find volunteer opportunities in an area you feel passionate about. It allows you to develop your skills and knowledge in that area which will be beneficial for any future jobs. It also gives you an invaluable insight into working in that field and whether it’s right for you.

Overall, how do you look back on your LSE experience?

LSE offers a lot of opportunities and is at the forefront of social research in so many exciting issues. I also met a lot of great people there. The friends I made, many of whom I met on my very first night in fresher’s week, are still my closest friends.

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Coco McKeever