Song Guangli: 2013 graduate student with a dual master’s degrees from the China-EU School of Law (CESL) at the China University of Political Science and Law, currently employed by the Department of Policy Regulation and Supervision of Ministry of Science and Technology. In this article, she shares her experience with the civil service examination and her work experience.
1. What is your daily work and life like? Can you tell us about the pros and cons of being a civil servant?
My daily life is very regular. I go to work at 8:00, eat in the restaurant for my lunch break at 11:30, go back to work at 1:30 and finish work at about 18:00. I have been working here for less than 2 years. I work in the general office. In my current position, I don’t often work overtime. However, by no means do civil servants just have a cup of tea and read the newspaper for the day. Although employees in general office can get off work at 6 o’clock, we are busy during the working day. The operation office is responsible for drafting the documents and it is normal to work right around the clock when something urgent comes up. For example, their department recently handled 107 paper retractions- for over half a year they were kept busy weekends and worked well into the early hours of the morning. They even slept in the office several times. At that time, everyone had bloodshot eyes and felt extremely fatigue.
Now I would like to talk about the fact that the work of civil servants in the administrative management is very different from that of the civil servants in the “operations” category, such as those in courts and procurators According to my observation during two years of work, most of our work falls into the category of macro-administrative management. We are responsible for formulating policies at national level and solving one general aspect. We rarely deal with specific matters. You don’t need to be proficient in one particular aspect but you do need to have the ability to think in a macro way- unlike those who practice in courts or procurators who do need to be proficient in legal knowledge. Of course, I have always thought that mastering a specific skillset can be a great attribute to any civil servant. So if you can master a skill, do.
The advantage of being a civil servant is job stability. Before you really take up the job, you may not have a profound understanding of “stability”. The stability is reflected in the “regularity” of daily life that I have already mentioned, in the fact that one does not suddenly lose his job if he makes mistakes and in the fact that women do not need to worry too much about returning to their previous positions after taking maternity leave. Of course, the flip side of such stability is defined by the lack of progression opportunities. You have to stay in the office so business travel is unlikely. The job is not flexible and many things need to be submitted for approval for the smallest request. Lawyers can change jobs at any time. They could send out a résumé one day and leave the next if they’ve found something. Civil servants could hardly imagine such thing. The resignation procedure takes a long time and thereafter they may find it difficult to find a new job. Besides, the growth of civil servants is very slow. If you work in a law firm for 10 years, you become a co-employer. If you perform well as a civil servant, you can be a division head. However, in my view, work as a division head actually comprises the majority of our work. Every evening, when we go home, the division head is still in the office. If there would be an all-powerful skill that civil servants should acquire after working for several years, I think it would be political awareness. Everything can be political. During life at school, I did not care about politics. In work, I now find that politics infiltrates all aspects of life. When you spend a long time in an organisation, you become aware of policy trends- mostly first come, first served.
2. Can you share your successful experience of taking the written test and interview for the national civil service examination?
The most important thing in the written test is to know your strengths and weaknesses. There are many questions and a limited testing time. It is important to know how to allocate your time most efficiently. That is, to sacrifice time from the parts you struggle with to ensure you have sufficient time to do the parts you are good at. From 1stOctober I devoted myself to preparing for the test. I first studied the methods for solving each question type, mastered these methods thoroughly through practice, then completed the exam without time constraints, identified the parts I found easy and difficult, increased my accuracy in the question types I was good at and decided which part to forfeit if I was short on time. I solved all general knowledge questions instinctively and forfeited the math questions if I was struggling. I focused on practicing speech comprehension, reasoning and data analysis. After I mastered the data analysis method, it was much faster and easier to score points. Every time I worked on math questions, I began to doubt myself. In the few days before the exam, you should complete the whole test within the given time. Then you must be patient. When I first started such training, I felt my previous preparation was useless and I still made some of the same mistakes that I was making in the beginning. However, I found that my correct answer rate was indeed higher and it was just that I found it hard to adapt to the time constraints in the beginning.
The essay test looks for strong logical reasoning and a definite point of view. The reviewer examines your essay structure at a glance- syllogism is always good and easy to use. You should memorise some good sentences and use them appropriately in the essay. A clear structure and a logical progression score basic points but add a few wonderful sentences if you’re aiming for a high score.
Before the interview you must repeatedly practice exercises. Note that you should have a clear logical explanation when answering questions; be concise and be aware of your response time. The structured interview comprises just a few types of questions. You can find a few friends to practice with every day. Only if you’ve practiced answering the questions a thousand and one times, can you answer the questions efficiently and obtain the points in the interview room when you are at your most nervous. Of course if you can, it’s always best to not let your nerves show and command yourself as you would normally. After taking up the job, you will realise that the abilities tested in the interview are indeed really expected of civil servants in daily work, such as being confident in clearly expressing your view of a social phenomenon within a specified time. In addition, when you go to find a job, it is also the perfect time to prepare for a graduation thesis. It is advisable to finish the graduation thesis before the recruitment season.
3. How can studying at the China-EU School of Law help in your current job?
I heard that many people are reluctant to study the European Law. I also went through confusion at the time and did feel reluctant. “Why not study one more year?” you ask yourself. After graduating, you will face endless work. Why rush to find a job when you can choose to go to work the following year? Unless you can’t afford tuition or if you really need money, or if you want to apply for LLM or JD, you must study European law! Compared with graduate students from other institutions in the country, your one-year study in European law will definitely stand out on your résumé. Only the China-EU School of Law can offer such a highly recommendable LLM degree. Only in the China-EU School of Law do you have the opportunity to “just have fun in Europe for half a month without shopping or compulsory consumption” with a group of classmates. You will never again have the chance to find a group of such like-minded friends. There is no comparable opportunity!
4. What advice do you have for fellow junior students in internships?
No matter what you do, really try to experience the internship for all it’s worth. It is beneficial to have a rich experience, so that in the job interview you can find an relatable experience about which you can easily elaborate. Various experiences in the internship are also key in the process of discovering yourself. When you are looking for a job, the goal is to find the most suitable career. Finding a job is the same as finding an internship. Be sure to find someone to talk to and exchange ideas. Do not limit yourself. There are so many senior students. I got my internship in Zhong Lun Law Firm thanks to my senior classmate. He told that his partner just received a project and needed assistance. I was employed basically without being asked any questions in the interview. The next day I was already on a business trip for that project. Remember to be flexible when looking for a job.
5. For junior fellow students who have not yet graduated, what do you think they should cultivate and improve at this stage?
Communication and professional competence. Whatever anyone says, effective communication is a prerequisite. You rely on your major to earn a living at the end of the day.
As a graduate who cannot go back to school life, I really want to say not to think about these things at school, rather to just keep your mind on books, lessons and homework, going out with your classmates and enjoying the wonderful campus life. But I know how it feels and remember exactly the anxiety involved in trying finding a job. I only had two months to prepare for the civil servant exam but it felt like a century. I just wish you all the best! My lovely fellow schoolmates- good luck!
Writers: Piao Rongxuan (Double Master Student of CESL 2017)
Pic: Song Guanli (CESL 2016 graduate)