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Janet Poole

The example below is taken from an application submitted by a BA (Hons) English Literature finalist who was invited to the assessment centre for the Department for International Development (DFID) 2012 Graduate Development Scheme.

Personal interestes/achievements

Use the space below to describe, with dates (year) any part-time activities. Include organising, leading or group activities. Maximum 100 words.

Among other volunteering commitments at university, I was a member of Warwick Nightline. After training with the Samaritans, I answered phone calls and emails, listening and providing emotional support to service users. Another passion of mine is theatre. I directed a short piece for a university drama festival in 2009, selecting excerpts to perform and coordinating rehearsals. Working as a steward at Warwick Arts Centre enabled me to see plays regularly, keenly following the work of innovative physical theatre companies. I am also a keen squash player and represented Warwick University between 2008 and 2010.

Planning and delivery of work

Describe a challenging project, activity or event which you have planned and taken through to a conclusion. Include your objective, what you did, any changes you made to your plan and state how you measured your success. Maximum 200 words.

As Student Researcher for Vinspired, I was responsible for evaluating a new volunteering initiative at Warwick University called Double You. The objective was to design and produce a report that would identify strengths and weaknesses of the project and make recommendations for improvements. As Double You aimed to build sustainable partnerships between students and local community organisations, I planned to interview both students and local stakeholders to gauge the equality of the collaboration and the success of communication between them. Due to the erratic timetable of university students, many were unable to commit to meet for interview so I decided instead to create questionnaire which could be returned by email. Although this method of communication lacked the immediacy of interview, it allowed me to gather responses in a manageable format which could be examined and compiled. I measured the success of the final report based on whether I had answered the research questions and communicated my findings effectively. My feedback from Vinspired was positive on both these counts and my report was noted to be the most comprehensive and informative out of those submitted from universities around the UK.

Influencing, communication and working with others

Describe how you achieved a goal through influencing the actions or opinions of others (perhaps in a team context). What were the Circumstances? What did you do to make a difference? How do you know the results were satisfactory? Maximum 200 words.

As a Peer Educator for Restless Development Uganda, I worked with two Ugandan volunteers to implement the Youth Empowerment Programme in Buyengo sub-county. As the programme was in its pilot year, our primary objective was to establish a network of community members who were interested in developing their livelihoods through sustainable agriculture. Working closely with the local government office, I organised weekly meetings with seven community organisations from various regions within Buyengo, demonstrating new techniques and encouraging discussion among members. However, although group leaders claimed to be interested in the programme attendance at meetings was low and erratic. I decided to demonstrate the potential for commercial success in sustainable agriculture, organising a visit to a local farmer who had built a successful business using sustainable techniques. This proved to be an important influence on the groups and a significant turning point. Commitment and participation improved and the farmers were replicating the techniques we had demonstrated in their own gardens, a sign that they had engaged with and taken on the programme material. Furthermore, the groups began to run activities outside of our scheduled meetings. Following a demonstration of fuel-efficient stoves, members of Nakagyo Women's Group arranged to group together and constructed a stove in each of their homesteads.

Analysis and use of information

Describe a time when you have had to assess and interpret information to identify issues or problems. State how you decided on the critical issues, what you did and what your solution was. Maximum 200 words.

As a caseworker for Coventry Refugee Centre, my job was to interpret the information available in order to address the particular problem at hand. The primary mechanism for identifying issues was an interview with the client, ascertaining what assistance they required and what they hoped to gain from our support. Following this, I selected the relevant documents and records from the client's case file to supplement their account of the problem. This was often crucial to compensate for language barriers that prevented comprehensive communication of the problem. In many cases, the assessment would require that I contact other organisations such as the UK Border Agency, legal representatives or housing providers.

For example, to support a destitute client with an outstanding claim for asylum support, I contacted UKBA support services to track the progress of their application and ensure that no data was missing which would delay its completion. I would solidify and reinforce telephone discussion with an official written request to expedite the claim, filing it to provide evidence of our exchange to other caseworkers. In the meantime, I also referred the client to other support services offering shelter and food packages to destitute asylum seekers.

Career choice

Explain why you have applied to join the Graduate Development Scheme. Offer evidence of your suitability (e.g. courses undertaken, Skills, strengths and experiences). Emphasise why you consider yourself to be a strong candidate. Maximum 100 words.

I want to develop my career prospects and train in a highly respected organisation, focussing on African policy and development. Experience in the field was a valuable insight into barriers to and opportunities for prosperity in the area. I developed project management skills in challenging conditions. Having undertaken casework and evaluative research, I am adept at gathering and analysing information, whether to identify trends and weaknesses or find practical solutions for urgent problems. My academic strength and professional experience enables me to tackle challenging assignments with analytic insight and pragmatism.