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Caitlyn joined HM Revenue & Customs on the Tax Specialist Programme after graduating university. She gives us an insight into the role, the application process, and her background.

'I decided to join HMRC, specifically the Tax Specialist Programme, after university because I was looking for a lifelong career with good prospects and job security. I considered a wide range of graduate schemes, but the TSP was the most appealing as it offered a defined progression structure over the three-year course and was very clear about what I could expect to gain from joining HMRC – where other employers were vague.

I also come from a non-business/finance degree background and was apprehensive at first when looking at graduate schemes of this genre – but the information available and application process were robust enough to help me feel confident in my decision to accept a place.

The culture and working environment at HMRC are very supportive and inclusive. Whilst I am being trained to take up a senior position, as a new starter I’ve been treated in a respectful and supportive way which has helped me to settle in well.

My working week is flexible in start and finish times, with one study day (I usually take this at home), and one tutorial day included. Three days in the office are always varied and interesting – and alternative working patterns are available. The work-life balance has been excellent so far, as this is something, I was apprehensive about when considering taking on a graduate scheme which also included intensive studying.

There are always lots of opportunities to get involved, both for your own personal development and to help your colleagues. For example, I have already agreed to organise and facilitate next years’ TSP induction programme in my location, which will be a great leadership opportunity. A TSP in the year above asked for caseworkers to help with a large and complex project currently ongoing within wider HMRC, and most of my cohort have volunteered their time for an hour or two per week from next month – this will be a great way to learn something new, and to support the wider department.

From one day to the next is so varied – as previously mentioned, I spend one day per week at home studying the material we will review in that week’s tutorial. Then, of course, a day is spent in a tutorial discussing the theory and practice of that week’s subject. On an office-based day I could spend my time reviewing my first live case, due to be opened imminently (around six weeks in), and latterly I will be conducting a premise visit and meetings with my customer. We also have weekly sessions working on a mock case, designed to emulate the stages of a live case in accelerated time, as a practical guide to help ease us into casework. There is also a project management exercise running at present, where my cohort has split into small groups and are running with another mock non-tax situation designed to test and enhance our skills in this area.

My biggest challenge on the programme so far has been confidence – on day one I was so nervous! As the weeks have passed, I have been presented with so much information which has at times been quite overwhelming. Taking the time to step back and remind myself that I am new and not expected to know it all after only a few weeks has been important. Speaking to my colleagues has reassured me that they all feel similarly – even those who joined the TSP as internal HMRC employees agree that this is a lot to take in, the key thing is just to take each day as it comes and trust that this course is designed to get you from A to B!

Other than confidence, I have had to be cautious of ensuring that I treat the study aspect of the TSP with as much importance as coming into the office each day. After university you are so relieved to be free from studying, but now getting back into good habits is important. The study time built into my week is more than enough to prevent having to read in my own evening and weekend time, if used wisely.

Lastly, making sure I ask questions. Sometimes it can be tempting to wait and see … but there really is no such thing as a stupid question and in a fast-paced environment you can’t afford to let the opportunity to clarify that point pass you by. I know I am often guilty of doing this and so am having to make a concentrated effort to put myself out there more and challenge my own comfort zone – something that I know is vital for my own development.

I am most enjoying starting to work on my very first case, the subject matter is so interesting and there has been so much to learn and research. Right now, I’m about to issue an opening letter to my customer, after reviewing their most recent tax return and the risks it appears to present. I am really looking forward to working on this case and honing my investigative skills.

If you’re considering it, you’re already halfway there. Research the opportunity as much as you can and trust that application process for any career should also give you a good idea of whether you have the potential to do well there, so take the step and give it your best shot. You have nothing to lose!

Three skills I think are needed to do my job are a good work ethic (self-explanatory!), great organisational skills (managing your own busy diary is key to keeping that work-life balance just right) and the ability to use your initiative – both for learning and work.'