Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

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Graduate Fair Blog Series: Looking for work locally?

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📥  Advice, Careers Fairs, Careers Resources, Finding a Job, Graduate Jobs, Labour Market Intelligence, Tips & Hints

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This blog entry is a part of the Graduate Fair Blog Series introducing sectors and industries which will be present at the University of Bath Graduate Fair, Tuesday 25th April. Please go here for more information about the fair and the employers present.


So you are graduating soon and you want to stay in the local area, great! There may be many reasons for this, perhaps you are from here or have established family here? Perhaps you love the area so much you would like to stay (like I did 10 years ago)?  Whatever reason, Bath, Bristol and the rest of the South West are lovely places to live and work.

The disadvantages by looking in one region only

Be aware that looking in one region only may limit your job opportunities. In some towns and cities certain industries dominate, while others are under-represented. Limiting yourself geographically may not match with your particular career choices so you need to do your research. Ask yourself how long you are willing to commute? Bath and Bristol are commutable, but you may also want to consider towns like Cheltenham, Swindon and Reading or Newport in Wales. Work out how you will get to work, the costs and how far you are prepared to travel so you can look beyond the immediate locality.

Employers in the Bath area

Bath is not a big city so it is limited in terms of which sectors/industries are located here. The biggest employers in Bath are in the education and health sectors, i.e. the two Universities and the NHS. A wealth of software development firms base themselves in Bath and several internationally recognised architectural and engineering consultancies are found in Bath (source: Bath and North East Somerset Council). See our graduate jobs leaflet for more details on companies and organisations in Bath.

Major Industries in the South West

The major specialisms/growth areas in the SW:

  • Advanced Engineering which includes Aerospace (Bristol), Automotive (Swindon), measuring instruments and medical devices (Gloucestershire)
  • Biomedical and Healthcare (Bristol/Bath and Exeter/Plymouth)
  • Creative Industries (Bristol, Gloucestershire and Plymouth areas)
  • Environmental Technologies
  • Food and Drink (Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset)
  • Information Communication Technology (Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bristol, Devon)
  • Leisure and Tourism
  • Marine (Devon, Cornwall and Dorset)

Source: www.gradsouthwest.com which includes more details about these sectors.


Gradsouthwest will be at the graduate fair, do go and ask them any question you may have about staying in the South West! In addition, CIMPA, Decision Analysis Services, Sword Apak and Rise Technical Recruitment have roles in Bristol and London and Country Mortgages has roles in Bath!  Research these employers and the roles they can offer in our Graduate Fair programme.


How to find local work as a graduate?

First, you should make a list of employers that you are interested in.

Find out what employers exist in the area that are in the sectors or industries you would like to work in. Our Find a Graduate job leaflet has some great tips for you:

  • Monitor local job adverts – senior posts will still alert you to potential employers
  • Ask local people which companies they know
  • Tap into local networks of relevant professional bodies or looking for local business groups
  • Look for news items, articles and annual reports in local newspapers and business magazines for potential job growth, e.g. new factories/offices, new product/service launches, organisations relocating, takeovers etc.
  • Keep your eyes open for businesses of interest
  • Building local contacts from your own recreational activities.

You can also find A-Z lists of employers that have been in contact with us on our website.

What are the typical job websites?

You are able to search for local jobs in MyFuture, but be aware that there will be many more jobs available that are not advertised on MyFuture. Bath Chronicle advertises jobs in the Bath area, Bristol Evening Post in the Bristol area. Duport business confidence reports details business performance trends in the city. There are many more local job sites for you to try, please go here for a comprehensive list.

Contacting employers speculatively

As you know, most jobs are not advertised! Therefore, you should be flexible and creative in your approach to employers. Can you apply speculatively? Use LinkedIn in your job search? Get ideas from friends and other contacts? Our Find a Graduate Job leaflet gives you an insight in to different strategies in job hunting.

What else is there to say but the best of luck in your search and maybe I will see you for lunch in Bath or Bristol soon!

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Graduate Fair Blog Series: The many ways of getting into teaching!

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📥  Advice, Careers Fairs, Graduate Jobs, inspire, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers, Tips & Hints

 

Teacher Facing Pupils In High School Science Class Infront Of A Whiteboard

This blog entry is a part of the Graduate Fair Blog Series introducing sectors and industries which will be present at the University of Bath Graduate Fair, Tuesday 25th April. Please go here for more information about the fair and the employers present.


I wanted to become a teacher once. I am from a family of teachers so that may have influenced me, but I also like to teach, to relay ideas, inspiration and motivation to an audience or work together with students to find solutions. Do you feel the same?

In the UK there are several ways to become a primary or a secondary teacher, and this blog entry will summarize the different ways and give you additional resources to research whether any one of these pathways is the right one for you. You can also get free help and support from Department for Education, such as one-to-one tailored support in the application process and getting you help with regards to finding work experience in schools. Take advantage of their expertise.


Department for Education will be present at the Graduate Fair. This is a great chance for you to talk to someone about all the different routes available and the differences in applications. Do not miss this opportunity!


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Training options

You can choose whether your training option is school-led, meaning that your training will be based in a school, or you can choose your training to be at a University. There are also several specialist training options.

  • School – led training

This option is for students who wants to get hands-on training and are not afraid to try out their skills from day one. You’ll get the chance to work in at least two different schools and learn from experienced colleagues. These courses generally lasts for a year and most places do also offer a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education). School-led courses are referred to as SCITT (School-Centred Initial Teaching Training) or Schools Direct.

Find more information about this option, go here.

  • University-led postgraduate training

This postgraduate training option is based at a University. University training lasts normally one year full-time or two years’ part-time. Your training will be taught by your University colleagues. You will also spend time in schools, a minimum of 24 weeks which will improve your practical teaching skills. Your training will lead to a PGCE.

For more information about this option, go here.

Other specialists training options:

With the support of partner schools, businesses and universities, Teach First trains its participants to be effective teachers and leaders in schools in low-income areas. Their leadership programme (LDP) combines teacher training and a fully funded postgraduate diploma in Education (PGDE), which is twice the credits of a PGCE. You need a 2:1 to apply.

If you want to learn more about Teach First – go to their website.


Teach First will be at our Graduate Fair. Take this chance to ask any questions you may have about this graduate programme!


There are also other great specialist training options, such as Researchers in School (for PhD researchers that have submitted their doctorate before the beginning of the programme).

Read more about other specialist training programmes here.

 

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Funding

There is a lot of excellent funding opportunities for you out there and you can get a bursary of up to £25.000! This depends on your degree background, subjects you will be teaching and your degree marks. Department for Education has an excellent webpage covering the different funding opportunities.

Additional Resources:

Read about different job roles in education on Prospects and read about the teaching sector.

TargetJobs - Would a career in teaching and education suit me?

 

 

 

Graduate Fair Blog Series: Careers in the IT and Technology Sector

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📥  Advice, Career Choice, Careers Fairs, Careers Resources, Graduate Jobs, Subject Related Careers, Tips & Hints

 

Pictures circling around Pacific Islander woman's head

This blog entry is a part of the Graduate Fair Blog Series introducing sectors and industries which will be present at the University of Bath Graduate Fair, Tuesday 25th April. Please go here for more information about the fair and the employers present.


The Sector

The IT & technology sector is thriving as never before. Employers are desperate for high-skilled graduates, often from any discipline, as the demand for skilled workers do not match the amount of work available. Meanwhile, the Experis Tech Cities Job Watch report for the second quarter of 2016 notes that the skills shortage covers five main disciplines: IT security, cloud computing, mobile, big data and web development. Even though a degree in Computer Science will be an advantage and some jobs do require a degree, some organisations will have a preference for those who studied a STEM subject (that is, science, maths, technology or engineering). Other jobs require only an interest and understanding of IT and technology and you will learn the necessary skills on the job. Problem-solving, being good at collaboration with colleagues and communication are key skills needed.

The Careers

With an interest in IT and technology or a computer science degree you have a wealth of different careers on your fingertips. With an additional interest in business and technology, you may thrive as a consultant or work as an analyst in the financial industry. On the other hand, maybe you will thrive more as a games developer or a web developer? There are also many jobs where a computer science degree or an understanding of IT and technology is useful, such as becoming a teacher or a social media manager.

Look at Prospects for a closer look on different job roles within IT & Technology.

The Employers

Common employers are IT consultancies or IT providers but you can get jobs in pretty much all sectors including healthcare, defence, agriculture, public sector and more, as everywhere needs an IT and technology specialist. There are many opportunities in major companies and SMEs (smaller to medium enterprises), however be aware that there are also many start up tech companies which may require your skills.


There are  several employers at out Graduate Fair with roles within IT and technology, some require a computer science or STEM degree, others are looking for students from any degree disciplines, please check the programme which will be available from early April. Employers include: Sword Apak, Data Interconnect, Bath Spa University, Office for National Statistics, Global Kubrick Group, Rise Technical Recruitment, Global, Thought Provoking Consulting, The Phoenix Partnership and more. Check here for further information about these employers.


Getting work experience and qualifications in these areas - whether it be learning specific programming languages or doing a summer internship or placement - will put you in prime position to start you career in the sector.

Interested to read more?

If you are still interested here are some good articles for you to learn more:

The benefits of working in information technology

Getting a graduate job in IT and technology - the basics

Overview of the IT sector in the UK

 

 

Graduate Fair Blog Series: World Social Work Day 2017 - do you feel inspired?

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📥  Advice, Career Choice, Careers Fairs, Careers Resources, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers

world social work day

This blog entry is a part of the Graduate Fair Blog Series introducing sectors and industries which will be present at the University of Bath Graduate Fair, Tuesday 25th April. Please go here for more information about the fair and the employers present.


World Social Work Day was on Tuesday 21st March. Twitter was full of thanks for the hard work that social workers do and how much their work is valued.  Inspired by the quotes and the images from #WSWD17 I am writing a short blog entry giving you some information and links that will support you in deciding whether social work is the right career path for you.

What is social work?

The British Association of Social Workers describes it as:

Social work is a profession that is centred around people - from babies through to older people. The BASW Code of Ethics defines social work using the international definition of social work.

Social workers work with individuals and families to help improve outcomes in their lives. This may be helping to protect vulnerable people from harm or abuse or supporting people to live independently. Social workers support people, act as advocates and direct people to the services they may require. Social workers often work in multi-disciplinary teams alongside health and education professionals.

Where do you work?

You can work in a variety of organisations, from local authorities working with children or adults to NHS Trusts and other private or public sector organisations. You can work with a range of different people such as children, older people, refugees and asylum-seekers, the homeless, people with drug addiction and many more. Where people need support, a social worker is usually needed.

How do you become a social worker?

There are different routes to becoming a social worker. You can take a social work undergraduate degree or a postgraduate two year master’s degree. There may be bursaries but this changes year by year and you will need to research whether funding is available for you.  Two fast-track schemes also exist. Step-Up is an intensive full-time training programme that covers everything trainee social workers need to know in 14 months and is funded. Frontline is a two year funded full-time training programme, benefitting from intensive practical and academic training.


NB Frontline will be at our graduate fair in April! Take advantage of having social work experts at the fair and ask any questions you may have!


You can find more information on routes into social work here.

What you should think about before making a decision to become a social worker

  • The challenges of social work

Being a social worker is not an easy job, it is emotionally demanding and you often see a negative view of social workers in the media. Positive stories are rarely shared.  You need to be resilient and have a good support network around you to be able to successfully be a social worker. A good supporting network at work and at home is vital. Many students go into social work because they want to make a difference. Because you want to make a difference you are in a danger of putting all your time and energy into the work day and may quickly feel the effects of stress. A heavy workload is normal,  you need to be creative and adaptable to change and be prepared to have good time management skills. This is not a straight 9 to 5 job as you may have a lot of assessments to write up after your working day.

  • The rewards of social work

Social work is not known as a profession where you get a lot of rewards, however social workers value their position as someone who can support people in a crisis and help them back on track, help people achieve their goals and be able to see for themselves when progress is being made. This can be as little as support someone with severe anxiety go outside for a dog-walk to helping someone to turn their life around from a life of adolescent crime to be a valued member of his or her community. It is important for a social worker to remember the successes as a small change supported by a social worker can be a massive change for the client he or she helps.

You can read some examples of the rewards of social work here.

How to learn more about the world of social work

To be able to start your study you are expected to have an awareness of the challenges and rewards of the social work profession and for the postgraduate degree you will need to have some experience. You can get this by researching, volunteering or gaining paid work, and talking to people in the profession. Attend relevant employer events on campus, attend any events put on by professional bodies or Step-Up and Frontline, such as our graduate fair in April, see if there are any relevant volunteering opportunities by contacting Volunteering Centre, speak to your academics, and see if there are any social workers in your network of family and friends. You are also welcome to come and see a Careers Adviser with any questions you may have.

Asking, learning, volunteering and listening will help you decide whether this is the right career path for you. Read through additional information on University of Bath Bsc Social Work,  Prospects and The Association of British Social Workers

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Battling nerves before an interview

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📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Interviews, Tips & Hints

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It is natural to feel nervous in front of an interview, but sometimes it can all feel a bit too much. Here are some tips that I follow and that I hope can help you battle those nerves.

Preparation

This is an obvious one but the more you prepare, the better you will feel on the day. Make sure you read the personal criteria or person specification for the job and practise answering questions about the competencies listed. Read through our leaflet for advice on different type of interviews and how to best answer questions.

Brainstorm examples to use, write them down and then practise answering them out loud. Practise with a friend, with your careers adviser or use our Interview Stream software.

In addition, research the company and employer and come up with good reasons why you want to work there.

Be healthy

Get a good night’s sleep! Stay in the night before, watching a feel good movie so you go to sleep with a smile on your face. Being up all night doing last minute cramming won’t look good on your skin and lack of sleep may make you forget all the important points you remembered during the night. Avoid too much caffeine and make sure you eat a good breakfast.

Arrive early

Don’t get extra stressed because a train gets cancelled or a bus does not turn up. Arrive early and instead go for a walk around the area or sit at a café. Getting unduly stressed because of circumstances outside your control won’t help your nerves!

Breathing exercises

If you are feeling your nerves and anxiety are going out of control, try breathing exercises. These can be done in the morning at home, on the train, in the bathroom before you head in for the interview. They work for me, I hope they can work for you. NHS tells you how. Getting into the practice of meditation may also help.

Warm up your voice and body

I feel doing some exercise of the voice and body prepares the whole you for the interview ahead, this has worked for me several times. I have even written another blog post about it. Try it out and see if it works for you!

Be yourself

Don’t try and be someone you are not. Acting or talking like another person won’t be good for your nerves or your confidence. The employer is interested in who you are, not just the skills or the degree you have, show your personal energy and enthusiasm.

If none of this works and you need extra support....

Go and see a Careers Adviser to talk about strategies in how to deal with confidence or nerves during an interview. Together we can look at your experiences and skills to date and support you in articulating them well, giving  you more confidence in your skills and abilities. We also have a lot additional resources for you to read through.

If there are other reasons for why you are feeling anxious or you are feeling low on self-esteem, please go and see the Well-being team. Talk through what is going on in your life that are making you anxious.

We are here to support you!

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality – coming to your assessment centre soon?

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📥  Advice, Applications, Graduate Jobs, Interviews, Tips & Hints

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I remember when I first put on those Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, it blew me away! Just to clarify, I am not a gamer at all, the closest I have come to playing a game has been playing free games on my phone! I am, however, a massive sci-fi fan so the idea of being immersed into a virtual universe did appeal to me. Maybe it was this interest that made the journey into the VR universe so natural for me. Saying that, recent research states that 95% of people trying out VR say the same. It seems so real that you automatically act the way you would have done in the real world. Maybe this fact is why employers now are researching using VR in recruitment processes and at least one employer is already using it in some assessment centres. So what do you, as students, need to know?

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality typically refers to computer technologies that use software to generate the realistic images, sounds and other sensations that replicate a real environment (or create an imaginary setting), and simulate a user's physical presence in this environment (taken from wikipedia).

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For Virtual Reality to work you put on a headset which covers your eyes and ears completely, you are unable to see or hear the outside world. You only see the simulated environment in front of you. With the help of handsets you are able to move around the environment and complete tasks. You have a small space to move around in and the software prevents you from walking too far outside the zone (don’t worry, the likelihood of crashing into walls is low). It is currently mainly used for gaming as it gives the user the feeling of being fully immersed in the game.

Why are more and more employers researching the use of VR in recruitment processes?

Employers would like to be able assess a candidate’s authentic capabilities in doing the job. Compared to competency-based questions, where a candidate can prepare answers which not necessarily are all authentic, the VR environment is unexpected and can’t be prepared for. As research shows that the large majority of people trying out VR acts like they would do in real life, this means that employers can easier match the candidate skills and strengths with the job in question.

Employers are also researching using VR as a way for applicants to get a real feel for a company, how it is to work there, which goes beyond just looking at the website or the interview setting.  Companies would like to show their prospective employees how great it is to work there and VR may help with just that. VR can introduce you to the office, you may get a tour of the building,  meet your co-workers, be introduced to job tasks and real-life business scenarios. You may even be invited to an after work social event through VR! In an article Deutsche Bahn states they use VR to give potential employees the chance to “experience” different jobs on offer before they apply, for example looking over the shoulder of an electrician or a train driver.

It is already in use!

As stated above, several companies are using VR as a way of introducing their companies to potential applicants. In addition, VR in recruitment is already in use by at least one graduate recruiter, which started using VR in their assessment centre selection for their IT and digital graduate schemes in autumn 2017.

They says this on their website:

“By using Virtual Reality the assessor will be able to present situations to candidates that would otherwise be unfeasible in the conventional assessment process. The candidate will have complete freedom of movement within a 360 degree virtual world and will be able to move virtual objects using tracked motion controls. Although the Group cannot disclose what potential graduates can expect to do in the assessment centre, so as to not provide candidates with an advantage, the puzzles they will be tasked with will be designed to demonstrate the strengths and capabilities required of the Group’s future leaders.”

In addition, other companies are considering using VR in their recruitment to better assess candidates’ strengths and cognitive abilities. Although we do not know whether VR will be used by other companies, its popularity is increasing and therefore more may follow..

How can you prepare for VR?

I think it would be hard to prepare for a VR assessment. The employer won’t assume you have used it before, so you should get good instructions in how to use it before you start your tasks. As the employer would like to find a candidate that matches the skills and strengths they are looking for, I believe the best preparation is to be yourself and complete the tasks as you would do naturally. If you have a friend that has VR at home, then you can always ask them for a go, although be aware that the tasks set in the assessment centre probably will be different from VR gaming.

Be open and enthusiastic about it on the day, be yourself and enjoy the experience!

Additional articles for you to explore:

University of Warwick has written an excellent blog article about Virtual Reality.

Two other interesting articles:

https://www.cornerstoneondemand.com/rework/latest-recruiting-tool-virtual-reality

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/vr-interviews-lloyds-banking

 

 

Make volunteering count on your CV

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📥  Advice, Applications, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized

Volunteering work can be equally as useful as paid work experience when it comes to applying for jobs and many students forget to emphasize their volunteering experience on their CV or don’t include it at all. Here are some tips on how you can make your volunteering count on your CV.


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·         Some organisations value voluntary experience more than others

If you hope to make a career in the third sector or within international development, you may not be selected for an interview unless you have some volunteering experience! If you have relevant volunteering experience this needs to be emphasized in your CV and show up on the first page, under “Relevant Experience” or “Work Experience”. Too many times I have seen relevant volunteering experience hidden in the achievements or interests section, where employers may not see it. Remember, an employer usually only skims through a CV during the first selection process for a job!

·         Volunteering gives you transferable skills

You may not have any volunteering experience that is relevant for the actual job you are applying to, but that does not mean that your experience wasn’t useful. If you worked successfully in a team, mention it on a CV. If you worked in budgeting, this can emphasize your numerical skills or if you worked in fundraising, this may have increased your skills in persuasion. Look into more details about what skills the job is asking for and have a think about how your volunteering experiences can give you examples of those skills, and remember to include any specific achievements.

·         Tailor your volunteering experiences to company values

Have a read through the values of the company and tailor your volunteering experiences accordingly. Perhaps the company you are interested in have sustainability high on their agenda? Then your volunteering experience in environmental conservation may be relevant. Or maybe the company likes to be engaged in the local community? What then about your volunteering experience in a local charity? Make sure to highlight the most relevant volunteering experiences.

·         Make international volunteering count

Apart from following the tips above, if you have volunteered in certain countries or areas of the world, this may be beneficial for an international company to know about. Your increased interpersonal skills and increased international awareness may be extra worth for companies that have projects or networks in those particular regions.

To summarize, my final piece of advice is to tailor, tailor, tailor your volunteering experiences to the job you are applying for. What would be important for the employer to know about you? How can your volunteering experience benefit the company / organisation? How can your volunteering experience show who you are?

Book a quick query with a careers adviser if you need any support in writing your CV, or attend one of our workshops or talks. Book an appointment or a place on a talk through MyFuture.

Additional resources:

https://www.bathstudent.com/volunteer/

https://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/public-service-charity-and-social-work/advice/288223-volunteer-your-way-to-a-graduate-job

https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network

 

Research careers in charities and employee research

📥  Uncategorized

The third and final post in our series on research careers in social sciences and humanities. The final post summarises a panel of four speakers working in research roles in charities and employee research organisations.

The first speaker works as an Impact Manager for an educational charity. She evaluates the work that the charity does, creates and administers surveys and analyses data.  She started as an assistant researcher and then moved up. Her role involves strategy as well as research – she helps colleagues think through how their projects fit with the overall aims of the charity. She highlighted that the charity sector really needs research skills.

The second speaker, a research manager for an employee research consultancy, puts together surveys and questionnaires for clients and analyses the results using psychological theories. Projects focus on employee wellbeing and change management within organisations. The speaker said it would be useful to get broad experience of job roles before undertaking her current role as it's useful to gain insights into how companies work. A Masters in Organisational Psychology may be helpful for business psychology/employee engagement roles. Consultancy roles often have long working hours whereas in-house roles tend to have better work/life balance. There are lots of in-house roles in business psychology within learning and development/HR departments.

The third speaker works for a charity which organises volunteering years for young people. She evaluates and needs to demonstrate the impact of the work the charity does. She analyses data and looks at trends. She has worked with banks and the charity’s funders as well as internal departments within the organisation. She does internal strategy and consulting work as well as research. Her interest in charities began at university when she ran the Charitable Society. She did a masters in politics during which she learned statistics and research methods.

The fourth speaker works for an educational charity, which she described as a very research-based organisation. She evaluates the impact of the charity’s work using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods. She noted that big data and data mining are becoming increasingly important for the charity sector. The speaker did a classical studies degree then worked part-time at a university; during this time she realised she loved data and databases. She talked about the importance of making research real for the people she works with and showing how research is informing organisational programmes and strategy. The charity works collaboratively with academic researchers.  She mentioned The Fair Education website which lists fifty educational charities.

See also our post on working in the charity sector, and our Careers Service guide to working in the charity sector.

 

 

Research roles in think tanks and social research organisations

📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Employer Visit Report, For PhDs, For Taught Postgraduates, Graduate Jobs, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers

The second of our posts summarising a panel event on research careers in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This post will focus on working for think tanks and social research organisations - this panel included three speakers.
The first speaker had had a varied career before working for think tanks. He did a Classics degree followed by a graduate scheme and then a post graduate diploma in journalism. He got some work experience at a national newspaper then worked on health magazines and journals before working for a health-related think tank. Health-related think tanks include The Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund.  The speaker's current role involves meeting with funders as well as conducting research and managing a research team of six.  Think Tanks can be funded in different ways, and they need to demonstrate to their funders how they are making a difference.  His role involves writing press briefings and reports, and it's important to be able to communicate non-academically. Networking and communication skills are vital. In the speaker's view a PhD wasn't necessary. Work experience  is important– do approach think tanks directly for work experience. It can be helpful to have an interest in the policy focus area of the think tank, and think tanks usually have political leanings. The speaker noted that people often do something else before working in thank tanks.
The second speaker, a lecturer, had previously been a researcher at the National Centre for Social Research. During his time there he worked on designing surveys for the government and went on secondment in the Cabinet Office. He still does research for external clients as well as his academic commitments which include teaching research methods. He noted that for research outside of academia it's important to be able to communicate with clients and manage projects. When recruiting The National Centre for Social Research look for hard research skills – SPSS and Excel, and also for a masters degree with a strong research component. It's important to do your dissertation well and to get a good mark. The panellist emphasised the importance of being specific in your CV about which research skills and software packages you have used. Work experience with social research organisations will also be highly valued.

The third speaker worked as a labour market researcher for a social research organisation. He had also had a varied career; after his masters in Economics he did the graduate scheme at IPSOS Mori. His role there involved research design, literature reviews, analysing qualitative and quantitative data and lots of report writing. He noted that IPSOS Mori do both qualitative and quantitative research; there are plenty of opportunities for people who only want to do one or the other.He noted that degrees in history and politics can be very useful for building analytical skills. Projects can last anywhere between two weeks and two years. Amongst the skills needed in his current role, he mentioned skills in persuasion and validating arguments with evidence; he particularly emphasised the importance of being able to communicate the vision and impact of your research – this is essential for think tanks. It's also important to be curious and inquisitive. In his current role he uses some of the same statistical packages he used at university. In his view it’s possible to teach yourself statistics through online courses, and he mentioned a book call ‘Statistics Without Tears’. In the speaker's opinion a Masters wouldn’t be essential but could be useful for building confidence. He suggested that a Masters in research methods  could be more useful for think tanks and a Masters in Public Policy may be more useful for charities.People who work for think tanks often have an interest in the policy area of the think tank they work for.
The speaker said there are about 50 social research organisations in London, and also clusters of social research organisations in Leicester, Manchester, Edinburgh and Northern Ireland. Lots of social research organisations offer internships which are usually paid. Think tanks tend to do new/primary research whereas charities tend to use others’ research.
The third speaker was a PhD student and researcher at a Brussels-based think tank. Think Tanks can be small so multi-tasking and networking skills are important. He commented on the close relationship between lobbying and research; it's important to be able to communicate to lobbyists and explain the value of your research and how/where it would be used in a short space of time. Hard research skills such as stats and SPSS also important.

Useful links

Careers Service guide to social policy and social research careers

Guide to working in think tanks by the University of Oxford Careers Service

Social Research Association - has a jobs board and a list of social research organisations

 

Research roles in parliament and government

📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Employer Visit Report, For PhDs, For Taught Postgraduates, Graduate Jobs, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers

I recently attended a panel event on research roles outside of academia in Humanities and Social Sciences. There was a fascinating array of speakers from central and local government, think tanks, charities and social research organisations. I'm going to write up the information gleaned from the speakers in a series of blog posts - starting today with research in government and parliament.*

Research roles in parliament

The first speaker we heard from was A, a Senior Research Analyst in parliament. A spends most of his time reading and writing, taking questions on aspects of policy from MPs,  and preparing briefings.  He emphasised that his current role uses research skills rather than research methodologies – reading and synthesising information very quickly and working out what is most important. A sometimes needs to challenge or clarify the requests he receives for research – sometimes what people think they need to know isn’t what they actually need to know. He also emphasised the importance of understanding customers’ needs and producing a brief with a coherent narrative that can be understood by non-specialists, and clearly explaining any complex terms and jargon. The role involves gathering together others’ research rather than conducting primary research, and A felt that research skills were more important than specific knowledge, which can be learned on the job.

Before his current role A did a PhD and then a series of short term research contracts. In A's current team of 8,  4 people have PhDs, of which two currently work on topics related to their PhD. A didn’t feel a PhD was necessary to do the job. His advice on getting in to research roles in parliament included showing genuine interest in the job, and highlighting your ability to judge between different information sources and communicate to range of audiences.  He mentioned the good conditions of work, standard working hours and opportunities to work with interesting people. Research jobs in parliament come up rarely, and are advertised on www.parliament.co.uk.

We also heard from B, a parliamentary researcher and PhD student. Before his current role B had had a range of experience and voluntary roles - immediately after his first degree he worked as a campaign intern and then for an NGO. His current role involves  reading local newspapers and reporting back on issues to the MP he works for, doing casework (for which he makes use of the parliamentary research unit) and looking after the MP’s website. In B's view the role is a good way to gain insight into how parliament works. He took initiative to contact the MP and ask for work, and emphasised the importance of internships and work experience; volunteering on local election campaigns could be useful. When working for an MP it is important to have the right political sympathies. B noted that lots of the people he works with have higher degrees; he considered this useful for honing skills in writing and condensing information. Roles are advertised on the w4mp website.

Research roles in government

We heard from three speakers working in research positions in central and local government

C, a researcher in the Department for Communities and Local Government, works on research projects relating to local public services - current projects include analysing the impact of Brexit on local public services. C did a PhD and then short term research contracts for universitiesand economic consultancies. She said she prefers research in government to research in academia because of the greater sense of impact and audience; she also values the team research environment of  the Civil Service. C entered the Civil Service through direct entry – there are quite a few direct entry analytical roles advertised on the Civil Service jobs website. Her role involves gathering evidence to ensure better decision making, using both qualitative and quantitative research skills. She felt she is valued for her analytical and communication skills rather than specific knowledge. She works at pace and has to get to grips with a wide range of policy areas.  She commented on the good work/life balance within Civil Service but also on pressure due to reduced budgets and staffing. She works closely with policy colleagues, and noted that some policy roles are also heavily analytical.

D works for a County Council in the Insight team of 10 people. The Insight team is part of the wider Performance team of 40, which includes analysts, researchers and technical staff. Before his current role D worked in finance and performance management. D’s core business is storytelling with data; he mentioned the importance of  communicating an impactful story in a short space of time. Skills in stakeholder engagement are as crucial to his role as analytical skills. IT and technical skills are also important.

The final speaker in this first panel, E, had worked in the private sector before setting up her own public sector consultancy. E observed that there are lots of ways to do freelance work with organisations like Capita and Manpower. E volunteered for Citizens Advice which was useful for developing the interviewing and active listening skills she uses as part of research. E uses high level qualitative and quantitative research skills to conduct situational analysis of organisations; she analyses what’s working and what isn’t, looks at work culture and aspirations of staff. E noted that there is a move towards action-led research, with a focus on continuous sharing and learning throughout research projects - the nature of her research work is therefore highly collaborative. Like A, E noted that it’s sometimes necessary to challenge the premise of clients’ requests and research questions – sometimes there are other issues than the ones the client presents with or requests research on. It's important to be curious and to be able to challenge views and say no.

See also my colleague Sue's post on working in the Civil Service, and our guide to careers in Politics.

*Names and full details of organisations have been taken out