Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

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Topic: Careers Resources

Careers in the Civil Service

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📥  Advice, Career Choice, Careers Resources, Commercial Awareness, Finding a Job, Graduate Jobs, Internships, Sector Insight

Careers in the Civil Service


This blog post was originally posted by Sue Briault, but has been updated to include current information and links. For up to date news and information about Civil Service Fast Stream and for the chance of interacting with current fast streamers, make sure to like Civil Service Fast Stream Careers on Facebook


About the Civil Service

The Civil Service does the practical and administrative work of government. More than half of all civil servants provide services direct to the public. If you want to know more about the Civil Service and it's purpose then go here. If you are interested in the work of the more than 60 government departments and over 100 agencies then these can easily be found on the GOV UK website where every department and agency has a space.

Jobs within the Civil Service can range from administrative positions within departments to embassy posts with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).  There are also a number of professions employed within the Civil Service including economists, statisticians and scientists . Staff may work anywhere in the United Kingdom and possibly overseas, although the majority involved in policy work are located in London. There are increasing numbers of opportunities within the devolved regions and some departments are based in locations such as Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

When applying to jobs in the civil service it is important to research the Civil Service competencies, which sets out how the Civil Service want people to work. Research the competencies and write down examples from your academic background, work experiences and/or extra-curricular activities to see how they compare and fit with each competency.

Civil Service Fast Stream

This is the accelerated development programme for graduates. Applications opened in September and will close in October 2017, so if you are interested, apply now! This includes entry into the Diplomatic Service. It is also possible to apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream even though you are working within the Civil Service.  There are several different Fast Streams and you can find more information about the schemes on the Fast Stream website.

  • Analytical Options (AFS):

Government Economic Service (GES)
Government Operational Research Service (GORS)
Government Statistical Service (GSS)
Government Social Research Service (GSR)

  • Other Options:

Generalist
Human Resources
Diplomatic Service
Diplomatic Economic Scheme
Houses of Parliament
Science and Engineering (only open to postgraduates)
Commercial
Finance
Government Communication Service
Project Delivery
Digital, Data and Technology
Other Civil Service Graduate Schemes

Other Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes run by individual departments can be hard to find out about so keeping an eye on the Civil Service Jobs website is important as not all have dedicated webpages available to see year round (see  section below).

It is also worth noting that many Civil Service graduate schemes make offers of jobs at the grade below to ‘near misses’. This happens in the Fast Stream too. Those that scored only a few points below the overall benchmark may be made an offer or an interview for a role at Executive Officer grade (the grade below the one Fast Streamers start on). This isn’t always well publicised because employers don’t want to raise candidate expectations but it is worth being aware that applications to the Fast Stream or other Graduate Scheme can be a good entry point into the Civil Service.

Other services who recruit graduates include MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Other Civil Service Jobs

The place to look for all Civil Service vacancies is https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk. Create an account and you can then set up some preferences and then receive regular job updates by email. You will need to click "Show more" to be able to select Job Grade as a preference. Why should you look here? Because there are many jobs that would be suitable for graduates within the Civil Service that are not part of the Fast Stream or other Graduate Schemes.

Frequently spotted on Civil Service Jobs :

HMRC Social Researchers
Temporary Statistical Officers
Temporary Assistant Economists
Various individual Scientist Posts suitable for both undergraduates and postgraduates
Graduate Internships at Executive Officer level

Work Experience

There are two schemes available:

You will find that placements are available through your placement office in some government departments and others may be advertised through the Civil Service Jobs website mentioned previously. There is not a strong expectation that you will have gained experience within the Civil Service before applying for a graduate job there. Think about the competencies that they recruit against and develop your experience to demonstrate these.

Nationality Requirements

There is strict criteria regarding nationality for entry to the Civil Service and comprehensive guidelines are available here. Any job in the Civil Service is open to applicants who are UK nationals or have dual nationality (with one being British). About 75% of Civil Service posts are also open to Commonwealth citizens and nationals of any of the member states of the European Economic Area (EEA), although at some point this latter group will have their status changed once the UK's exit from the EU is settled. I am advised that the Civil Service is not a Tier 2 sponsor.

 

Graduate skills in the world of the future

📥  Advice, Career Choice, Career Development, Careers Resources, inspire, Labour Market Intelligence, Sector Insight

Hardly a day goes by without a news report on robots either taking over our jobs or revolutionising our lives. I recently attended The World of Work Conference at Henley Business School where the message was loud and clear: THE ROBOTS ARE COMING and we all need to adapt and ready ourselves for this new world of work.

It is inevitable, technology gives birth new career paths and along the way some jobs disappear as machines can do them faster. According to the BBC, approximately 35% of current jobs in the UK are at risk. Nesta have put together a handy quiz which assesses the probability of a robot taking over your job. While Transport for London is embroiled in a row with Uber, driverless cars pose a threat to the whole industry (ok..I'm saying this for dramatic effect).

Truth is technological innovation has given birth to new industries. In May this year, the Tech Trends Report, now in its 10th year, provided a fascinating insight into emerging technologies that are on a growth trajectory. They identified 150 trends across a wide range of sectors from Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Bitcoin to Genomics. The one that caught my attention was the development of Invisibility Cloaks. Researchers at Queen Mary - University of London are experimenting with electromagnetic and audio waves, tiny lenses that bend light and reflective materials to hide objects in plain sight.

In a report by Microsoft 65% of school students in university today will take up jobs that don’t exist yet. So what does all this mean in practical terms? If you are embarking on your graduate career, I think it is important to stay focused on sectors and trends with potential for future growth. This awareness will make your career progression easier and potentially offer greater job security. In his book 'What to do when machines do everything' the message is clear - work on developing personal skills such as empathy and creativity (essentially the stuff robots aren't good at - yet). Below are the top 10 skills needed in 2020 (that's round the corner).

Over the next few weeks we are going to blog about careers in emerging industries such as Big Data, Synthetic Biology, Robotics and Regenerative Medicine. So stay tuned....!

 

Welcome Freshers and Returners!

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📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Tips & Hints

Welcome Freshers and Returners

Ah, you found (or re-found) our careers blog, well done! Now, quickly,  subscribe to our blog (link on the right hand side) and welcome to a wealth of careers resources, inspiring articles and careers news, employer and graduate interviews and much more. Come back regularly and you will find something  that will help you every step in  your career journey.

Are you a fresher?

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Enjoy your first few weeks at Bath. If you’re going to the Freshers’ Fair this week, you’ll probably find yourself signing up for clubs and societies, or other activities like volunteering. All of the above are great for your CV, as potential employers look for students who can demonstrate their initiative, have strong communication and organisation skills (e.g. the ability to juggle coursework with extracurricular activities and jobs!), and have held some positions of responsibility during their time at University. It is never too early to think about your career!

Make sure you visit us in our wonderful new University hub in the city centre, the Virgil Building, check out or Careers website and be sure to like our Facebook page! In addition, register for MyFuture to be kept up to date on careers events, jobs and to set up an appointment with one of the careers advisers.

Returning to second or final year?

So, you’re back after the long summer break, welcome back! Now’s a really great time to be thinking about your career. Do you know what you want to do when you graduate? If not, you could consider booking an appointment with one of our careers advisers to discuss your options, please do so through MyFuture. In addition, we have over 150 employers coming to campus for our Careers Fair later on 19th and 20th of October, and in the meantime we have lots of employer events and skills development workshops for you to attend, all bookable through MyFuture.

For those returning from placement, please be aware that we have moved to our wonderful new University hub in the city centre, the Virgil Building, we hope to see you there soon!

Over the coming months, we’ll be blogging on topics such as:

Making the most of the careers fair
Aceing interviews and assessment centres
How to start your internship and job hunt
Equality and Diversity
Alternatives to Grad Schemes

.......and much more! So make sure you check in regularly! Subscribe, if you haven't already, you know you want to!

 

 

Opportunities in Government for scientists and engineers

📥  Advice, Career Choice, Careers Resources, Event, For PhDs, For Taught Postgraduates, inspire, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers

I went to a fascinating talk a couple of weeks ago, organised by the Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation,  by the Government Office for Science about career opportunities for scientists and engineers in the Civil Service. Go-Science provides policy advice and support to the Government Chief Scientific Adviser in carrying out his role in advising the Prime Minister and Cabinet on a wide variety of areas including Risk and Resilience, Infrastructure, Trade and Finance, Energy and Climate Change, Cities, and Data and Analytics. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser is also the Head of the Science and Engineering profession for around 10,000 scientist and engineers who work in government in a variety of roles from specialist to policy as part of the Government Science and Engineering (GSE) profession.
This YouTube video provides a useful overview of the Government Science and Engineering Profession.

We heard from three recent science graduates working for Government; as you read their stories you’ll see that they moved around a bit after they graduated, a timely reminder for those uncertain about their next step is that where you start isn’t necessarily where you’ll end up, and our interests and career plans often change and develop over time:

Jenni completed a Masters degree in Meteorology at the University of Reading and worked as a weather forecaster in Singapore for a number of years for oil and gas clients., She then returned to the UK and worked providing forecasts for media and film production companies. During this time she realised that she wanted to work at the science-policy interface within government. Jenni took an intern policy research role (which was fully paid) in the Government Office for Science before achieving a permanent position on promotion to her current role at Cabinet Office.

Alex is part of the Horizon Scanning Team, Government Office for Science. Her role involves advising government on the evidence and scientific basis for new technologies. Alex did a Biology degree and then a Masters in Marine Science. While working in a wildlife conservation start-up she became interested in technology, and saw an advert for an internship with the Government Office for Science; her paid internship was initially for six months, and following a successful review her contract has been extended for a further six months. Alex enjoys using her scientific knowledge to in way that has real world impact.

Jerome is currently doing the Science and Engineering Fast Stream. He did an undergraduate degree which included a year in industry and then a PhD in theoretical structural Biology. He realised during his PhD that he wanted to do science that was more applied and had more impact. His first role was working for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, where he was part of the research funding team, managing funding calls, visiting universities and working on Equality and Diversity policy. He realised that he wanted a career that made use of his intellectual capacities, and considered working for think tanks and consultancies before settling on the Civil Service. His current role involves writing briefings and speeches for ministers, and he has liaised with a wide range of groups including academic, the NHS and patients, and frequently gets to meet with very senior people in external organisations.

Some general insights and tips from the three graduates on working as scientists in the Civil Service:
- Roles can involve researching areas of science and technology that the government wants more information on – not necessarily from your own specialism.
- The analytical skills gained as part of your science degree can be put to good use outside of the lab in a range of jobs from understanding research reports, to commissioning new work.
- They were not expected to have particular areas of technical expertise, but rather to be have a broad knowledge, scientific training and interest in science and engineering which enables them to get to grips with new areas quickly.
- There are roles that do require particular technical skills and enable the development of specialist science and engineering careers in many organisations of the public sector such as Safety, Security, Defence (both military and civilian), Public Health, the Met Office and many, many, more- the role of Government scientist and engineers, as with all civil servants, is to support the priorities set by the Government of the day.
- Roles are varied and include real responsibility from the outset supported by induction, training, and development opportunities.
- To stay in touch with opportunities follow the GSE Blog: https://governmentscienceandengineering.blog.gov.uk/

Getting in to science policy
If you have a particular interest on working on science to inform policy or indeed the policy of science there are opportunities in the Civil Service, and scientific learned societies (e.g. Royal Society, Institute of Physics). Some entry level roles may requires a Masters or PhD. (https://wellcome.ac.uk/jobs/graduate-development-programme) has a graduate scheme. This article by Queen Mary, University of London Careers Service has a useful summary of organisations work in science policy and relevant events and training courses. If you’re wanting to get into science policy, think about getting some short-term experience (internships are sometimes advertised on the Campaign for Science and Engineering website, and there are internships for Research-Council funded PhD students to work in a range of policy organisations), keep up to date with scientific issues that affect public policy, and build your networks through sites like LinkedIn and our own Bath Connection.

For other ideas for non lab-based career options for scientists, take a look at our guide to Alternative Careers in Science.

 

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

Bath3

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!

good-luck-1200588_960_720

 

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

nervous

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!

 

 

 

 

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