Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Topic: For Taught Postgraduates

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

 

An international student's guide to succeeding in the UK job market

  

📥  Advice, Applications, Career Development, Commercial Awareness, For Taught Postgraduates, International Students, Interviews

Welcome to the first of our international -themed blog posts to mark International Careers Week.

This post is aimed at any international students looking to build their career right here in the UK. We know that many of you are very career-minded so here are a few tips to make sure you are making the most of your time here and giving yourselves the best chance of success.

  1. Get informed
    Make sure you are aware of your rights as regards work permissions. The Student Immigration Service are putting on a talk to refresh your memories on working in the UK after your studies and I really do recommend you go. The rules are complex and ever-changing so find out what the law actually says, and pick up a copy of our advice for employers too.
  2. Get ready
    We have laid on the complete series of our popular workshops for international students this week, as well as an assessment centre workshop, so you can perfect your skills and stand out for all the right reasons to employers.
  3. Get involved
    It's never too late to join a society, start volunteering, maybe even take the opportunity to build up some part-time work experience. All these things will be useful boosts to your CV as well as helping you pick up that sought-after commercial awareness and improve your English language skills.
  4. Get feedback
    Our expert team of Careers Advisers are very happy to give you feedback on your CVs, applications, cover letters and also help you prepare for interviews. It might seem a little scary to come and ask us to give you feedback - but that 15 minutes can make the difference between being on the 'no' pile and being invited to the next stage of the process.
  5. Get Connected
    They say 'It's not about what you know, it's about who you know'. Now this is not the whole truth, but having access to a large network of connections and being ale to ask them for help is surely a good thing, right? So, we have worked together with the Students Union and Alumni to offer you a skills session on networking and getting ahead in business, followed by Get Connected, a chance to ask alumni how they got to where they are now, and get a free drink along the way.
  6. Get ahead
    You'll see we have many jobs being advertised on MyFuture at the moment. But before you excitedly apply to all the ones that look interesting, do make sure you check on the employer website whether they are accepting applications from international students. Not all of them do, and checking will ensure you don't waste a lot of time preparing an application only to have it rejected.

 

Job-hunting in the UK? 9 things you need to know.

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📥  Advice, Applications, For Taught Postgraduates, Graduate Jobs, International Students, Networking, Tips & Hints

 

For many international students, starting their job search in the UK is one of their top priorities. But if you've just arrived here, how should you start? What are the key things to be aware of? And is there anything to avoid?

Especially if you have only just arrived and are still experiencing an element of culture shock, decoding the UK recruitment market might seem like a big ask. So have a look at our handy guide to job-hunting in the UK and start feeling more in control!

 

1. Recruitment starts early

The top firms, who recruit a lot of graduates, like to start early and give themselves plenty of time to select the graduates they are looking for to start in 2016. Even though start dates vary between July and September, some schemes are already open for applications. Many organisations recruit on a rolling basis, which means they continue until all positions are filled. So applying early to them works better; leaving it later means you may miss that opportunity. However, some companies do advertise much later so there will always be jobs to apply for.

 

2. 'Graduate' jobs are for postgraduates too

In the UK, Masters degrees are not as common as in many other countries and also not required by the majority of recruiters. So postgraduates will need to apply for the same positions as graduates from Bachelors degrees. From the company's point of view, the training they give you will still be the same. However, you may find as a postgraduate that you are able to progress through the company at a higher rate, as you will have additional experience.

 

3. Vacation time - when it is and when it isn't

Non-EU students are able to work for 20 hours during semester time and full-time in vacations. This means that internships in the summer vacation period are not available to postgraduate students, as their intensive Masters courses count that period as study time, allocated to the research and writing of the dissertation. Check with your Department, and also the International Student Advice Team, as to when you are able to start full-time work following the submission of your dissertation.

 

4. Don't be in a rush to write your CV

Many students come in and get CVs checked, only to start their graduate job hunt and realise that CVs are not always needed or asked for. Instead, focus on thinking about what jobs you would like to do. If you know, that will make your job search more strategic and targeted. If you don't - don't panic! Come and speak to us - we are experts at helping people work out what jobs interest them and what skills they enjoy using.

 

5. Do something non-academic!

Employability in the UK is about a whole range of skills, not just academic excellence. Organisations seek graduates who are great team players, have the emotional intelligence to work with a range of people and situations, and that can communicate well with others whatever their status. To develop these skills, join a club or society, take up a sport and/or get a part-time job.

 

6. Learn the language of employers

For organisations here it is really important to hire graduates who share their values and beliefs - such graduates are more likely to make decisions and choose actions in the 'company way'. So attend some employer presentations, talk to past students and visit the Careers Fair to get the inside track on what matters to each company. That way, you will find out which companies match your own beliefs and values - and you'll be a lot happier working for them.

 

7. Get connected

You may already be familiar with the saying 'It's not what you know, it's who you know'. It completely makes sense, then, to try and expand your network so that you know more people, and in more places. We encourage students to put together a LinkedIn profile and start building a network - initially within Bath, and with friends elsewhere, and then expanding to include organisations you would like to work with, Bath alumni and outwards. If all this sounds really hard - come to our LinkedIn Day in October or come and speak to one of our Advisers.

 

8. Read the news

Or watch it, or listen to it, or stream it on the phone when you are waiting for the bus. Companies prize business awareness very highly - if you know what is happening in the economy, or which company your target organisation has just merged with, or what effect the cold weather will have on biscuit consumption, you will come across as exactly the sort of well-informed graduate likely to be snapped up. And starting now means you can do little and often, rather than having to cram it all in in the two days before your interview.

 

9. Get some expert advice

Careers are complex. The pressure to make 'the right decision' or submit 'the perfect application' is hard to resist. If you would like just to talk it over with someone, or have a friendly pair of eyes look over the answers to your application questions to make sure you are doing yourself justice, then please book an appointment. We are very much looking forward to seeing you! And remember - coming early means you're more likely to make better applications - please don't wait until you have had 20 rejections to come and see us. We can still help you - but better to come in after 2 or 3 rejections to check you're making the most of your applications.