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    The UCL Careers team use this Blog to share their ‘news and views’ about careers with you. You will find snippets about a whole range of career related issues, news from recruiters and links to interesting articles in the media.

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    Archive for May, 2016

    Working in R&D and Innovation consultancy

    By S Donaldson, on 20 May 2016

    AndreaDr Andrea Sanfilippo worked as a research assistant at UCL (whoop whoop!) and then gained a PhD in Theoretical Physics from the Fritz-Haber Institute of the Max-Planck Society. Now a Senior Research and Development and Innovation Consultant at Deloitte, Andrea talked to us about his career.

    How did you move from academia to your current role?

    I decided to move back to Italy for personal reasons and, at the same time, because the Italian government issued incentives for the “return of the brains” (R&D TAX incentives for researchers – and not only researchers – who studied at least 18 months abroad). Also, I was not willing to be part of the Italian academic system (pretty feudal unfortunately). Since in Italy there is a lack of opportunities in the Quantum Chemistry sector, I looked for other opportunities closely related to my scientific background. EU grants consultancy was one of them. Most university group leaders and professors apply for public and EU funding. I myself was awarded a Marie-Curie EU scholarship. Some general EU projects are made of consortia made of companies and universities. Hence, companies (EU consultancy or internal EU projects offices in companies) are often willing to hire people with a strong academic background (incl. PhD). During the interview I just provided my academic experience and willingness to support innovation.

    What does a normal working day look like for you?

    The daily activities consist of elaborating EU proposals (scientific, managerial and EU impacts parts), discussing with consortia or clients about new innovative project ideas, and setting up consortia made of universities and enterprises.

    What are the best things about working in your role?

    The fact you deal with many different realities, like SMEs and large enterprises, and you can experience the very different approaches to innovation and state-of-the-art technologies in various sectors.

    What are the biggest challenges? 

    The biggest challenges are that employer wants you to win as many projects as possible (consultancy companies get a “success fee” when the proposal is awarded EU funding, companies get the funding), no matter whether innovative ideas are good or not. For the same reason they may sign contracts with companies lacking skills and innovation potential. Sometimes you feel like a financial broker, since there is a certain level of uncertainty in the success of the proposals. These aspects can make this job quite stressful.

    Is a PhD essential for your role?

    A PhD is not essential, but it can make the difference. You have to write even 100-150 page proposals (in English language), and a person with a PhD usually has a much more organised modus operandi (they already organised their own PhD project for 3-4 years), expertise with academic English (incl. publications), a broader view on science, and stronger expertise in their own sector.

    Where do people go from here?

    Coming from a consultancy company, I see the following paths:

    1 (short term) – EU office in a large company. Certain companies have even 10 people dealing with EU proposals writing. Such positions allow you to focus more in detail on a specific sector, instead of dealing with a plethora of different companies and areas.

    2 (medium term) – Innovation Manager or Technology Strategist: you can manage R&D and Innovation activities, elaborate the best R&D avenues on a 5-10 years basis for the CEO, and manage R&D projects.

    3 (medium to long term) – CTO. You can manage the entire innovation and R&D activities of a company.

    What top tips would you pass on to a PhD student/post-doc interested in this type of work?

    1 Ask yourself: where do I want to be in 5 years? Am I really interested in leaving the academic sector, maybe forever (5 years out of your PhD or post-doc, universities or R&D centres are no longer interested in hiring you)? Do you prefer to work for consortia in many different sectors or to focus on your own sector of interest?

    2 Keep in mind there are a few companies in the EU grants sector, so it is a niche sector. A lot of people choose to become freelancers.

    3 If you would like to keep focusing on your sector of interest, you might want to apply to EU projects offices in specific (large) companies. The “con” about being in a consultancy company is that companies often do not appreciate people lacking strong expertise in their sector.

    Life as a management consultant at BCG

    By Vivienne C Watson, on 11 May 2016

    Alex Bostrom graduated from Oxford with a PhD in History. He tells us how he started his career in Boston Consulting Group and what being a management consultant is like.

    Tell us about your jobBCG

    I work as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. Consulting covers a wide range of activities, but essentially our job is to help companies to improve their performance, working with them to find solutions for existing problems and develop their strategy to move forward. We generally work with clients for two to three months at a time, so our projects are short and intense, but always interesting.

    How did you move from a PhD to your current role?

    I studied History for my undergraduate and Master’s degrees, and then for my doctorate. It’s fair to say that I did not originally see myself as a consultant. I loved my PhD, and thought seriously about being an academic, but I realised that while I was fascinated by my research, my thesis was only likely to be read by a couple of people, and one of those would be my mum! I applied to consulting as my research drew to a close, attracted by the opportunity to experience a wide variety of challenges in a very short timeframe, and the chance to work on real life practical issues. Once I got started, I never looked back!

    What does an average working day look like?

     The great thing about consulting is that there is no average working day. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true. The pace of the work means that each day we are continually encountering new challenges and tackling new problems. One week I might be flying off to the client site to discuss the company’s recent performance, others I might be in the office brainstorming ideas or training. The exciting part is not knowing what new projects you might be working on next.

    How does your PhD help you in your job?

    Despite the apparent disconnect between French military history and modern business, my PhD comes in useful every day. Studying for the doctorate taught me key research skills: being able to assimilate data quickly, formulating and testing hypotheses, and communicating findings clearly and concisely are pivotal tools as a consultant.

    What are the best things about your job?

    The job has many things in its favour. Working on fascinating projects for multinational clients is exciting, but the best part of the job is the people I get to interact with. Everyone is highly motivated, intelligent, but also humble. There is a great culture where everyone is eager to offer help and advice whenever you encounter a problem. The willingness to go the extra mile to help out a colleague never ceases to amaze me.

    What are the downsides?

    The workload can be challenging, but everyone is aware of that when they join. Part of the job is being willing to turn tasks around at short notice to meet tight deadlines

    What tips would you give researchers wanting to move into the same, or similar, role?

    I would highly encourage researchers to consider consulting, even if they feel they do not yet have deep business knowledge. While it is useful to gain some preliminary understanding of business strategy, at the start, all that’s required is the ability to think logically. You will quickly learn all the rest. The best approach is to attend one of the many recruiting events held by consultancy firms, and speak with them to get a feel for the industry and whether it would be a right fit for you.

    Can Social Media Get You a Job?

    By S Donaldson, on 9 May 2016

    selfie picImage taken from Justien Van Zele

    Have you seen that new Scapchat filter that makes the bottom of your face really thin so you have a huge forehead and a teeny tiny pin mouth? Yeah, well that particular bit of social media probably isn’t going to help you get a job. But believe it or not the ol’ internet can be quite useful.

    Jobvite’s most recent Recruiter Nation survey shows that 92% of US employers use social media to support recruitment. This number is much lower, at only about 40%, in the UK. But that’s still a significant chunk of employers, and with a third of those surveyed planning to up their spend on social media recruitment, we reckon it’s worth a blog post.

    So here are a few things to keep in mind for maximising the career-potential of social media:

    Social media is an information goldmine

    You know how you can ‘like’ Justin Bieber on Facebook and ‘follow’ Kanye West’s latest rants on Twitter? Well you can do the same for lots of employers too. And it doesn’t really matter which industry you’re into either. Organisations have twitter accounts, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles to connect with clients and future employees, and larger organisations will often have accounts dedicated to just their graduate schemes.

    You’ll find vacancy, event and deadline details through these channels, and they’ll also help you increase your ‘commercial awareness’, that elusive competency so many employers call for – which basically means that you understand how their company and the wider sector work. Joining relevant groups on LinkedIn or Facebook is another brilliant way to keep up to date with industry news.

    And it doesn’t stop there. You could actually contact people and ask some questions. Weird, right? But on LinkedIn it’s totally normal. Not just normal, it’s kind of the whole point, networking and such. There’s no better way to find out what it’s like to work in a certain role or organisation than by asking the people doing just that. It’ll help you determine which roles are right for you, and show motivation and initiative. There are even researcher-specific social networks you can join, such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu and Piirus, which make it easier to initiate collaborations and keep abreast of the latest research in your field.

    Importantly, although LinkedIn is great for making new contacts and may seem like the most ‘professional’ network (and it certainly appears to be in the US), 75% of UK recruiters report Facebook as their most popular channel for selecting candidates, with LinkedIn coming in third place after Twitter. So try not to view these platforms as simply ‘social’ social networks. For example, at UCL Careers we’re totally hip and down-with-the-kids and whatnot. We have a Facebook page and a general careers, researcher careers, graduate, and TalentBank twitter account. Follow us for details of our events programmes and to hear about job opportunities.

    Careers Facebook

     

    You can build yourself an ‘online brand’

    Just as you may use social media to build your awareness of employers, employers may do the same right back at you. Use this to your advantage. On the most direct end of the scale, we know some recruiters use LinkedIn to proactively contact people with desired skillsets. Make sure they don’t miss you by having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile which clearly states any solid desirable skills you possess, such as specific programming and spoken languages.

    But building an online brand can be a more nuanced process. 93% of US employers will check a candidate’s social media presence before bringing them in to interview. Although Jobvite’s UK employer survey didn’t address this exact question, wouldn’t you google someone you were about to interview? I sure would. The UK survey did tell us that 61% of recruiters would be more likely to re-think a hiring decision based on seeing positive content on a candidate’s social media.

    Jobvite pic

     

    Image taken from The Jobvite UK Social Recrutiment Survey 2015

    So give yourself a google. What do you find? Is it easy to locate your social media profiles? And do they speak to your target employers? Hopefully you’ve joined relevant interest groups and followed key accounts (see section above), but why not comment on posts or post something interesting yourself? Producing relevant content for blogs or student newspapers, or even making your own website to showcase your work (especially if you’re a creative) can also be a great way of improving the employability of your Google results. Here are a few nice examples of researchers going the extra mile and creating websites: Dr Nadine Muller, Professor Andy Miah, STEMwomen. Dr Muller’s is doubly useful as she often writes about academic careers.

     

    An online brand isn’t always a good thing!

    Nothing in this kooky mixed-up world of ours is perfect. And the internet is no different. The wrong kind of online brand can be a difficult thing to live down. Social media has had disastrous employment consequences for some. To name but a few examples, Justine Sacco and Paris Brown lost their jobs, and Psychology academic Professor Geoffrey Miller put his at risk, because they posted misjudged tweets.

    These stories of social media woe hit the headlines, but there are subtler ways your online brand could be received badly. Remember how that employer you’ve contacted is probably going to google you? And how great it will be if they find a really positive professional online presence? Well Jobvite’s survey tells us it works both ways. 65% of UK employers will judge you negatively if your online profiles contain references to marijuana use, 55% if you mess up your spelling and grammar, and 46% if they see snaps of you drinking alcohol. US employers are even more judgemental, with those figures at 75%, 72% and 54% respectively!

    To make matters worse, a third of UK employers hate the humble selfie, that staple of social media! So what can you do? Short of completely taking all of the ‘social’ out of social media, you can get to know your privacy settings. Just because you have selfies and pictures at parties on your Facebook profile doesn’t mean they have to be publicly viewable. Another option would be to consider using a pseudonym for your more ‘fun’ profiles to prevent them coming up in your Google results.

    I hope that hasn’t put you off the internet altogether! If you need more help look out for social media workshops in our events schedule, or have a careers consultant look over your LinkedIn profile in a one-to-one appointment.

     

    Sonia Norris’ Healthcare Analyst Internship at IHS

    By S Donaldson, on 3 May 2016

    Internships, placements, work shadowing….when it comes to selecting a career they’re all great ways to ‘try before you buy’. Some UCL PhD programmes contain a mandatory placement period, a few months where students must do something unrelated to their research. These prove invaluable to the students involved, so in this series of posts we hope to spread the career knowledge by speaking to three PhDs about their placement experiences.

    Analyst

     

     

    Interview by Shadae Samuels, Placements and Vacancies Officer, UCL Careers.

    Photo taken from stuart.childs.

    Sonia Norris is a current PhD student with the London Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training Programme; based in Tessa Crompton’s lab her PhD project is studying the regulation of erythropoiesis by Hedgehog (Hh) signalling. Prior to starting her PhD, Sonia gained extensive lab experience as a research assistant, which has intensified during her PhD programme. Having acquired such lab experience, this urged Sonia to learn something new and explore other work areas which could benefit from and nurture her analytical and writing skills. Although healthcare consulting was an unfamiliar field to her, Sonia was attracted to the nature of the role; serving a wide range of clients from the healthcare industry, government health ministries to universities and more. This made the role of healthcare analyst the perfect option for her PIPS placement, to provide her with the opportunity to work in a different setting, gain some new skills and to find out if this would be a viable option for her after her PhD. Sonia secured a 12 week placement with IHS who provides information and analysis to support the decision-making process of businesses and governments in various industries. She was supervised by the Life Sciences Director, Gustav Ando.

    How did Sonia secure her PIPS with IHS?

    Sonia initially researched large consultancies where she speculatively sent her CV and cover letter, and she applied to relevant opportunities promoted by the placements team. Sonia also used her personal contacts that put her in touch with pharmaceutical companies. Sonia had a friend working in the sales department of IHS who managed to put her in touch with the Life Sciences Director to discuss the possibility of taking her on as an intern. She then arranged an informal interview with the Director at which point they offered her a position!

    What was IHS looking for in their placement student?

    IHS was looking for someone with a great analytical mind and a good writer. They expected that the intern would be able to use their analytical skills to complete daily analysis write up which they envisioned would be the hardest aspect of their processes to master. Sonia quickly exceeded their expectations and was able to perform at the same level as an analyst who had 2-3 years work experience!

    What did Sonia do on her placement?

    During her time at IHS, Sonia was able to participate on all the work processes of the research and analysis team. She received extensive training and exposure to Same Day Analysis (SDA) writing which she began undertaking after an initial observation period of two weeks. Once immersed into SDA writing, Sonia wrote two brief 300 word stories and eventually reached the analysts’ daily target of five stories. SDA stories are a summary of a published report by a news reliable source. Her published stories covered an array of topics including mergers and acquisitions, drug collaborations, pharmaceutical company financial results, new drug approvals, intellectual property regulations and patent litigations, new government regulatory developments , R&D and clinical trial results, funding and expenditure, pricing and reimbursement (P&R) regulations and healthcare trends. She was granted full responsibility of the following emerging markets for one month; India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  She also wrote two  3,500 word monthly bulletins for IHS’ ‘World Markets Healthcare’ (WMH) service, which provides a summary to clients on all major regulatory developments, mergers and acquisitions, drug collaborations/alliances and new drug approvals that took place across the globe in the past month. Sonia had the opportunity to present at the 8-weekly Life Sciences round-table meeting, where she made a concise summary of all the major regulatory developments and healthcare industry changes that occurred in her assigned markets in the past two months, and received extensive P&R training by a senior IHS P&R analyst.

    What did Sonia gain from the experience?

    Sonia acquired a multitude of skills and benefits from her placement and it certainly gave a boost to her self confidence. Her extensive involvement in SDA writing, where she wrote concisely and effectively while researching the topic at hand, under time pressure, boosted her writing, organisational and time management skills. More importantly SDA writing nurtured her analytical skills, where she was required to put a new reported story into context with respect to the existing market features it falls into. The analytical side of SDA writing also propelled her to write succinctly using data pulled from several different information sources. Additionally, by focusing her SDA writing on specific countries, she acquired in-depth knowledge of the markets she was assigned to.

    How did the placement contribute to IHS?

    IHS was extremely impressed with Sonia’s performance and now looks forward to having more students/graduates from UCL.

    What is Sonia and IHS’s advice to a PhD student contemplating doing a placement?

    Placements provide practical work experience which is an excellent addition to one’s CV especially as many PhD students come straight out of a Bachelor or Master’s program, and have little or no work experience.  Placements completely  immerses a student in a different working environment which enables them to determine how much they miss lab work, and whether the placement position is a line of work they would contemplate after their PhD. Even if the placement role may not be a career choice for you after your PhD, it still provides a new and unique work experience, which makes for a positive addition to your personal development. Undertaking a placement is great way to build up your contacts in and out of industry.

     

    If you’re a UCL PhD or researcher wondering how to secure work experience or a more permanent post, book an appointment to speak with one of our advisers. And for advertised opportunities check out UCL Talent Bank and JobOnline.