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Welcome to Careers in the Public Sector!

uczjipo3 March 2020

Public Sector Month

Including: Government, HE, Policy and Professional bodies

Interested in a career within government? Want to utilise your research skills to support policy or create industry change? This month is a great opportunity for you to use your skills to make real change and support the development of research strategy in your interest areas. If you’re interested in facilitating research, creating policy change or working in Government, this month of events is for you!

Thinking about attending but not sure if it’s for you?

Come along if you want to learn more about the roles suited to researchers in government, or just hear from speakers with research and PhD backgrounds who have transitioned out of academia. Want to make a difference in national communities and support change in policy? or maybe you want to facilitate research and support researchers in getting funding, This month has tonnes of amazing opportunities for you to meet organisations and learn more about roles in the public sector.

If you want to transition out of academia but still support research, come along to our sessions and hear how this is possible with these careers. 

Here’s what’s coming up…
Check out the events coming up this month and learn more about this industry.


Careers in HE Funding & Professional Bodies Panel
Weds 18 March, 5.30-7.30pm

Want to stay in the academic environment but in a non-academic role?

How about supporting researchers with funding, or working within a professional body, overseeing research excellence. If you are considering a career outside of academia but still want to work with research, this may be the panel for you. Find out more about what a career in HE, Funding or within a professional body encompasses, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to find a researcher role. 

Event postponed until further notice


Skills Beyond Academia – Leadership of Projects & People
Tues 24 March, 12.30-2pm

Want to learn more about leadership in a non-academic context and find out what skills it takes to be a great team or project leader?

This skills beyond academia session will allow you to practice a skill which is vital to the non-academic world. Come along and learn more about how to master leadership within a practical environment. This is a practical opportunity to gain experience of this skill with tips and guidance from an expert in people management. Improve your understanding of the management of projects and people whilst networking with an organisation which hires researchers.

Event postponed until further notice


Careers in Government & Policy Panel
Tues 31 March, 5.30-7.30pm

Interested in a career within government? Want to utilise your research skills to support policy making?

This forum will give you the opportunity to get an insight into the Government & Policy sector from PhD level speakers who have paved a career for themselves in this industry. Find out more about what a career in the government encompasses, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to find a researcher role. This is a key opportunity to gain an insight into a career you may not have previously considered.

Event postponed until further notice


* Rescheduled from Communication & Research Month!

Careers in Social & Market Research Panel
Weds 1st April, 5.30-7.30pm

Want to carry on in research for a non-academic organisation? 

If you’re interested in staying in a research role which supports organisations to understand their audiences better or to be involved in producing social statistics which effect governmental change, this panel is for you! This forum will give you the opportunity to get an insight into the non-academic research sector from PhD level speakers who have paved a career for themselves in this industry. Find out more about what a career in social and market research encompasses, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to find a researcher role.

Speakers include:
Piotrek Gierszewski: Senior Researcher – Nesta Challenges

Piotrek is a Senior Researcher passionate about the application of foresight and horizon scanning; exploring possible visions for the future, anticipating obstacles and enabling the desirable opportunities to happen. He currently works at Nesta, an independent innovation foundation, and has over ten years’ experience in research within academia, private and non-profit sectors.
Piotrek is responsible for researching social and environmental problems and identifying opportunities to tackle them as part of the Nesta Challenges team. They specialise in developing challenge-driven, open-innovation competitions that support communities of solvers and incentivise solutions to these problems. Since 2017, Piotrek has worked on topics ranging from emerging innovations in whale conservation and legal technologies, to scaling up access to nutrition and surgical services in low resource settings.

Event postponed until further notice


What else can you do to get career ready?

Alongside this, we have a team of careers consultants with research backgrounds who work closely with UCL’s researcher community and can provide support regardless of whether you’re looking to continue in academia or explore other options. Our “Researcher appointments” can be booked at any time through your myUCLCareers account and can be used to cover a range of queries from exploring options to getting support with applications/interview preparation. The careers consultants also run separate workshops covering a range of topics on academic and non-academic career routes for researchers.

Details of the full events summer programme can be found here

Researchers Careers in Communication guest feature!

uczjipo28 February 2020

Researchers Guest Feature:

Taking a closer look at our monthly employer-led events topics

During our themed months, we will be taking a deeper look into each key topic. In these posts, we will be investigating what a career in this industry looks like for a researcher. Each month there will be insights from an expert who has been through the process of transitioning out of academia. Each contributor will give us their key tips for following a non-academic career path whilst letting us in on the things they wished they had known before taking the leap. Find out about the roles their organisation has to offer and get some key tips on applying.

This month it’s all about Communications…

Taking a deeper dive into the communications industry from the perspective of producer specifically looking at what this is like for a researcher, we have our contributor – Nikolay Nikolov.

Contributor Nikolay Nikolov, Senior Producer, Mashable, PhD in Anthropology UCL

Describe your role and the organisation you work with..

I manage a team of two video producers who are tasked with news-gathering, interviewing, shooting, and producing short-form videos that cover the intersection between technology and sustainability. My role is to drive the Mashable video voice forward, creating thought-provoking documentaries and series that introduce our work to new audiences and challenge norms.

Mashable is a digital media company that focuses on our shared life in the digital age and all that that entails. Each editorial vertical – video is one – has a focus that ranges from entertainment through culture to social good and science. The role of video, specifically, is to experiment with ways to tell powerful stories in different mediums – one video can be posted on Snapchat, for example, another on TikTok. The key is to find how the narrative and story corresponds with the platform and anticipated audience.

Give a brief overview of your industry and the opportunities that are available to researchers…

Journalism – and digital journalism – is a very difficult field to break into and one that often falls victim to preferential treatment, influence, and connections. Oftentimes in my career I have been encouraged to omit my academic background because it might make me seem overqualified and unemployable. That said, there are a number of incredibly successful journalists who have a strong academic background – Anne Applebaum is the first to mind. Having a PhD, at the very least, can help one build a strong career as a reporter, analyst, or opinion writer. But those type of positions tend to occur later in one’s life and are, as you may assume, highly competitive.

In terms of job titles and options for researchers, it is difficult to say without specific discussions of expertise. The world we live in is increasingly marked by disinformation and digital propaganda and I can see how certain areas, specifically in journalism, benefit immensely from people who have an academic background – climate change is one; technology is another, specifically when it comes to Open-source intelligence (say, Bellingcat or the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab). The New York Times and BBC Africa have both now created digital forensic teams that have made groundbreaking investigative work that is based on tools and knowledge that derives from a variety of academic fields.

Describe your academic background

My research was about finding a way to track how much daily life changes before and after huge societal transformations – like the socialist regimes in Europe. The way I approached it is by looking at the mass housing complexes, called ‘panelki’, which can still be found to house large portions of populations of the former socialist bloc. Because these complexes were prefabricated and largely resembled one another (in Bulgaria, for example, around two million people live in largely identical flats), my research traced how people made changes to their homes over the years – changes to the functionality, to the external facades, to the interior designs; but also social changes – who lived there, how, for how long, where are they now, etc.

What were the key skills you used during this time…

One of the key skills I learned is conducting interviews, taping conversations and taking photographs. When it comes to ethnography, especially in the urban setting, it’s a valuable skill for a journalist. Knowing how to adapt to different individuals, how to enter unknown settings (someone’s home, say), how to ask and repeat intimate or private questions and then how to transcribe and use those quotes is essentially what a lot of the hard work in reporting is all about. Particularly when it comes to features and long-form articles, that is essential.

My role is to tell powerful stories that educate people about a changing world. My academic work largely looked at how those changes occurred, so it hasn’t been useful in a direct way. But academia helps in other ways – having access to and being open to reading research papers that sometimes include incredible innovations and becoming the first to break the story that way. It helps in terms of the in-built sense of critique, where the search for plausibility and certainty is an innate goal in itself.

What did you find challenging about transitioning out of academia and how did you overcome this?

I started working as a journalism within three months of starting my PhD. I learned that, in my field specifically, an academic career was hard fought and required a lot of sacrifices in terms of financial independence and settling down. I also found academia stale – in the sense that many people, both academics and students, would end up fixed upon one subject area for extended periods of time. For me, that was simply not interesting or appealing – I wanted to have the flexibility and freedom to have more direct choices about what I could do, where I could live, and how I could earn a wage.

Conversely, what I found challenging when I started working in journalism is having no freedom over my own time and struggling to find meaning in what I did. At UCL, I got to teach first year students Philosophy, to travel across Europe and write about a subject I was deeply curious about. It’s a privilege that I took for granted because, particularly in journalism, you are accountable to both readers and editors and it is a difficult balance at times.

What do you wish you had been told when looking to transition out of academia?

I wish I was told to branch out, stay curious, meet new people. Academia can be clique-y and isolating, especially if you’re trying to change sectors all together. Staying curious means being
versatile and being able to adapt to the world as it is, not as you were taught to see it. A lot of people I know, who are around my age, have ended careers and started anew because they succumbed to the churn of a 9-to-5. Anticipating that is crucial for anyone moving on from academia. That said, some of the most considerate and nuanced people I’ve ever met were people I met during my PhD. Perhaps, at times, an undercurrent of self-confidence affected us all when it came to imagining our prospects outside of a strict academic career. I can safely say that any such worries are misplaced and, in fact, the world requires more people with expert knowledge working in places like journalism.

What is your top tip for researchers when applying to roles with your organisation..

Have a website that showcases, in a sense, your portfolio. In my case that’s www.nikolaynikolov.co – it shows all the video and radio work I’ve done. Maintaining active social media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn) are key for journalism. Cover letters are key because they can provide context for someone’s interest in an entry level (say producer job) that is not reflected in their resume. My first job in journalism, at AJ+, taught me everything I know about editing video. They didn’t hire me because I was doing a PhD, they hired me because I expressed a keen interest in the areas they were covering and was ready to learn new skills.

A big thank you to Nikolay for sharing your wisdom on those key transferable skills from academia to industry and giving us a great insight into your industry. Want to hear more? Come along to our events and hear from PhD level speakers across a range of industries all with valuable insights into what life is like after academia.

Reflecting on Data Science & Data Analysis Careers for Researchers

uczjipo12 December 2019

Data Science & Data Analysis Month… let’s reflect:

After a busy month of events focused around all things data, we are reflecting on what it takes to excel. This industry is fast expanding with companies heavily investing in their data. The issue here then lies with know what role is suitable for you and where to start when currently (12 Dec 2019) there are over 2000 data scientist roles live on Indeed (indeed.co.uk). It is clear then our reflection this month should focus on what types of organisation could suit you.

Read on for our insights and what we have learnt from our employers this month…

Data Science in Start ups

If you want to get stuck in with some real hands on experience of data looking at start ups could be for you. The roles will require:

  • more commitment to the company and the role
  • longer hours especially around peak funding cycles
  • less role structure so tasks could be adhoc and change daily

but the increased learning and development opportunities could be appealing for you:

  • Working in smaller teams you get more responsibility
  • You could gain a better all around knowledge of data
  • and experience various different parts of data

You will however be required to have more skills going in and be expected to have a better all around knowledge from sourcing, cleaning and presenting data. Job security and longevity is a something to be aware of as work loads tend to cluster around these key funding cycles.

Data Science in Large Organisations

The big four, the banking sector and consultancies are not immune to the data boom. Roles in these organisations are:

  • highly sort after in the graduate market
  • come with a more competitive and rigorous recruitment process
  • open doors and offer global opportunities

Working life may be secure and hours more regular however this sector is notorious for:

  • increase pressure from client projects with higher workloads
  • more corporate structure
  • Projects set by management or clients so less autonomy

Often working within a team of engineers, analysts and other data scientists who are specialised in various areas means your role will be more specific maybe focusing on data preparation, visualisation, machine learning, analytics or pattern recognition. These roles are high paid but also high workloads so investigate first and gain some practical advice first.

Data Science in the Public Sector

Whilst still a large, national organisation, the healthcare, government and education sectors have working styles, they are often:

  • restrictions by laws and high scrutinised
  • have lower budgets and must show real value for doing anything

Despite this, a role in the public sector could afford you:

  • Increased intellectual freedom and better understanding of your research background
  • being treated more like a researcher, investigating trends and potential to publish
  • More flexibility with better working structures and regulations

If you’re looking to make change to the way our public services are run and improve communities through research, a public sector role in data could be for you, creating and presenting information from data which shows critical issues and opportunities for development.

So, what does this all mean for you?

The top tips we gained from our panellists and employers focused on ensuring in applications that as a researcher you prove, what your data expertise area, what is your area of interest and how can you benefit an organisation.

Key advice to get you started:

Use the software – Practice it! If you’ve got an industry in mind, research what tools are most used and up skill yourself on these. Whether that be Java, Python, C++ or Matlab.

Show what you can do – Share it! There are tones of great website where you can upload data examples to prove your skills. Why not start a blog showing your research process or create a profile on an online community – examples included Kaggle, CodeWars, WordPress or Stack Overflow.

Get some real experience – Prove it! Reach out to companies and see what opportunities there are for you to support them, maybe as an internship, a project or a part-time job. If you’ve got the skills and time to support your career development then gaining corporate experience could improve your chances.

Grow your network – Pitch it! Found a perfect organisation? Or an alumni whose transition out of academia is inspiring? why not see if they have time to share some tips. This could be a great opportunity hear about unpublished opportunities and gain insights.


Finding an industry where your skills as research are valued and utilised may seem tricky but you can find roles across all sectors and industry. This is where our themed months come in to play, if you’ve decided health organisations are not for you, join us on another themed month and hear more about careers in Data Science & Data Analytics, Communications and Research, Government, Policy and Higher Education…. the list continues!

Come along to our events and find out how your skills are so transferable across the sectors and explore how you could branch out to support an organisation to develop!

Check out our full programme of researcher events on our website today!

Fellowship application tips from UCL Research Facilitators

uczjsdd10 June 2019

Money is crucial in research, and fellowships are a great mechanism to secure the money to pursue your own research ideas. In May four of UCL’s research facilitators kindly came to UCL Careers to deliver a workshop on “Writing a Successful Fellowship Application”. All three of UCL’s Schools were covered by Dr Jen Hazelton, Jacob Leveridge, Dr Melanie Bradnam, and Pascale Fanning-Tichborne, who also brought in two current fellowship holders, Dr Miranda Sheild Johansson (Leverhulme fellow) and Dr Lluís Masanes (EPSRC Early Career Research fellow). If you missed the event, they plan to run a similar workshop with us once a term – so check out our website for updates. But in the meantime, here are 5 top tips I took away from the session:

1) Know your funders

Perhaps it sounds obvious, but you need be aware of everyone who might be keen to give you money, whether they be Research Councils, charities, trusts, societies, the EU, your home country’s government etc. You should also know how they and their various funding streams differ in their focus, their reviewers, and their approach. Some may require very scientific applications, others may prefer a lay style. If you don’t do your homework, you risk missing opportunities and pitching your project ineffectually.

To help you, UCL subscribes to GrantFinder (https://search.grantfinder.co.uk/education), which you can use to research possible funding sources. And the research facilitation offices offer one-to-one appointments where you can chat through your options (as well as get feedback on your applications – see contacts for your school here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/research/about/contact), and newsletters to which you can sign-up to ensure you don’t miss deadlines.

2) Know the deadlines. ALL the deadlines.

Some funding streams have limits on the number of applications that can be sent per institution. For these, UCL operates an internal triage system where applications are first sent to research facilitation offices who will oversee a process to determine which applications get developed for submission to the funder. The internal deadline is (obviously) before the funder deadline – so if you don’t investigate this and only work to the funder deadline, you may find you’re too late. To avoid disappointment, sign up to research facilitator newsletters, check their websites and ask around your department to see which schemes operate an internal triage system.

3) Seek collaborations, partnerships, and support BEFORE you apply

The majority of funding applications will be rejected, so it can be tempting not to approach potential academic collaborators and industry partners until you know you’ve secured the money. But this is NOT the most sensible plan. Your applications have to seem well researched and doable to convince funders to hand over their cash – if you don’t actually have collaborators on board yet, your project may not happen. And just as importantly, your collaborators may offer valuable insights and advice to strengthen your applications. Rest assured, people understand funding may not come through first time, so aim to convince people that you and your project are worthwhile, and build good working relationships that can last through more than one funding call.

4) Be specific

About everything. We all know research methods and ideas can evolve over the course of a project, but funders want to know exactly how you’re going to be spending your time and their money. It makes you seem like a good bet. Those collaborators and partners you’ve already secured (a la point 3)? What exactly will they offer you? Support? Training? Expertise? Access to equipment? Why do you need it? And why are they the right people to offer it? Which methods will you use exactly, and why? What are your key outputs? And when will they be completed? And if you really don’t know yet, then be clear how you will decide and what will influence your decision. This doesn’t mean being overly technical (unless the funder requires it). It means showing you have a clear plan.

5) Interviews really count

If a funding application process involves an interview, said interview really counts. Applications will likely be given scores/ranked in the first round, but the message from the workshop was that the scores are almost reset for the interview. So everyone is on an equal footing and in with a shot. If reviewers have highlighted weaknesses in your application, be ready to address these in your interview (and always address them in writing too if given the chance). If progress has been made in your research/plan since you first submitted the application (and these processes can take a while, so interviewers might expect progress!), this is your chance to update the panel. And practice! We offer practice interviews, and even more importantly when it comes to funding interviews, so do the research facilitators, and your supervisors/departments may well do too if you ask!

Best of luck with your applications!

Many thanks for the workshop go to:

Dr Jen Hazelton, Senior School Research Facilitator, for The Bartlett, Engineering, and Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Jacob Leveridge, Deputy Director of Research Facilitation for UCL Arts & Humanities, UCL Laws, UCL Social & Historical Sciences, the UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies and the UCL Institute of Education, and Dr Melanie Bradnam and Pascale Fanning-Tichborne, Strategic Research Facilitators for the School of Life and Medical Sciences.

How to tackle psychometric tests

uczjsdd9 December 2015

calculator

Psychometric tests are one of the hoops some of you will have to jump through to get a job. Large employers often use these tests as a quick and easy way of cutting down the huge volume of applications they receive. So how should you tackle them? Well, firstly, don’t panic. Secondly, do prepare. And thirdly, don’t panic some more.

1) DON’T Panic

Easier said than done, right? Employers tell us that lots of people do panic. They assume they’ll fail and so they opt out of the recruitment process at the psychometric test stage without even sitting the test. And a few employers have told us that women self-select out a lot more than men. So stop doing that people! Especially female people! If you take the test you may pass and get through to the next application stage, or you may fail and not progress to the next stage. If you don’t take the test you’re certain not to progress. So give yourself a chance and take that test.

It’s quite common for employers to test verbal and numerical abilities (though not all will test both), and sometimes logical thinking too. The numerical tests can seem scary, especially if you’ve been studying a humanities degree for the past few years. But if employers are accepting applicants from all academic disciplines (and many are) then they’re clearly not looking only for maths geniuses. And some tests are designed to be extremely difficult, with too many questions for the assigned time. So people can often think they didn’t do very well and then find they passed.

2) DO Prepare

Saying that, you should probably panic a bit…but just enough to make sure you put appropriate time into preparing. Psychometric tests aren’t a walk in the park. If you’re out of practice working with graphs and numbers then you’re likely to be slow and perhaps even bad at numerical reasoning tests when you first look at them. Similarly, even if you think you’re good with words, verbal reasoning tests aren’t always straightforward, and may be harder than you expect.

But with practice you can improve. Check out your university careers service for resources, and try the range of free sample tests available online – just google ‘practice psychometric tests’. These websites provide feedback on how you compare to others in terms of speed and accuracy, helping you to gauge your ability and see if you’re improving. Always tap the free resources first, but if you’ve exhausted them and still aren’t confident, the same websites offer the option to buy more sample tests.

Another way to ensure you’re prepared is to find out as much as possible about your target employers’ tests. Psychometric tests can vary greatly, so it’s worth finding out which provider your target employer is using, and then focusing your practice on the same types of tests. It’s also useful to know whether your potential employer negatively marks their tests for incorrect answers. This information isn’t always readily available, but if you can find it, it will help you work out how to balance speed versus accuracy in your answers.

3) DON’T Panic….again

Preparation and practice will bring your performance up to its optimum level. But of course there is a peak point for every individual, past which they’re unlikely to improve. If you’ve put in the work and still not made the grade, don’t feel dejected. Different employers use different tests and different cut-off points – some much harder and higher than others – so one rejection shouldn’t put you off all employers with psychometric tests. And not all employers and roles require the completion of these tests, so think about other routes into your chosen career or employer. Another bit of good news is that there may well be a trend emerging of employers moving away from psychometric tests; this year Barclays scrapped theirs completely in order to make the recruitment process faster and more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Image from Boaz Arad

Leaving academia? 5 CV don’ts

uczjsdd2 November 2015

Warning sign

Image adapted from Nicolas Raymond

Academics live in their own special world when it comes to CVs. So it’s no surprise that many researchers are baffled when they try to leave the ivory tower. Here are five mistakes to avoid in your non-academic CV.

Don’t…

 

…be too subject-focused

When you’re going for a post-doc or fellowship your subject of study may be all important. But when you move out of academia people will start to care more about the skills you’ve used and concrete things you’ve achieved. If you’re moving into an industry research role where your research subject is relevant, great, but for everything else a very simple PhD title should suffice.

…use too much technical jargon

If you’re moving into a job that has very little to do with your research area then using lots of technical terms risks 1) confusing recruiters and 2) painting you as someone who only cares about this very specific subject – i.e. the wrong person for the job.

…assume employers understand the value of your PhD years

Some employers actively target PhD graduates and are willing to pay a premium for them. This could be because they’re looking for particular subject expertise, but often it’s because of the skills developed during a PhD.

But a lot of employers may not immediately see the value of the extra qualification. Try to think of your PhD years as a job, and tell recruiters about the relevant tasks you took on and what you achieved. Maybe it’s about the multiple projects you managed through to completion, the research budgets you handled, the international collaborations you were involved with, or the writing skills you displayed.

…use the same CV for every application

A great CV is tailored to a specific role, so it should change slightly with each application. Think about which experiences, skills and achievements are most relevant to each role; These should be the ones you emphasise the most.

…waffle on

Academic CVs can often run very long. But outside of academia we don’t usually want to see anything longer than two pages, and some industries will expect a one page CV.

It pays to tailor your application

uczjsdd24 April 2015

One piece of advice I give to jobhunting researchers time and again is to tailor. Always to tailor. If you want an employer to understand what you’ll bring to their team, you have to tell them. And you have to be specific. If after a quick name-change, you could send the exact same application off to another similar organisation, then you’re not being specific enough.

For lecturer applications, this means detailing with whom in the department you hope to collaborate, and the new modules or teaching methods you want to introduce. For non-academic positions, you’ll want to show you’re familiar with a company’s recent projects, future goals, and ways of working.

Of course tailoring your application will take more time and effort, but that’s part of the value. Employers want to know that you’re committed enough to do your research – that you’ve found out all about them, imagined yourself in the role, and you know exactly how you’ll contribute.

ninaresume.png

A fantastic (and admittedly rather extreme) example of creative application tailoring was reported in Business Insider earlier this week. Nina Mufleh wanted to work for AirBnB, so she put together an online CV (screenshot above) and tweeted it to Air BnB bigwigs. But this was no ordinary CV. With a format very similar to an AirBnB profile, the CV showcased Nina’s knowledge and understanding of the travel industry, and her vision for the future of AirBnB. It took her a week to put together, but it was well worth it, because it secured her an interview.

You can see Nina’s full CV here. If you’re a UCL researcher unsure about how to tailor an application, book a place on our applications workshop or a one-to-one session with a careers consultant. See our website for further details.