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Key takeaways from UCL’s Researchers Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference

s.duran28 June 2021

This year’s Researchers Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference took place over three days earlier this month, with a specific focus on Life and Health Sciences. We heard from a variety of great speakers, both PhD holders and employers, who shared their experiences, knowledge, and tips on moving into industry from academia. So, what did we learn from each session?

Careers in Life & Health Sciences across Industry

Covering clinical trials, medical communications, strategic consultancy and industry research, our keynote panel gave us a small flavour of the types of roles available to researchers in industry, and reflections on making the jump. Long before her role as a Senior Global Trial Manager at IQVIA, Fatima Farzana started planning her future career. Her advice to researchers? “Look at your values to help you map out potential career paths – then apply across the board”. Identifying the values that are important to you can help you narrow down your industry search, and target the types of roles you would excel in.

All four speakers discussed how they found that crucial first role of academia and their recommendations for making the leap. This included:

  • Accessing careers service advice – UCL Careers offers one-to-one appointments with Careers Consultants, CV reviews, interview prep, and a range of events and workshops dedicated to researchers.
  • Job advertisements – Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct one. You won’t find your next role if you aren’t looking for it.
  • Networking – Meeting and engaging with the right people can often lead to new opportunities.

Networking was consistently raised as a critical factor in landing an industry job – but how can you avoid common mistakes in your networking efforts? Matt Harms, Associate Principal Scientist at AstraZeneca, has experienced networking requests first-hand. His advice?  “Never say ‘I just want a foot in the door’ – always be genuinely interested in the role you’re applying for”.

What is the Future of Research?

This second session brough together individuals from a variety of backgrounds to discuss their thoughts on the future of research and researcher careers. David Bogle, Pro-Vice-Provost of the Doctoral School oversees Early Career Researchers at UCL. He sees the future of research as innovation, saying “we are training researchers to innovate within and beyond academia”. In response to a question asking if leaving academia is only for those who can’t ‘hack it’, David, who has worked both in industry and academia, said, “this attitude shows a lack of imagination in those who can’t perceive any other path.” – with agreement from panellists.

Across the panel, there was acknowledgement of the failures and identity issues researchers encounter. Jennifer McGowan, a recently appointed lecturer at UCL, shared a list of about 20 positions she was unsuccessful in securing, and commented that the full list is much longer. Sheona Scales, Paediatric Lead for Research and Innovation at Cancer Research UK, recalled questioning herself during her early days as a researcher and in industry. Nirmesh Patel, who was named as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 through his work with Cambridge Cancer Genomics concluded with, “Everyone is winging it, why not you?”.

What does a post post-doctoral career look like?

To spotlight the additional challenge that comes with moving from a post-doctoral career to industry, a dedicated Q&A session was added to this year’s programme to hear from people who have done just that. Below are a few key questions and answered shared by our panellists.

Question: Is there an optional time to switch?

Hannah Boycott, who is a Programme Manager for the Medical Research Council, was happy with her decision to switch from a post-doc to industry after 10 years. She built up skills, was able to travel, and work in a wide variety of places around the world. Diane Sutherland, Group Development Director at Fishawack Health commented that they hire people across the spectrum – both just out of their PhD and those with 10+ years of post-doc experience. Sarah Farrow, Recruitment Consultant at CK Science shared her perspective regarding one of the biggest challenges in moving from post-doc positions to industry. She cautioned researchers may need to have flexible salary requirements, especially when making the first move to industry.

Question: What skills did you need in industry that you didn’t gain from your PhD?

Beth Rycroft, an Associate Director for Global Medical Affairs, shared that she had to quickly upskill herself in simplifying the science, interpreting data that you didn’t produce yourself, changing presentation style to suit the audience, and working in a team. Hannah mentioned the importance of learning business language, such as ‘stakeholder’ and ‘funding landscape’, and getting over inferiority complex when in the room with big names. Diane commented that getting feedback on things can be quite daunting at first, as lots of colleagues will comment on your work, and you will be working with experts as it’s not your research. She also mentioned working to deadlines, as you’re charging out your time and getting past perfectionism – a trait common in many researchers.

Managing your Journey Beyond Academia

In the final session, UCL alumni alongside a UCL Careers Consultant spoke to current students and staff about what they can be doing now to prepare for their career journey.

Rebecca McKelvey, Founder and CEO of in2scienceUK, highlighted the valuable support she received from UCL Innovation and Enterprise when founding her charity, , and discussed that employability skills are exactly what researchers possess – problem solving, independence, resilience, communication skills and adaptability.

Tim Geach, Senior Publishing Manager at Springer Nature, states that his employer requires new hires to hold a PhD. They greatly value PhD experience, and even more so, post-doctoral experience­. He stated that he enjoys his ability to work across different subjects, and the various routes that were available to him within publishing.

Crystal Ruff is a Senior Executive in Life Sciences & Transaction Advisory Services at EY-Parthenon. She worked clinically for ten years before moving into consulting and obtained her MBA to support her industry career. However, she stated that an MBA is not a requirement to enter strategic consulting. The skills are needed, but how you got them isn’t important.

A Deputy Head at UCL Careers, Calum Leckie obtained his PhD in plant-based biology and spent eight years as a post-doc. He came into this role after reflecting on his values, and found he enjoyed mentoring and supporting people. He saw the confusion in career paths of others and found a role to help researchers with their own career journeys.

So what can researchers be doing now to developing skills outside of their research? 

Matt states you should be learning about the industries you want to go into. Don’t list what skills and attributes you have for a role without referencing what the role is and what you can offer and relate your skills to what’s needed. For example, if you want to write, then show evidence of writing. Rebecca recommended that you should look at what you want to go into and then find ways to develop those skills. For example, you could organise an event, support public engagement or outreach, or gain teaching experience. Calum recommended you do things within your research environment. Network to access the hidden jobs market – roles that aren’t advertised, or that may be coming up. Get work experience, and update your LinkedIn profile.

Reflections on the Museums and Cultural Heritage Panel

s.duran4 June 2021

This week, UCL Careers was joined by four speakers from the museums and cultural heritage sector:

  • Claire Pascolini-Campbell – Research Manager, National Trust
  • Christy Henshaw – Digital Production Manager, Wellcome Collection
  • Simon Kocher – Geoscientist, Natural History Museum
  • Ted McDonald-Toone – International Engagement Manager, British Museum

The panel members reflected on their own career journeys and gave advice to those looking to enter the sector. Speakers agreed – entering into and maintaining a career in museums and cultural heritage can be rewarding, but challenging. Covid has shifted government funding priorities, and the full impact on sector is yet to be determined. With that in mind, speakers shared their advice and guidance in securing and maintaining a career in this field.

Flexibility is key

Flexibility was a theme weaving through each of the panellists’ reflections and advice. When looking for a role in the museum and cultural heritage sector, this can take many different forms. For example, some people may avoid maternity cover positions due to their nature as fixed-term contracts.  However, it was shared that undertaking one, or multiple, maternity cover roles within this sector is often the best way to build the skills and experience needed for a permanent position. In addition, flexibility in the type of role you are looking for can help you start your career.

Look to the future

Technology has been transformational across the museums and cultural heritage sector. For some of our panellists, their roles have significantly changed over the past twenty years. With that in mind, you may want to research the emerging skills that will be needed for the roles you want in the future. Your additional experience, training, and ability to anticipate the needs of the sector can give you a distinct advantage against other applicants. This also ties in with the third point raised below – showing initiative.

Show initiative

The realities of securing a role in the museums and cultural heritage sector were acknowledged by each of our speakers. To stand out, you will need to show initiative. This can be done through volunteering, securing work experience, and building your network. When looking for volunteer roles, it is key that you identify the right person to reach out to and can demonstrate you have valuable skills to contribute to a specific area. It is understood that not every person is able to volunteer, and speakers shared their experiences in using Step Ahead to secure temporary paid roles within the sector to gain experience. If you are working or volunteering and have the opportunity to meet with external stakeholders, make sure you get involved and communicate your contributions to them – never miss an opportunity to build your network.

The future of the museums and cultural heritage sector is yet to be determined – but being able to adapt your skills to the current and future needs of the field is key. It is never too early to start building your CV and skillset for the role you want.

With many thanks to our speakers. 

Additional resources:

View our full summer term of researcher careers events here.

How experimenting like a scientist helps you make a successful career transition

s.duran11 May 2021

Bernardo Milani Alvares

Bernardo is a Strategy Manager at Abcam

A career transition often takes place in a context of ambiguity and conflicting emotions. Despite the setbacks of academia, most researchers are passionate about their subjects and have high-achieving personalities. Switching careers may feel like giving up an important part of our identities.

Exploring alternative careers means questioning our goals, which can be daunting, especially as we live in an outcomes-obsessed society, where we are measured by our results (e.g., money, number of likes on social media, etc). Such pressures are magnified by three factors:

  • Goals for researchers are usually very strong, as they are often built against societal expectations. Maybe our parents wanted us to have a well-paid job; as doing research defeat their expectations, we created strong goals for ourselves; swimming against the tide made these goals more engrained;
  • We feel invested in an academic career. In Business this is called the “sunk cost fallacy”: when we cannot make a difficult decision to cut losses (e.g., shut down an unprofitable factory) when we have already committed significant resources to build it;
  • Our perfectionistic tendencies as researchers. We may judge ourselves for questioning goals that were solid in the past. We feel less in control.

The unsettling feelings generated by this “identity crisis” may propel us to set new goals quickly. However, these goals tend to look backwards, as they are based on old identities. It is vital to pause and avoid the temptation to make drastic decisions.

That’s when experimenting comes in. As you try new things and learn more about yourself and the world, and you can make more meaningful decisions, and set goals that are aligned with your new identity. To illustrate these points, I want to introduce you to the three main stages of the career journey:

  • Execution: the activities happening in our current roles, such as learning, delivering results and promotion. That’s probably you right now (e.g., doing a Ph.D.);
  • Explore: we immerse yourself in new activities and environments to explore other interests, meet new people and learn skills: the focus is on exploration, identity-shaping, growth and self-awareness;
  • Goal setting: we define your short, medium and long-term goals; building a roadmap with the activities and roles to reach our goals.

As you prepare for a career transition, you need to explore new interests during the execution phase. I developed an interest in Business when doing an undergraduate placement at the pharma company GlaxoSmithKline. I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the work and how the company responded to changes in the market. This curiosity drove to explore opportunities to learn about Business during my PhD at UCL.

Extracurricular activities are a great way to build the flexible, service-oriented, and collaborative mindset required in Business, where you must serve the needs of others (e.g., customers, managers, shareholders) and have less control of your schedule compared with academia.

Although there is no “magic formula” for picking extracurricular activities, the more you can experience a collaborative, fast-moving and externally facing environment, the better. This means activities in which you:

  • Are not the expert;
  • Feel passionate about the project;
  • Do something bigger than you;
  • Work as part of a team to solve real problems impacting real people;
  • Work with people different from yourself and/or challenging audiences;
  • Mobilise resources, influence and inspire other people;

Finding interesting extracurricular activities can come with a touch of serendipity. After attending a start-up lecture at UCL, I met a group of students who had started the UCL branch of Enactus, a global student society focussed on social entrepreneurship, where students in the world’s universities form teams apply Business skills to develop projects that bring benefit to society.

I set up an employability project leading a team of 9 university students helping young people living in more deprived areas of London write CVs, prepare for interviews and develop transferable skills, in partnership with the university’s Careers Services. Our audience was initially reluctant to engage in the activities, so we gained their trust by demonstrating a genuine interest in who they were as individuals and their concerns around career decisions and getting their voices heard in society.

Not only did the project cover important transferable skills, it also helped us gain the confidence and emotional and cognitive flexibility to navigate unfamiliar territory. It also served as a good example of Entrepreneurship, of mobilising resources to tackle a real need creatively and realistically.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, I noticed many graduate students come to a decision paralysis. They think they must do several extracurricular activities and courses. The important thing is not the number but the quality. It is much better to have two solid experiences during which you demonstrated personal development on a deeper level rather than five shallower experiences.

Choose something you are passionate about, as you will be doing it whilst tired after a long day. I was passionate about improving lives through education, so spending evenings and weekends did not feel like a burden.

A good friend of mine with a Ph.D. in Neurosciences currently working in management consulting made an excellent point about the fact that extracurricular activities are not the only way to develop the professional behaviours required in Business:

“Professional behaviours are key. When you have a journal club, don’t wait until the last minute. Be on time for meetings. Come prepared for your presentations. Respect your peers and colleagues even if there is a culture of being late. Develop professionalism. Reply to emails in a timely manner and avoid typos. There are many small things you can do to develop a more professional way of being. It will make your life a lot easier; when you move to Business there will be clear expectations. The more you realise that expectations are different, the earlier you can start addressing them before moving into Business”

I have recently launched the ultimate guide for a successful career transition from academia into Business called “Break into Business without a Business degree”. The book has four main sections:

  • Prepare for the transition: build the right skills and behaviours for a successful career transition;
  • Become an outstanding Business problem-solver: develop a consistent method to solve Business problems with impact, with plenty of insider tips, real examples, and exercises;
  • Showcase your skills: write a Business-ready CV and ace jobs interviews (including the infamous case interview);
  • Thrive in a Business environment: develop behavioural and on-the job strategies to shine in your new role;

Although most academics (including myself at the time) worry about learning Business-related content, mindsets and behaviours are key. My intention was to make a more “human” book, with plenty of testimonials and real case examples, including successes and failures. I am very pleased to share the book with you, which you can find here.

I wish you all the best in your career transition and look forward to your feedback!

Bernardo is Strategy Manager for Abcam (a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, UK). Prior to Abcam, Bernardo worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company LatAm office for two years focussing on Healthcare and the public sector.  Before consulting, Bernardo did a PhD in Immuno-oncology at University College London (UCL) and worked at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for one year (Industrial Placement) during his Biomedical Science BSc. Bernardo is passionate about supporting PhD students on their professional journeys, having given talks and workshops at leading universities in the UK and Latin America, and is currently writing an e-book on the topic.

Researchers Guest Feature: Taking a Closer Look at Clinical Trials

uczjipo6 November 2020

Throughout the year we will be taking a deep dive into some key topics and career paths discussed in our events programme.

In these posts, we will be exploring what careers in a variety of different industries look like for a researcher. 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’d 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 clinical trials…

Taking a deeper dive into the world of a full-service clinical contract research organisation, we have our contributor:

Andrea Flannery
Andrea is a Clinical Trial Manager at Medpace
Andrea studied at the National University of Ireland and has a PhD in Microbiology

Tell us about being a Clinical Trial Manager…

A Clinical Trial Manager oversees the day-to-day clinical operations of a trial. This involves acting as the project lead for multi-full service global clinical trials. The position interacts with sponsors and manages the timeline and all project deliverables.

So, who are Medpace and what do you do?

Medpace is a full-service clinical contract research organization (CRO). We provide Phase I-IV clinical development services to the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Our mission is to accelerate the global development of safe and effective medical therapeutics through its scientific and disciplined approach. We leverage local regulatory and therapeutic expertise across all major areas including oncology, cardiology, metabolic disease, endocrinology, central nervous system, anti-viral and anti-infective. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, employing approximately 3,500 people across almost 40 countries. We have two offices in the United Kingdom, Central London and Stirling, Scotland.

Did you find any transferable skills from your PhD to your role now?

My PhD was in infectious disease microbiology and it investigated interactions associated with antibiotic resistant bacteria and the innate immune system.

There are lots of transferrable skills that can be applied to my job now. For example,

  • Collaboration/team work – working with other labs and co-authors to complete lab work, draft and publish papers
  • Project planning/organisational skills – you manage your own project. What needs to be done and when.
  • Time management – you manage your own time to get your research completed for key milestones and deadlines.
  • Coordinating Laboratory logistics – being responsible for certain tasks within the lab (product ordering, liaising with vendors to get equipment calibrated or ordered.
  • Problem solving – this what a PhD is all about!
  • Presentation skills – internal and conference presentations.
  • Adaptability – Often a result changes how you plan to proceed with your research, and you must adapt. Also learning new techniques, training on new equipment, learning new areas of science for PhD etc.
  • Computer skills – word, PowerPoint, excel etc.

What were the challenges transitioning from academia to industry?

It was challenging to multitask learning a completely new industry and taking on a role outside of the lab. There was good training and on the job experience provided at Medpace which meant this challenge did not last very long.

Is there anything you hoped someone had told you before leaving academia?

Network as much as possible! Reach out to alumni of your university or people on LinkedIn to have a quick chat about their day-to-day jobs and find out if that interests you. Once you decide on the industry you want to work in, you can start to reach out to more people in that area to ask for tips and advice for your CV and/or interview.

And any tips specifically for Postdocs…

Medpace hires people with postdoc experience and a few of my colleagues worked as postdocs. Use your years of experience and skills gained throughout the years and apply them to the industry you are applying to. I think it’s important to show that you are willing to learn and adapt to a new industry.

If someones interested in your organisation, are there any minimum requirements to roles?

At minimum, a bachelor’s degree in science is required. We welcome people with a PhD in life sciences, especially for one of the training programmes available where PhD graduates are employed and on an accelerated training pathway.

And finally, what kind of job titles should people be looking for if they’re interested in clinical trials?

Project coordinator (PC), clinical research associate (CRA), regulatory submissions coordinator (RSC) and data coordinator (DC) have entry level positions available at Medpace.

Thanks to Andrea for sharing your experiences! We hope you found this useful and keep an eye out for more of our guest blogs… If this has inspired you to explore a career outside of academia, come along to one of our events in this years programme – click here for more information

 

 

Autumn term is under way! Here’s what we’ve learnt so far…

uczjipo23 October 2020

With our autumn term virtual events programme for researchers in full swing, we wanted to share our biggest learning so far.

If you haven’t had a chance to attend an event here’s a quick summary of what’s happened so far and the kinds of sessions going on. The employer-led events programme for researchers is designed to support your career journey by offering you opportunities to hear from and network with employers and alumni from a wide range of industry who were once PhD students themselves.

So far there’s been…

A networking session focused on introducing researchers to a wide range of organisations. Attendees not only learnt about the work opportunities in these companies but also had a chance to use and develop their networking skills.

Next up we had our careers in consultancy panel which focused on introducing the audience to UCL alumni working in various sectors of consulting who were once PhD students themselves. These speakers talked through their day to day roles, what it took to get to where they are now and how they transition from academia to industry.

And most recently, we had our careers in finance, economics and quantitative analysis panel which covered the transition from academia into the world of banking, risk and forecasting. Our alumni speakers looked at what it took to transfer into this industry, those key transferable skills from academia (which you may never have thought you had!) and why they made the leap.

From these events, we learnt loads about the transition from academia to industry. Throughout all the sessions, one tip came up the most:

Understand your transferable skills! You might be daunted by the prospect of leaving academia and joining a corporate organisation but there are loads of transferable skills you’ve learnt from academia that can be used in industry including:

  • Thinking critically and analysing the detail
  • Managing projects and taking ownership
  • Accepting failure and learning from your mistakes

But some great advice from our speakers also suggested that researchers may need to consider the following:

  • Attention to detail is vital in academia and is definitely valued in industry… but so if efficiency and the time to perfect a project just won’t exist in the business world
  • Working to your own pace happens less. You’ll be on projects with many other teams and external partners so working around others schedules, deadlines and constraints is essential
  • Keep work boundaries. When it comes to industry, you’ve got to separate yourself from work projects sometimes, even a lot of the time things won’t come into fruition so closing a project and moving onto the next is important

Think you might benefit from coming to one of our virtual events?

We’ve got loads of great session still to come including:

  • A taster session into a career in consultancy with practical case studies
  • A session on policy development when you can hear from some current policy professionals on what skills it takes to excel
  • A panel on careers in government, policy and in professional bodies
  • And finally, a panel covering careers in research management and funding

Sign up for all these virtual events on MyUCLCareers today via this link!

Welcome to our Researchers Summer Term Programme

uczjipo4 May 2020

This terms UCL Careers researchers events programme is now online

In the current circumstances we have adapted our events programme online to give you support, advice and guidance during this confusing time. Take a look at all our upcoming events and sign up today! We’ve got lots for you to get involved with across employer events, careers consultant workshops, 1-1 appointments via Microsoft Teams and plenty of online blogs.

Click here to view the full events programme

Coming up we have loads of great online employer led events including:

Tuesday 5th May, 12.30-2pm: Interviews, Group Exercises And Assessment Centres Panel

Started applying for non-academic roles but are concerned about interviews, group exercises and assessment centres? Want to know what to expect and how to make the most out of the experience? If you’re starting to get interviews for non-academic roles and want some advice and guidance, come along to this session. Not started? no worries – this is a great space to learn more about recruitment processes post academia. With Deallus and Scientific Education Support

Click here to sign up today


Tuesday 12th May, 5.30-7.30pm: Careers In Arts & Cultural Heritage Panel

Interested in the Arts? Want to use your research skills in cultural heritage? This panel explore careers in the arts, museums and cultural heritage sites to offer you a chance to explore a career in an industry where your research skills are highly valued.

Thursday 21st May, 12.30-2pm: Translating Research Skills Into Work

Want to learn more about how to reflect on your skills, explore what makes you unique and how best to present this to an employer? This skills beyond academia session will give you an opportunity to learn more about the transition from academia into work, how to explore your skills and demonstrate them and finding those key employability skills in your research experience. Hosted by Abcam.

Click here to sign up today


Tuesday 9th June – Wednesday 10th June: Researchers Professional Careers Beyond Academia Conference Now Online over Two Days!

This years life and health sciences conference will be held online! Featuring three panel sessions for you to participate in live! Our amazing global employers will be represented by speakers covering careers throughout the life & health sciences pipeline, not for profit research, research management and a special session covering the future of research careers. A must for all interested in research careers beyond academia.

Click here to sign up today


Follow us and keep up to date:

Keep up-to-date with events and read our latest interviews and case studies on the researchers’ blog. Check out our latest blog posts on the themed months to hear about what’s going on and read our reflections on previous months.

Find out what’s coming up with the latest information on our programme by following our twitter. Read more about who’s attending and what topics we’ll be covering by following us today!

One-to-one careers support online:

We still offer one-to-one appointments with specialist researcher careers experts – now online via Microsoft teams.
In these appointments you can discuss anything career-related, including exploring career options, career progression, and getting feedback on CVs and applications.
Book appointments via MyUCLCareers
If you have been invited for a job interview, no matter what the role, you can book a mock interview to practice for the real thing.
Book a practice interview

Internships and other opportunities, including remote ones

See all researcher relevant opportunities currently available, such as internships, part-time/full-time roles, and receive daily/ weekly alerts via MyUCLCareers. Once you have logged in, please tick the box for researchers. This can be found as part of the menu on the left side, at the bottom. This will filter by roles relevant for MRes/PhD/Postdocs. Find out more on our website here and keep an eye out on the UCL Doc Skills newsletter for the latest researcher opportunities!

 


What do UK PhD graduates do? An updated look.

uczjsdd16 April 2020

Figure: UK PhD destinations 3.5 years after graduation, taken from Dr Sally Hancock’s Hepi blog.

If you’re a UCL PhD student or member of research staff I’m sure you know lots of PhD graduates. At UCL you’re surrounded by them. So of course you know what PhDs do after they graduate, right? Well, not necessarily. Because if your sample consists largely of academic colleagues, it will be heavily skewed towards PhDs who’ve stayed within academia.

Most PhDs we work with at UCL Careers are aware there are options beyond academia, but they often feel the ‘normal’, the ‘expected’, or the ‘logical’ path is to carry on in academic research. But again and again, the stats show us this is far from normal.

A recent look at the career outcomes of PhD graduates comes from the work of Dr Sally Hancock, a Lecturer at the University of York. She investigated what 5,000 UK PhDs who graduated in 2008/9 and 2010/11 were doing 3.5 years after graduation. And as her graph above shows, 70% had already left academic research. Yes, that’s right – the majority of PhDs had left academia only a couple of years after graduating.

We can assume that of those 29.9% of PhDs in Dr Hancock’s sample who were still within academia 3.5 years after graduation (68.4% said they were university researchers, and 31.6% were Higher education Teaching Professionals) many will be on temporary post-doctoral researcher or teaching fellow contracts. And we know from previous studies, like the Royal Society’s 2010 look at STEM PhD destinations, that it’s likely not all of them will still be within academia in another few years.

So what does all this mean for you? Well, if you want to progress within academia you shouldn’t assume it will happen automatically. Get strategic, build networks, and take tips from those who are already succeeding. Look especially for advice amongst your contemporaries, as more progressed academics will have graduated into a very different academic environment. The graph below, taken from Schillebeeckx et al’s 2014 Nature Biotechnology article looking at data from the US, demonstrates just how much things have changed. It shows that over the past few decades, the number of PhDs awarded has risen at a far faster rate than the number of permanent academic jobs available, increasing the amount of competition for said jobs.

Figure taken from Schillebeeckx et al’s 2014 Nature Biotechnology article analysing data from the US.

And if you’re considering leaving academia? Well, go easy on yourself, because moving on to something new is the norm, not the exception. If it still doesn’t feel that way, seek out the stories and company of people who’ve already made the move. We’ve interviewed a few of them for you in our career case studies of PhD grads, and you can use platforms like the UCL alumni mentoring network or LinkedIn to find more.

And whether you’re considering staying or leaving, the UCL Careers Researcher Programme is here to help. You can access one-to-one appointments and our workshop schedule covering academic and non-academic employability skills, as well as job vacancies targeted at researchers, through MyUCLCareers, and you can read more details about our offering on our website. We are currently delivering our programme online, so please check out our summer schedule of webinars and online employer events here.

You can read Dr Sally Hancock’s full article here.

 

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.

Welcome to Careers in Communication & Research

uczjipo29 January 2020

Communication & Research Month

Interested in being on the other side of research? Making it readily available and easily digestible to the public? A career in communication could give you the opportunity to support research. Maybe you want to carry on in research for a non-academic organisation? Social and market research organisations are a great space to utilise your research skills in a business context.

If you’re interested in supporting research through communications or completing social or market research yourself, 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 how to use communications in a career or just hear from speakers with research and PhD backgrounds who have transitioned out of academia. Do you enjoy communicating your research to an audience of non-researchers, sharing findings with your audience and keeping up to date with latest in your field? A career in communication could allow you to expand the reach of your research and support an organisation to grow in so many different industries.

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 Communication Forum
Thurs 6 Feb, 5.30-7.30pm

Interested in being on the other side of research? Making it readily available and easily digestible to the public?

Research skills are key to this including disseminating complex information effectively, understanding the wider context of results and the personal applicability of findings.
This forum will give you the opportunity to get an insight into the Communications sector from PhD level speakers who have paved a career for themselves in this industry. Find out more about what a career in communication encompasses, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to find a researcher role.

Speakers include:

Nikolay Nikolov: Senior Producer – Mashable: a global, multi-platform media and entertainment company

Nikolay Nikolov is a senior producer at Mashable. Over the past three years, his work has helped guide Mashable’s video coverage, with a particular focus on the intersection of human rights and technology. His recent documentary about ‘Drag Syndrome’, the world’s first drag troupe featuring artists with Down Syndrome, was selected by a number of international film festivals, including Sofia Pride, Oska Bright, and Queer Bee. Before Mashable, Nikolay was a producer for AJ+, responsible for the coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe.

Key tip: don’t get pigeonholed by your research

Kotryna Temcinaite: Research Communications Manager – Breast Cancer Now: The UK’s largest breast cancer charity

Kotryna is the Research Communications Manager at the research and care charity Breast Cancer Now. Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s first comprehensive breast cancer charity with the goal that by 2050 everyone diagnosed with the disease will live and be supported to live well. Kotryna leads a team of three science communicators and an insight analyst. Her team is responsible for providing content, information and insight on breast cancer research and statistics. Their aim is to bring it to life in creative and compelling ways for non-scientists.

Key tip: take time to distil what they’re passionate about

Sign up on MyUCLCareers Today


Employer Taster Session in Communication
Tues 11 Feb, 12.30-2pm

This session has been postponed – please check back for further details


Careers in Social & Market Research Forum
Weds 12 Feb, 5.30-7.30pm

Want to carry on in research for a non-academic organisation? Social and market research organisations are a great space to utilise your research skills in a business context.

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: This team design challenge prizes that help solve pressing problems that lack solutions

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.

Research Director – NatCen Social Research: Britain’s largest independent social research agency

Sign up on MyUCLCareers Today


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 programme can be found here