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Welcome to Careers in the Public Sector!

Isobel EPowell3 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!

Isobel EPowell28 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

Isobel EPowell29 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

 

Reflecting on Data Science & Data Analysis Careers for Researchers

Isobel EPowell12 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!

Festive career lessons from Home Alone

SophiaDonaldson14 December 2018

 

How many times have I seen Home Alone? I couldn’t tell you for sure. But I know the number is big because it’s a blooming Christmas classic. When I first watched it I was but a stupid little child, so I thought the key themes of the film were about not taking your family for granted, good triumphing over evil, Christmas miracles etc. etc. etc. But last weekend I watched it through the wisened (wrinkly) eyes of a UCL Careers Consultant, and I was finally able to discern its true meaning. And as luck would have it, it’s actually all about careers. Below are the top three career messages I took away from this festive favourite. They contain spoilers…but come on, who hasn’t seen Home Alone?!

 

1. Build a brand

When Harry and Marv get their comeuppance at the hands of Kevin, they pay not only for breaking and entering the house in which they were found, but also for all the previous houses they’ve burgled. This is because they have a calling card, an MO, a brand: they are the Wet Bandits.

So ok, if you’re committing crimes, maybe a brand isn’t such a sensible idea. But when you’re looking for a job, having an MO can be very attractive to employers. It tells them who you are, and what you can contribute. So what brand are you building? If an employer googles you or peruses your LinkedIn page, what picture will they get? Is it clear enough? In your application documents and on LinkedIn, make sure you mention all of your interesting projects and achievements, and even include links to relevant work, like presentations you’ve given, code you’ve created, blogs you’ve written (hopefully about subjects that reflect your brand) etc. Then you too may be as recognisable to an employer as a Wet Bandit is to the cops.

 

2. Get organised

Kate and Peter McCallister seem like nice enough people with a very lovely house, but they certainly wouldn’t win the award for Best Parents Of The ‘90s. Their problem boiled down to a lack of organisation. They woke up late, took their eyes off the ball, and ended up flying to Paris without their youngest son. Oops.

Just like Kate and Peter, jobhunters often learn the hard way that it’s good to be organised. Well, not quite like Kate and Peter. They rarely inadvertently abandon their children. But instead they find themselves in a pickle when they’re called to interview for a job they have little recollection of applying for, and the job advert has now disappeared. What’s more, they’ve sent off so many applications they’re not sure exactly what they said in this particular one. They then have a decision to make: ask for the job advert to be sent over, thereby admitting their disorganised approach to the employer, or face an interview underprepared. Awkward.

So don’t learn the hard way. Learn the easy way: from this blog about Home Alone. When you’re in jobhunting mode, keep clear records – maybe even in a spreadsheet – of where you’ve applied. And save every job advert, person specification, and application, ready for when you’re called to impress in person.

 

3. Make time for fun – it may even help your career

Home Alone’s Kevin knows how to enjoy himself. He plays with BB guns, seesaws, and Micro Machines, and he watches gangster movies. He does these things because they’re fun, but they also turn out to be pretty handy when he has two burglars to tackle.

At UCL Careers, we may be guilty of making you think your career plans should motivate every choice you make. Actually, that’s not really how life works. Often you have to put yourself out there, do what you enjoy, and work out how that might be useful in your career later down the line. This is exactly what a UCL PhD-turned Life Sciences Consultant told us when we interviewed him a few months ago. He loves theatre, so he got involved in writing show reviews. When applying for Consultant roles, he used this as evidence of his written communication skills: he can put together accessible and persuasive writing about a show, even with the limitation that he couldn’t reveal the plot to his readers. And clearly it worked – he got the job! His advice is “Although to some degree you should cover the bases, do what you enjoy, and figure out how to tell the story in your CV along the way”. Great message….even if it was obviously nicked from Home Alone.

 

 

 

Careers Advice from Baz Luhrmann’s Wear Sunscreen

SophiaDonaldson31 August 2018

Remember that weirdly amazing song by Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen), that was pretty much just a guy reading the words to an essay by Pulitzer-Prize-winning Mary Schmich? It reached number 1 and Gold status here in the UK. But more importantly it formed the basis of how I live my life. If I’m ever unsure about a decision, I consult Wear Sunscreen, and within it I usually find my answer. For it covers all of life’s important arenas: Health (“Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone”), Love (“Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours”), and Beauty (“Do NOT read beauty magazines they will only make you feel ugly”).

But of course the advice I want to discuss in this post relates to careers. And there’s lots of it. Here are four sets of key lyrics from the song, and how I see them relating to the careers of researchers I work with:

1) “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh nevermind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.”

We can all argue about where the cut-off for “youth” lies (I will always argue it’s located a few years older than me), but this lyric applies not only to the young. It’s about perspective. It describes how it’s tough in any one moment to see how much opportunity you have and how blooming great you really are. This can be especially true of the researchers I work with who have career worries. Sometimes it can be helpful to try to step out of the moment you’re in. What would Future You say when looking back at you now? What would Past You, with all their hopes and dreams, but also their doubts and uncertainty, think about what you’ve now achieved?

I’ve had two conversations in the last month that recalled these lyrics for me. First, I was working with a client discussing her desire to work overseas. She said it was something she’d always wanted to do, but the perfect time to have worked overseas would have been five years ago, and it’s way too late for her now. I asked why she hadn’t moved overseas five years ago. She replied it was because Past Her had thought it was way too late for her back then too. Hmmmmmmm. I wonder what Future Her might think?

The second conversation was with a PhD graduate who’d left academia. I was interviewing him for a careers case study blog (like these). His advice to current academics was to ignore the inner voice that criticizes you for leaving things too late – it’s a fruitless distraction. Sure, we advise starting your career thinking as early as possible. But for any one person, now is as early as possible. No matter how long you’ve been in academia before you start considering how to strategically get ahead in the field; or no matter how “late” you’ve left it before you start considering non-academic options, you’re currently the youngest you will ever be, and now is the soonest you can ever take action. Just ask your Future Self, and they’ll tell you how much potential and opportunity you have.

2) “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

There’s plenty of evidence to show comparing yourself to others impacts your emotional wellbeing. But that evidence is a little complex, and how these comparisons affect you seems to depend on your own self-esteem and personality, and on whom you’re comparing yourself with.

From a careers perspective, sometimes comparisons can be helpful. They can reassure you that other people experience similar difficulties, uncertainties, and insecurities as you (they do!). And when looking at LinkedIn and The UCL Alumni Online Community at jobs “people like you” have, comparisons can provide career ideas and inspiration, and can motivate you to work hard and develop new skills.

But a vital part of the comparison process is self-awareness. Awareness of your own strengths, interests, and values. If you know and accept your own career motivations, then you can focus on running your own race, and avoid falling into the trap of feeling jealous of those bound to take different paths to you, because they want completely different things out of life. Our “How Will I Know What I’ll Like?” researcher workshop can help raise your self-awareness (check out our Careers Consultant workshop schedule to see when the next one is, and to sign up), and in preparation we ask you to complete a Jobmi.com strengths questionnaire, so why not start that now?

3) “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.”

Speaking of not comparing yourself to others, everyone is different. Some people know exactly what they want to do with their lives and they’re happy doing it forever. That’s great, and if that’s you, come and see us for an appointment if you need help getting there. But studies like thisthis, and this tell us that’s not true of everyone, and in fact, changing careers, sometimes multiple times, is pretty normal. So don’t put so much pressure on yourself to find the single one right thing. And try to see not being fixed on one route as an exciting prospect. If you view yourself as someone who may have multiple careers, then you can be more experimental, trying things you wouldn’t ordinarily try. And with retirement ages creeping upwards, you’re likely to be working for longer than previous generations. With all that time to work, why not actually aspire to try multiple careers? You never know, you may even enjoy one of them enough to stick with it forever.

4) “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.”

For me, this lyric evokes Dr Jim Bright and Dr Robert G. L. Pryor’s Chaos Theory of Careers. Yes. That’s right. There’s a chaos theory of careers. A butterfly flaps its wings in Japan and you become a Senior Portfolio Developer at The Wellcome Trust. This theory not only concedes that most people don’t have firm long-term career plans, but actually questions the value of having such plans in the first place. Given that seemingly small chance events can have a gigantic influence over the course of our careers, this theory says it’s far better to focus on smaller shorter-term goals and actions, and to be curious, self-aware, and open to new opportunities.

(On that note, do you even know what a Senior Portfolio Developer at The Wellcome Trust does? Why not take this opportunity to be curious and google it? We’ve given you a helping hand by speaking to one and writing about it here.)

Careers advice from the (dystopian) future

SophiaDonaldson22 January 2018

[SPOILER ALERT: As well as invaluable nuggets of careers advice, this post reveals endings]

Have you watched series 4 of Black Mirror yet? I have, and I’m loving the feeling of healthy paranoia each new instalment brings; I’m now keeping my DNA away from my boss (sorry Calum), and assuming my Mum’s spying on me through my own eyes (sorry Mum).

Many admire how Charlie Brooker uses each episode to explore possible unanticipated consequences of technological advances. But what I find most impressive is the way he subtly weaves career lessons into the show. So subtly in fact you may have missed them. To help you out, here are my top three career insights from the current series:

1) The job you want now may not exist in 10 years

“When I grow up I want to be an Arkangel Remover or a Memory Collector”. Sounds kind of silly, right? Partly because I have (apparently) been a grown-up for some time. But mostly because such futuristic jobs don’t exist outside Black Mirror episodes.

But the statement sounds only a tad sillier than if I’d said “When I grow up I want to be a Social Media Strategist or a Big Data Analyst” back when I was an actual child (or even, for the former at least, when I was at university). Those jobs only exist in the futuristic, humungous-data-filled, internet-based world of work we currently inhabit.

Google “The future of work” and you’ll find ~91,600,000 hits predicting the road ahead. These prophecies tell us technology will eliminate some roles, but new opportunities will be created to replace them. What should you do in response? Reading a few of the “future of work” google results might be a good idea. But they’re just educated guesses. The best plan is to plan loosely. Be flexible. Be open. Be aware. Keep acquiring new skills and learning how to sell them to employers. So when the changes come, you’ll be ready.

2) Your emotional side could be the key to success

Episode 1’s Robert Daly was pretty smart. I don’t know what university he attended, but he may even have been smart enough to make it to UCL. He was so smart that he learned to code, partnered with a business-minded friend, and created a global virtual reality gaming company called Callister.

But Robert Daly relied only on his IQ (intelligence quotient) and neglected his EQ (emotional quotient, commonly referred to as emotional intelligence). And of course we can all guess exactly how that turned out: Robert inevitably found himself pilfering his colleagues’ DNA and imprisoning virtual copies of them inside his own sick personal computer game where he enjoyed playing God before they eventually trapped his consciousness inside said game presumably leaving Robert’s real-world self to spend the rest of his days in a coma. Obv.

…Ok. Sure. That was probably more the inevitable consequence of Daly being an evil psychopathic megalomaniac than of him neglecting his EQ. But EQ, which is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others, is nevertheless important to success. Studies show those with higher EQ scores perform better in the workplace and earn more. Luckily EQ can be improved, and there are plenty of articles explaining how. So while you’re honing your knowledge and technical skills, it might be worth improving your emotional side too.

3) Following your heart can uncover new worlds

How do we know this is reality? Like, real reality? You know what I mean, man? Like, am I actually me? Or am I simply a digital version of me in one of thousands of simulations run to find the real me a suitable love match?

In episode three we follow Amy and Frank as they allow a dating app to dictate their lives, and finally to select a ‘perfect match’ with whom they will spend forever. Amy and Frank think the system sucks, so they rebel, and in doing so they reveal a different world with different rules, where they can be together.

This sort of paradigm shift can happen in careers too. Perhaps those around you have gently (or strongly) encouraged you down a certain study and/or career path? And perhaps now you’re on it, and you socialise with lots of other people on the same path, it feels like the only possible reality?

If you’re loving your current reality, good for you. Keep at it. But if, like Amy, your gut’s telling you something isn’t quite right, you too can rebel! We all have multiple possible future selves, and there are whole other career worlds out there to be explored if you care to look. If you think you’re in this situation, book an appointment to chat to a careers consultant about investigating your options.

 

 

 

Stranger Careers Advice

SophiaDonaldson27 November 2017

What did you get up to this weekend? I stayed in and binge-watched series 2 of Stranger Things. I know, I know, I’m a little behind. I could pretend the delay was due to my active social life or (more believably) because I had The Defenders and Transparent to get through first. But the truth is I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to series 1. I simply couldn’t bear to see Eleven et al. in a sub-par storyline. So imagine my delight when I found that not only is series 2 just as good as the first, but it’s also choc-a-block with useful careers messages – Totally Tubular! Here are three careers tips I took from the upside-down world of Hawkins:

1) Speaking the same language helps

“The demogorgon”, “the shadow monster”, “demodogs”, “true sight”…these are terms Eleven, Mike and the gang use to navigate the scary and weird world in which they find themselves. Without these words it would be far trickier to make sense of and communicate what’s happening around them.

Compared to the academic setting, new jobs and sectors can also feel like scary weird worlds. And if you don’t speak the language – something employers might describe as showing “commercial awareness” – they’ll be even more foreign. So before you attend a careers event and network with employers, and certainly before you make applications, try to learn a little of their language. The best way to do this is by reading relevant industry publications; the blogs, magazines and journals those working in your chosen field are reading. They’ll tell you what’s going on in a strange other world, and the correct terms to describe it.

2) There are many ways to bring something to a team

[Warning: this tip contains spoilers. Soz.]

The Stranger Things kids are a motley crew, yet they’ve managed to save eachother, Hawkins, and presumably the entire world twice. Mike’s the leader, and Eleven’s contribution is obvious, sure. But what about the rest of them? Will keeps getting lost or infected, Lucas reveals the group’s secrets, and Dustin hides a demodog. Yet they all help in their own way. Without Will, the evil-root-tunnel-thingies would never have been found. Without Lucas bringing Max on board, they never would have reached those evil-root-tunnel-thingies. And without Dustin’s bond to a demodog, they’d never have made it out of the evil-root-tunnel-thingies alive.

These sorts of teamworking skills (minus the evil-root-tunnel-thingies) are attractive to most employers. So even if you’re a Dustin or a Lucas and you don’t take up the obvious leader or ideas-generator role, you have something to add. If you find it difficult to identify and communicate your contribution to a team, check out Belbin’s team roles for details of the less prominent but still vital roles people can play.

3) Skills can be transferred

Eleven’s telepathic skills were ideally suited to her first (enforced) career in espionage. But does that mean she can’t do anything else? No sir-ee, she didn’t let herself be pigeon-holed. She recognised her transferrable skills and carried them into a variety of settings, including anti-bullying campaigns, demogorgon elimination consultancy, and an internship at a vigilante start-up.

Just like Eleven, you’ll have developed a bunch of skills throughout your PhD and post-doctoral experiences that will also be useful in other settings. It’s important to recognise what these skills are so you can speak confidently about them. It could be the research or writing skills you picked up along the way, the project management and organisational skills you used to plan your PhD and fit it around other areas of your life, the teaching skills you used to supervise students, or the communication skills you used to present your work at conferences. If you spot a skill you enjoy using, seek out further opportunities to develop it through your academic work and departmental responsibilities, or through internships and extracurricular activities. This will convince an employer it truly is a strength you can bring to their organisation.