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

    We hope you enjoy reading the Blog and will be inspired to tell us your views.

    If you want to suggest things that students and graduates might find helpful, please let us know – we want to hear from you.

    Karen Barnard – Head of UCL Careers

    UCL Careers is part of The Careers Group, University of London

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    Read all about it: life as a magazine features editor

    By S Donaldson, on 1 February 2017

    Will has a Philosophy BA, a Philosophy MA (from UCL – whoop whoop!), and a PhD in Computer Science. Will is now a Features Editor at New Scientist Magazine, and he kindly chatted to us about his job and career path.

    How did you transition from your PhD to your current role?

    After my PhD I worked as a post-doc for 3 years. I enjoyed research, but it became increasingly clear that I was less drawn to the things that I would need to do to progress – i.e. find my own niche area of research and be able to ‘sell’ it.

    In the back of my mind I also always thought I wanted to be a writer or a journalist rather than a computing researcher, so I started freelancing with games and technology writing, and while I was post-docing I went to an event about science communication. I had fun, and I learned about the university’s Science Communication Masters program. I applied to the course partly because it looked great, but also partly to bide time while I continued to get more freelancing experience. It worked out well; the course was fantastic, and at the end of it I got a 6-month traineeship at New Scientist in the news section. After that I worked there on a rolling contract as a news reporter for a year, and then applied for the features editor job, which I’ve had for two years.

    What does your job involve?

    A huge part of the job is generating ideas that might make a cool feature for the magazine. Coming from a research background, it can take time to get your head around what makes a good story. We’re trying to sell this magazine, so a good feature has to not only be informative, but entertaining enough to compete with other magazines, and also anything else that might take your attention, boxsets and games etc.

    I specifically work on technology features, so I’m always keeping up to date with that field, to see which new developments and ideas might fit together to make a great story. When I think I’ve got something, I’ll put together an outline of the narrative of the feature, along with key people it would be worth speaking to, and that will be the basis of a commission. I’ll then find a writer for the story – editors usually have connections with regular writers – and there will probably be several rounds of edits back and forth once they’ve written it. We’ll also work with picture editors to choose the artwork that accompanies the story in the magazine, and increasingly we’ll work with people on putting together a package to accompany the story online, which might be videos or even an animation or interactive app for the reader. I sometimes do some writing myself, but that’s a small part of my role.

    The role is different to the one I had in the news team. I was writing a lot more in news, and my features role is more similar to doing a PhD in a way; You get to interact with lots of different people, but ultimately you’re working on your own project and you’re left to get on with it until it’s due. The news desk is faster paced, as you’re part of a team contributing each week to the news section.

    Is a PhD essential for your current role and what are the skills gained from your PhD that you use now?

    A PhD isn’t essential but it’s useful. It probably gave me an edge when applying for the traineeship at New Scientist. Having a PhD in tech stuff is extra helpful because finding people who are techy and are not just good writers, but are able to write well about technology in its broader social context, i.e. technology’s relationship with us, how it changes us (which is what makes technology interesting to most readers), can be especially difficult.

    The PhD can help in other ways too. The experience of doing independent research and of being confident enough to pursue an idea on your own is great for work as a features editor. And having an insight into what research actually is helps in science journalism.

    What are the best things about your role?

    The ability to have an idea pop into your head and then be paid to spend time pursuing it is brilliant. Then there’s the satisfaction of seeing your initial idea grow to something that can finally come together on the printed page. And there’s a nerdy satisfaction in the final tweaks that need to be made to make the feature work, making the language as punchy as possible and playing with the article layout, which I personally really like.

    What are the worst parts?

    There’s a lot of pressure. As a writer on the news desk there was an intense pressure day-to-day to get your story done. But as a features editor there’s a different kind of pressure. There isn’t such an immediate deadline, so you have to be a bit more organised with your time to make sure everything gets done, which might not suit everyone. And the features are the powerhouse of the magazine, they’re what make most people subscribe to New Scientist or pick up the magazine and buy it in a shop. So there’s a pressure to come up with something that will be good enough to really grab people. And there can be a lot of dead ends when you’re coming up with ideas – you always want your ideas to work out, but a lot of times they don’t. You also don’t really do much writing as an editor, which may be disappointing for some people.

    What’s the progression like from here?

    New Scientist is relatively small and people love their jobs so may stay for a long time, so there isn’t a huge amount of movement in the staff. There are places to move up from here, one could move to being a section head, managing a whole section like features or news or digital content, but of course that’s dependent on people leaving. Some people move on to being freelance, like many of the writers I’ll commission for features.

    What are your top tips for researchers wanting to move into your field?

    Try it. Write. I wish I’d done more of this when I was a researcher – just get writing, for a blog or for your university magazine, and pitch some ideas to editors to see if you can get something commissioned. To get writing jobs you’ll need a portfolio of writing to show people. Plus it’ll tell you whether you like it. And I’d advise you to keep doing it, because you might like writing the odd thing, but if you end up as a journalist you’ll have to write and write and write, so it’s worth seeing whether you’d like that. It’ll also get you used to having your pitches rejected. As a journalist you’ll get lots of rejections, and in time you get better at picking and pitching ideas so that they’re less likely to (but of course still sometimes do) get rejected.

    Doing a science communication or journalism course isn’t essential, but it can help. The courses have a good reputation in the field. They can help you hone your craft, but also open your eyes to other types of communication/journalism that you may not have thought about.

     

    NEWSFLASH! PhDs can come to media week too!

    By S Donaldson, on 26 November 2015

    Image from Griffith College Marketing team via creative commonsNext week’s media week events are open to all UCL students – including you PhDs. We have lots of great speakers from the worlds of publishing, journalism, broadcasting, and PR and marketing. And if you don’t see yourself as a ‘media type’ you might also like to investigate the growing field of Media Analytics, discussed on Thursday 3rd Dec, where your analytical skills will be valued.

    “But I’m a scientist, is Media Week open to me too?” I hear you ask. Yes! We welcome even you scientists, and you may be particularly interested in hearing from the Freelance Scientific and Medical Editor speaking at our “Getting into Publishing” event on Tues 1st Dec, and the science graduate who now works as a BBC radio producer (she worked on ‘The Naked Scientists’!) who will be answering questions at our “Get into Broadcasting” event on Wed 2nd Dec.

    See the full line up of events below.

     

    UCL Careers Media Week

    1st-4th December 2015

    Come along to our selection of panel discussions, interactive workshops and presentations to find out more about opportunities across this popular sector. Gain tips on routes into the media industry from experienced media professionals and learn what you can start doing now to increase your chances of success!

    All of the events below are now bookable through ‘My UCL Careers’. Event venues are confirmed on booking.

    Get into Publishing: Panel Discussion, Q&A and Networking

    Tuesday 1st December, 5.30pm-7pm

    Want to get some key tips on how to break through into this notoriously competitive sector? Come and meet panellists across editorial roles and academic publishing. Confirmed panellists include:

     

    > Marta Kowalewska , Editorial Assistant, Sage Publications

    > Dr.Nina Buchan, Freelance Scientific & Medical Editor

    > Claire Palmer, Editor, Harper Collins Publishers

    > Allie Collins, freelance editor (former Editorial Director at John Blake Publishing)

    > UCL Press representative

     

    Journalism Workshop with News Associates

    Wednesday 2nd December, 1pm-3pm

    Students interested in pursuing a career in journalism can enrol on this two-hour practical workshop run by the press agency News Associates. They will get you writing an article in a mock, ‘real-life’ breaking news exercise. Feedback will be given on your work and time is set aside for careers advice. News Associates are the UK’s leading training provider of the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) Multimedia Diploma.

    Please note that this is an interactive session aimed at those looking to pursue a career in UK-based journalism. Attendees will need to have excellent skills in both verbal and written English to ensure that they can engage effectively with the demands of the workshop.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to the group size and nature of this workshop, a returnable cash deposit is required to be paid in person at UCL Careers after registering to guarantee your place. You will also need to bring a laptop/tablet with you to be able to participate in this event.

    Get into Broadcasting – TV, Film & Radio: Panel Discussion, Q&A and Networking

    Wednesday 2nd December, 5.30pm-7pm

     

    Want to get an insight into working in and with the broadcasting industry? Come along to this event to hear directly from professionals about some of the various roles in these sectors! Confirmed panellists include:

     

    > Alex Snelling, Film Director/Producer/Editor, Slack Alice Films

    > Anya Saunders, Editorial Lead, BBC Make It Digital

    > Matt Pelly, Freelance Series Producer, Director and Cameraman

    > Kate Lamble,  Assistant Producer, BBC World Service

    > Eduardo Leal, Account Director, Precious Media

     

    This panel discussion is chaired by Leiah Kwong, President of the UCLU Film and TV Society

     

    What is Media Analytics? Presentation by GroupM
    Thursday 3rd December, 1-2pm


    Media is changing. Today we are in a space where data, creative content and technology collide, where audience insight sits at the heart of the creative process, and where extraordinary intelligence and state of the art trading models help us deliver tangible output for our clients.

     

    GroupM is the world leading media advertising group. We plan advertising campaigns for some of the biggest and most renowned brands globally, and based on rich consumer data we buy the media space that reach the right target audience.

     

    In this presentation we will discuss how data, audience insight and analytics help us deliver successful media campaigns. What data do we collect? What do we know about you? How do we use this information to target the right audience? Where is the future of media taking us, and what does this mean in terms of our future talent and career opportunities?

     

    Get into PR, Marketing & Advertising: Panel Discussion, Q&A and Networking

    Thursday 3rd December, 5.30pm-7pm

     

    Professionals working in the industry will be discussing their career paths and ways to get into the sector. The panel will also be sharing tips on how to progress your career. Confirmed panellists include:

     

    > Christy Madden, Ogilvy Fellow, Ogilvy

    > Kari Shephard, Consultant, Claremont Communications

    > Sophie Orbaum, Account Director, Gerber Communications

    > Caroline Cody, Media Relations Manager, Lloyds Banking Group

    > Tom McCarron, Periscopix
    CVs/Applications for Media Careers: Panel Discussion, Q&A and Networking

    Friday 4th December, 1pm-2pm

     

    Get top tips from industry professionals on how to make your applications stand out and what you can be doing now to increase your chances of securing a role in this industry. Confirmed panellists include:

     

    > Sally Hunter, Head of Commercial Marketing, The Guardian

    > Jackie Fast, Managing Director, Slingshot Sponsorship

    > Graham Russ, Careers Co-ordinator, Creative Skillset

    > Sonia Cason-Zeif, Recruiter, Sapient Nitro

    A Science Communicator’s Story

    By S Donaldson, on 19 March 2015

    Anthea MartinDr Anthea Martin gained a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Dundee. Here she speaks about her role at CRUK as a Science Communications Manager.

    [Since giving this interview, Dr Martin has taken up a role as a Case-for-Support Development Manager at Marie Curie]

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

    I probably realised about 3 or 4 months into my PhD that a long-term career in research wasn’t for me – I found the atmosphere a little too competitive, and as I’m quite a shy person, I wasn’t great at the networking and self-promotion aspects of academia. But it was actually only a few months before I finished my PhD that I worked out what I might do instead. I was reading a journal, and it fell open on a page about a medical writer. The job appealed to me as it involved writing about science and giving presentations, which were parts of research I’d enjoyed. I applied to lots of medical communications agencies – companies contracted by pharma companies or biotechs to manage communications about new developments – and got a position at Gardiner-Caldwell.

    Gardiner-Caldwell had a great ethos of training and supporting new writers, and I learned a lot from them, especially about handling clients and stakeholder interests – the business side of science – and about writing for lots of different types of audiences. I was with them for about 2 and half years, and really enjoyed the variety of the role, but during that time I realised that I would feel more fulfilled working for a charity than for pharma companies. I actually had cancer when I was younger, and as a cancer survivor, one of the reasons I went into research was to try to give something back. So I figured working for a charity might be another way to do that, and that’s when I found a position at CRUK working on their annual report. I went on to work in a range of science communications roles at CRUK, culminating in my current role, where I work closely with fundraisers, and aim my communications directly at potential donors, hoping to move them to support CRUK’s work.

    What does a normal working day look like for you?

    I don’t think there is a ‘normal’ working day! I can be meeting with fundraisers to find out what they need for a particular fundraising pitch, searching our portfolio of work to find projects that might appeal to certain potential donors, or writing up projects that need support. I also sometimes go out and meet donors or scientists, or help fundraisers in a more strategic sense, sharing the next big developments that they should be fundraising for.

    What are the best things about working in your role?

    I really love being able to bring science and research to life. I think science can be an area people are afraid of, so it’s great to know that you’ve turned this potentially alien and scary thing into something real and inspiring for people. And helping people make the decision to give to a good cause is wonderful, as is working for an organization that touches so many lives. I also enjoy speaking with the scientists, and hearing about cutting-edge science, sometimes even before it’s actually happened, as it’s just at the funding application stage.

    I like the breadth of knowledge that I get in this role, as compared to the deep but narrow knowledge I acquired in research. I get to see the big picture of the science, and how it all fits together to benefit people. And I like my colleagues; we’re a very close-knit team, with a good sense of humour, and the same ultimate goal – but I also enjoy that I get to work independently a lot of the time too.

    What are the biggest challenges you face in your work/what are the worst bits? Please think about elements that might put others off, even if you don’t mind them.

    There’s a lot of sitting at a desk, which I suppose people can be a bit down on. If you’d told me when I was 21 that I would end up doing a desk job, I would’ve thought it was horrendous! But it’s really not all that bad. The other potential downside is the bureaucracy associated with any quite-large organization. Unlike in the lab, when it’s just you and your research, it takes lots of people, discussions, and processes to make a decision.

    What’s the progression like/where do you see yourself going from here?

    There are more supervisory positions in the team that people can apply for when they’re available. As I have, people also tend to move around within CRUK, which is a great way to try new things, and some people move on to communications roles at other organisations, like charities or universities.

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

    If you’ve only worked within academia, it can be really frightening when you’re thinking of leaving it. So I’d tell people not to be afraid! A PhD will give you a whole host of skills that employers care about: you’ll be able to forward plan, be efficient with your time, and to trouble-shoot problems. A lot of researchers are also driven, enthusiastic, and passionate, all qualities that are great to bring to any role.

    I’d also really recommend that people try to get some experience in the field they want to go into, even if it’s just a couple of weeks. That way you can learn more about the role, but also about the types of organization you might prefer to work for.