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Find Your Future


Introducing your first researchers’ careers month…

By uczjipo, on 1 October 2019

Welcome to Finance & Consultancy Month!

Explore your career options beyond academia

This year we have a whole new set of events giving you the opportunity to meet employers, discover new industries and learn key skills. Whether you are a member of research staff looking for a career change or a research student wanting to explore non-academic options – these events are for you! The term is set out into themed months focusing on a particular industry of choice based on the most desirable career destinations for researchers. Within these themed months we have a plethora of skills sessions, forums and blog content for you to engage with.

*For research students this programme of events is a part of the Doctoral Skills Development Programme and therefore training points are attributable*

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

Research skills are becoming more vital to industries across the board, with the financial and consultancy industries being no different. For our first themed month, we have loads of chances for you to meet alumni working in these industries and gain vital careers support from organisations which hire at PhD/researcher level. All the alumni attending events completed PhDs and are therefore great examples of the kind of roles you could get into in these industries. Specifically, those roles which you may never have considered. Each themed month is designed to be accommodating to all degree backgrounds and therefore speakers and hosts will cover a wide range of industries and careers within finance and consultancy across the traditional and non-traditional sectors.

Whilst transitioning out of academia can be an unfamiliar and daunting prospect, there are tons of amazing organisations looking for researchers with specialist knowledge that can support their business. The financial and consultancy industries not exempt from this, and are some of the biggest research recruiters in the corporate business world. Whilst your background may not be in business-related subjects, the skills that you have learnt through studying both independently, as part of cross-college teams and the strategic planning of your research projects means you may have many of those basic core competencies required in this sector.

Interested? Here’s what’s coming up

During our forums and workshops, you will have the chance to meet recruitment specialists and alumni working in these industries – read more below! Alongside this, we will be having guest blogs and interviews from alumni who will be attending events to talk you through their career path. So even if you can’t attend an event,  there are still plenty of ways for you to learn more about the industry. Want more specialist support? Here at careers, we have a dedicated team of experts who can support your researcher journey. Find out more here.

Interested in supporting businesses and individuals with your research expertise? Consultancy could be for you. Come along to our consultancy panel and hear from consultants working in the life sciences, financial services, health, and technology sectors.

Employer Forum: Careers in Consultancy
Weds 16 Oct 19, 5.30 – 7pm

As a rapidly growing industry that requires people with strong problem solving, research and specialist skills, consultancy firms are increasingly recruiting researchers. This forum gives you the opportunity to get an insight into consultancy from PhD level speakers who have paved a career for themselves in this industry. Find out more about what it takes to be a consultant, the wide range of industries and specialisms this covers and gain tips on how to get into this competitive industry. This is a key opportunity to gain an insight into a career you may not have previously considered.
Research students and staff book here

Capco, a global management and technology consultancy dedicated to the financial services and energy industries will be attending this event. I asked their representatives, Chris & Steve, both UCL Alumni and PhD holders to give us a key tip for researchers that they wish they’d know.

“Don’t underestimate how valuable your transferable skills are, and don’t be afraid of taking a step back in order to progress on a new path. When I started at Capco I was much older than my peers, and felt overeducated too, but that PhD experience built my intellectual confidence, my work ethic, my ability to deal with and explain complex problems and those things helped me to have a lot of success and work on some really interesting problems in my new industry” Chris Rahnejat & Steve Harrison, Capco

Find out more about who’s coming and what to expect on the event booking page

Wondering what your options are for a career in finance? There are tones of opportunities that could utilise your research skills. Come along to this panel covering careers in analysis, economics, forecasting, risk management and more.

Employer Forum: Careers in Finance
Mon 21 Oct 19, 5.30 – 7.30pm

Research skills are increasingly important to the finance industry with analysis, problem-solving and technical skills being ranked highly in a potential candidate. This forum gives you the opportunity to get an insight into finance from PhD level speakers who have paved a career for themselves in this industry. Find out more about what a career in finance 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.
Research students and staff book here

As an Economics Adviser for the Office for National Statistics, our first speaker on this panel Keith Lai has expertise on financial statistics. Keith provides in-depth economic analysis on important economic indicators such as GDP, inflation, unemployment etc., to enhance the public’s understanding of the latest development in the economy. We asked Keith “What’s your advice for someone looking for a role outside of academia?” 

“be brave in branching out of your initial research expertise – all the skills developed during the PhD have way more transferability than you may think!” Keith Lai, ONS

Find out more about who’s coming and what to expect on the event booking page

But, how do I know if I like it or not? If you’re considering a career in consultancy but you’re unsure what the day to day might look like, come along to this taster session to give it a go!

Employer Taster Session in Consultancy
Tues 29 Oct 19, 12.30 – 2.30pm

This employer-led careers taster session for consultancy will allow you to experience a hypothetical task which someone in this role would undertake. 
This is a practical opportunity to gain experience of a career in consultancy. Participate in a hypothetical task to improve your understanding of the industry and the types of careers available whilst networking with an organisation which hires researchers. This employer taster will highlight a career which has opportunities spanning across science, business, technology, data, the arts and more.
Research students and staff book here

Here’s how to book your space

This term we will be taking all research student and staff bookings for all researcher career events including both employer-led events and careers consultant-led workshops via the MyUCLCareers portal. If you’re a research student you’ll already have an account, just sign in with your standard UCL single sign-on user ID and password. For research staff, register your details with us to set up access to a myUCLCareers account – click here to see the guide.  By streamlining our offerings through one platform we hope to offer you clearer, more detailed and consistent event content.

Any questions? Email us at careers.researchers@ucl.ac.uk

Research students – As this programme of events is a course part of the doctoral Skills development programme training points are still attributable.
All careers workshops and Forums run within the Doctoral Skills Development Programme are worth 1 training point. You must log this yourself on your Research Log – for further information on training points please refer to the Doctoral Skills Development programme website and follow the how-to guide

What else can you do to get career ready?

Alongside the employer-led sessions, we have our careers consultant-led programme of events. Details of the whole programme can be found here

We have separate Careers Consultant-led programmes of academic and non-academic career workshops. These specialist sessions are open to both research staff and students with some dedicated sessions for each.

Workshops are repeated throughout the year covering topics such as:

  • Academic career planning
  • Effective academic applications
  • Effective academic interviews
  • Identifying strengths, interests & values
  • Finding non-academic jobs
  • Marketing yourself (sessions on applications, interviews, LinkedIn)
  • Workshops are repeated regularly throughout the year.

These programmes are for you. Learn a new skill, find out about an industry, or even just ask some questions to help settle your concerns – Get ahead of the game and take these opportunities to explore opportunities and develop yourself and your commercial awareness before you’ve even left academia.



Transitioning from PhD to consulting

By uczjsdd, on 24 February 2015

Bernardo FotoBernardo Alvares is a final year PhD student in Cancer Immunology at UCL who is passionate about entrepreneurship and social-impact projects. Prior to joining UCL, he completed a BSc in Biomedical Science at Cardiff University and worked at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. Bernardo has recently secured a full-time position with the management consultancy firm McKinsey and Company, in the Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) office. In this article, he shares some tips for PhD students thinking about transitioning from academia into business.

How did you make the decision to leave academia?  

Whilst working at GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, I enjoyed working as part of a vibrant team where scientists put their knowledge and skills together to deliver results. I also found it extremely rewarding to understand the relevance of my project in the context of the company’s drug-development strategy. I felt that my future career needed to have elements of teamwork, fast-pace and a strong customer focus.

After my participation in extracurricular activities whilst at UCL, in addition to personal experiences such as travelling and team sports, I discovered my leadership abilities and realised that my excellent interpersonal skills were not being fully utilised in academic research. Moreover, I attended a range of business and entrepreneurship courses at UCL and enjoyed reading about business, psychology and management, and realised that my interests are not limited to science, which made me really curious about exploring other career options.

Why management consultancy?

I first learned about Management Consulting at the UCL Management Consultancy fair, and the diversity and fast-paced nature of the career really attracted me. I followed up this initial interest by attending additional company presentations (at UCL and off-campus) and speaking with current consultants. I realised that a career in Management Consultancy would allow me to build on the skills developed during my PhD, such as problem-solving and delivering effective presentations, combined with the opportunity to developing leadership and project management skills.

I also strongly believe that understanding how organisations are structured, the challenges they face and how to improve their performance will equip me with the skills and contacts to build my own venture in the future. Strategic consulting offered an excellent match as it addresses the important questions that can change the direction of the world’s biggest organisations.

How do you think the skills you learned during your PhD will help you in the role?

In my opinion, running a PhD project is analogous to managing a small company, where you need to spot a “gap in the market” (something unique in your research area), plan a strategy to tackle the issue, mobilise resources, meet deadlines, manage expectations and communicate clearly with your stakeholders (such as the PhD supervisor). I feel that overcoming the uncertainties and complexities of a PhD helped me build the strength and endurance to tackle any challenge in my life. I came out of my PhD as a more entrepreneurial and confident individual, ready to make something new happen and embark in new challenges!

A series of skills developed during my PhD are extremely relevant to consulting. For instance, breaking down complex problems into manageable solutions, and then putting the parts together and reaching conclusions in the context of the overall problem. In addition, communicating research findings in a clear and effective manner to audiences who are not necessarily familiar with details of your work (such as the CEO of a major corporation) is part of a daily life of a consultant.

Are the skills acquired during your PhD enough to break into business?

The simple answer is: NO. I have met several PhD students who decided to move into business towards the end of their PhDs without having complemented their CVs in order to get there. Although some organisations do hire PhD students primarily based on the analytical/research component of their PhD (eg. maths/physics students who can develop ultra-robust algorithms for trade modelling in finance), most companies are looking for a broader skill-set in addition to the problem solving, self-motivation and attention to detail PhD students usually excel at. Relevant skills include leadership, commercial awareness and teamwork – which can all be developed through both your research and extracurricular activities.

I decided early on during my PhD to build my CV to make the transition into business. My first “target” was leadership skills. I joined a very entrepreneurial society called Enactus, which basically uses business skills to develop projects that bring benefit to society. I set up the UCL plus project and led a team of 9 students helping young people write CVs, prepare for interviews and develop transferable skills, in partnership with UCL Careers Services. We run over 50 hours of workshops in five schools and community organisations in deprived areas of Camden (North London). This project also served as a good example of Entrepreneurship since we did something no one at UCL had done before and received really good feedback from teachers and the young people.

I developed invaluable skills in business and management after attending a range of courses run by UCL Advances, such as Business Marketing, Enterprise Bootcamp and the Value Creation Workshop. I also attended a London Business School MBA elective course titled strategic innovation, where I learned about the challenges that businesses face and how decisions are made, in often ambiguous and uncertain scenarios. I would really recommend these courses. UCL is such a fantastic and entrepreneurial university and I feel very privileged to have had access to all these resources.

How did you make sure your applications and interview performance were as good as possible?

Put simply, the interviews for the most prestigious consulting companies are tough. The case-type interviews require a great deal of preparation. Although there are examples of students succeeding with only one-two weeks of preparation, I strongly believe those are exceptions. At the beginning I felt helpless at solving cases. However, with effort and preparation you can get there! I prepared for about 2 months (15 hours/week), initially by reading case books and then solving a total of about 30 to 40 one-to-one cases in the website Preplounge, which I would really recommend. I practiced with people from all over the world, including MBA students from the world’s top business schools.

In the case interview (which probably requires a separate blog article), the candidate is required to tackle a business problem in a structured and logical manner. You need breadth/creativity and depth. For instance, list a range of factors relevant to the given problem, but also justify why and prioritise (ie. which factors are the most important and why). When given graphs and tables, you need to identify the key drivers, perform some basic maths, relate your findings to the overall problem and suggest a course of action. The ability to summarise and communicate your findings at the end is also very important.

Regarding the competency part of the consulting interview, I was asked about examples of leadership and managing conflict in a team. Again, having a high-impact and interesting story (usually in the context of managing and working with people) will put you in a good spot. It is also important to structure the answer well, and you can book an appointment at UCL Careers to practice.

Any final thoughts?

My take-home message is: be curious, get out of the lab and try the amazing resources UCL has to offer, even if you are not sure if you want to leave academia. You never know what you may discover about yourself and the opportunities out there. I also strongly recommend the employer events run by UCL Careers service and the one-to-one appointments with the Careers Consultants, some of whom are ex-academics themselves and have experience supporting PhD students who are exploring alternative career options. Wish you the best of luck in finding the path that will help you shine!

PhD Life Science Careers – Why should UCL PhD students apply to IMSCG?

By UCL Careers, on 20 February 2012

The last in our series of guest blogs by PhD holders who work at IMS Consulting Group. You will find more information about PhD life science careers and IMS Consulting Group in our in our Careers in Clinical Research, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Forum for PhD/research students which will be held on 28th February 2012. Go to the Forum page on the Graduate School website for more details about this event.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Currently there are more PhDs in IMSCG than I can count. PhD students typically apply for consulting because they find that they can apply their problem-solving skills in new ways, work in team settings which can make a measurable impact, and be exposed to a variety of different projects in a short amount of time. In contrast to your PhD, at IMSCG we work on projects that are around 12 weeks long and often can be much shorter; as a result, the breadth of topics is extensive.

In addition to the formal introductory training, everyone in the organization, from peers to senior team members, is interested in your learning and progress. On projects, you will therefore receive on-the-job training and informal mentoring support, which greatly contribute to your professional growth. Furthermore, every new starter is assigned a coach who is part of the senior team – your coach offers mentoring support and advice, and tracks your progress within IMSCG in order to identify particular development needs.

One aspect of IMSCG that I have come to appreciate is that client management comes when you advance to consultant, which is significantly sooner than in other consulting firms. In addition, going to and presenting at client meetings often occurs at the analyst level, which offers the opportunity to witness firsthand how clients think. Given that as a PhD I had presented at few conferences and frequently at weekly scheduled lab meetings, I relished the opportunity to join and present at meetings, which I found to be a welcome challenge and a great opportunity for professional growth.

Overall the environment at IMSCG has many of the things I like about the university environment without the long, drawn out project work or failed experiments. At IMSCG, as in academia, you think of creative ways to solve a problem, you have a network of people who can support and you have the opportunity to work with really smart people.

Maria Kosmaoglou, IMS Consulting Group