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Finance & Consultancy Month – Guest Feature

Isobel EPowell24 October 2019

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 Finance…

Taking a deeper dive into the financial industry from the perspective of an economist specifically looking at what this is like for a researcher, we have our first contributor – Keith Lai. 

Keith Lai is an Economic Advisor for the Office for National Statistics and completed his BSc (2008), MSc (2011) and PhD Economics (2018) all in UCL. His thesis was on applied economics of crime, using an individual-level dataset held by the Ministry of Justice, where he worked for three years as an assistant economist between 2009 and 2012, to study the micro effect of criminal justice punishment on the labour market and reoffending outcomes. 

Tell us about your role and the organisation you work with…

I am an economist working in the Office for National Statistics, the largest independent producer of official statistics and the recognised national statistical institute of the UK. The ONS publish a wide range of economic and social statistics that inform every public debate you see and hear, such as GDP, inflation, unemployment, international trade, government finances, gender pay gap, crime, etc.
Largely speaking, economists have two roles here. Firstly, we provide commentary on the economic and social statistics that ONS publish, to help the public understand the latest development in the UK economy and society. Secondly, we research into the best methods of measuring the economy and wellbeing, taking advantage of the unprecedented opportunities that big data offer.

Whats a brief overview of your industry? are there opportunities specifically for researchers?

The civil service rarely looks specifically for PhD candidates (in the departments I have worked in any way!) but there are definitely roles that researchers could slot into and perform really well, such as in the Government Analysis Function which covers economists, statisticians, data scientists, operational researchers, social researchers, etc.

Describe your PhD background, is it related to your current role?

My PhD thesis was on the Economics of Crime and Criminal Justice, where I empirically tested at the individual level the impact of criminal justice punishment on labour market outcomes.
The topic area of my PhD is not particularly related to the projects I am currently doing at the ONS, but the skills that I had picked up, such as critical thinking, data manipulation, time management, public speaking, etc. are all transferrable to my current career.

Did you find the transition out of academia challenging?

I actually found the change very pleasant! Towards the end of my PhD, I missed working in big teams and interacting with people from a diverse background. I also enjoy being able to completely switch off after work.

Is there anything you wish you’d been told when looking to transition out of academia

Being in academia can be a bit like inside a bubble and you can easily feel stuck to stay, or lost about where to go next if you leave, but it really is perfectly fine to take the leap.

Any advice/tips specifically for Postdocs? 

One must have mastered many difficult skills to survive in academia for any length of time. Without a doubt, those skills are fully transferrable to jobs outside academia and someone in possession of them are very likely to succeed in whatever they choose to do. The difficulty might be in trying to look for a position that perfectly fits their expertise and research interest, which by then could be quite a niche and narrow. I think being open-minded about different challenges and opportunities could help the transition out of academia.

What is your top tip for researchers when applying to your organisation?

Be enthusiastic about contributing to the public good!

A big thank you to Keith for sharing their insights into the industry and what life after a PhD is like! 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.


What’s coming up! Check out our final event of this month

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

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. 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.

Introducing your first researchers’ careers month…

Isobel EPowell1 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.