Are you a social sciences or humanities postgraduate interested in pursuing a research career, but not sure if academia is the right path right for you? Read on to find out more about other opportunities for using your research skills…
A large number of humanities and social science Masters and PhD students go on to work in research capacities outside academia. This is the first in a short series of blog posts exploring some of the other opportunities available. This post will focus on opportunities in UK government and parliament.
Working in a research role in government provides an opportunity to work on things that really matter. These roles can be challenging as the pace of work is often very fast, which sometimes means that you are unable to measure the impact of one intervention before it changes again! You may also get asked by colleagues for evidence that doesn’t really exist and/or on areas they may not be a specialist in, so communication is often a key skill requirement, alongside your strong research abilities.
Researchers in this sector are valued for their excellent research skills, which often takes precedence over their specialist subject knowledge (unless the latter is relevant to a specific role). These skills could include: understanding the ‘robustness’ of research, qualitative or quantitative analytical skills, handling large data sets (with data science a growing area in this sector), and experience of different research methods. It’s therefore important to highlight your research skills when making your application – don’t assume the recruiter will know what research experience you have just because you have a Masters or PhD!
Working in the Civil Service
Social scientists and humanities researchers are employed in a range of roles across government departments and agencies. In some cases, researchers are employed within particular departments (such as education or housing), for example in ‘Analyst’ roles. Alternatively, they may work in central research services that provide experienced researchers to work on projects with other departments across the civil service. Examples of these central services include:
Two specialist Careers Consultants, Gemma Garrett and Andrea Cox, provide careers support for PhD students and postdoctoral/early career researchers across all three faculties at QMUL.
One to Ones
Free, confidential one-to-one appointments are available to PhD students and postdoctoral researchers each week, from 11am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 2:30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. These are held at The Careers and Enterprise Centre (WG3, near the Octagon in the Queens Building) and can be booked by telephone on 020 7882 8533, or in person at the Centre. You can discuss a range of issues, including:
- Career options, planning and job hunting (whether you want a career in academia or elsewhere)
- CV, covering letter and application advice
- Interview preparation (including practice interviews).
To find out more, visit: www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/researchers/advice/index.html
A range of alumni, employer, and student-led events are timetabled each academic year, including:
- PhD alumni discussion panels and speed networking events
- Employer-led events – talks from PhD employers. For example, employers at previous events have included PhD alumni discussing self-employment and a social enterprise called The Brilliant Club that arranges for PhD students to deliver tutorials in secondary schools.
- Café Scientifique (hosted in collaboration with our Centre for Academic and Professional Development) – speakers are current PhD students talking about their research to non-specialist audiences. Volunteering to talk at these events is a great way to practise and develop your communication and public engagement skills.
Events are listed and available to book at: www.cpdbookings.qmul.ac.uk.
Biotech Yes provides business training for PhD students and early postdocs – if you’d like to find out more, we’ll be holding an introduction to the Biotech YES competition and business workshop on Tuesday 16th May (2.30-4.30pm).
- Acquire business development skills
- Build and pitch your own business plan
- Learn about commercial & marketing strategies
Who is eligible?
Bioscience and biomedical researchers from medical researchers to electronic engineers to ecologists.
To book a place go to www.cpdbookings.qmul.ac.uk (course code RC900)
Dr Tracy Bussoli, Careers Consultant
Part 2: How to apply to a job in industry
- Make speculative applications
Not all biotechnology companies and contract research organisations have the resources to run formal recruitment processes in the way that large pharmaceutical companies do. It’s therefore worth approaching them even if they are not advertising a job!
Some of the careers sections on their websites will have contact details of where to send the applications, but others may not. If there are no contact details on their website, look at LinkedIn or do some online research to find an appropriate person to send your application to. Here is some information on how to make speculative applications
To work out which companies to apply to, explore the various sectors and organisations to see where your expertise and subject knowledge fits. If you have immunology experience, you may want to look at biotechnology companies that specialise in immunotherapy. A good place to start searching biotechnology companies for various roles is GolgiCareers or on LinkedIn. Once you find a company that aligns with your research or could use your research techniques, put together a CV and cover letter and send it off.
You will need to think about using a CV format that allows you to highlight the most relevant skills to the particular job you’re applying for. We recommend that you keep a
Part 1: How to find a job in industry
Dr Tracy Bussoli, Careers Consultant
If you’re thinking of finding a job in industry, you’ll need to be persistent and resilient as it may take time. As there isn’t always a straightforward way to find positions, here are my top tips on finding work in industry:
Explore all industry sectors and roles
Look at the range of functions and roles within pharmaceuticals, biotechnology companies and contract research organisations. See below for a list of:
Research and Development is the typical area that attracts PhDs and Postdocs; within this falls drug discovery, preclinical, clinical research and process development. Drug discovery and preclinical research jobs are the typical jobs for PhDs and Postdocs; job titles within this area usually contain the word ‘scientist’.
Other roles include business development managers, regulatory affairs specialists, medical scientific liaison (MSL) specialists, medical writers and life science consultants.
Gemma Garrett, Careers Consultant
In the final part of this series, read on to hear more from our Broaden your horizons event last week, as part of QMULGradFest.
Andrew Hines, a third year SLLF postgraduate, spoke passionately about his teaching experience with The Brilliant Club, a charity that exists to widen access to highly-selective universities for school pupils from under-represented groups. The organisation employs PhD students and postdoc’s from all disciplines to teach. Andrew’s role involves tutoring small groups of bright secondary school children from low economic backgrounds for two hour sessions at time. The experience enabled him to hone his communication skills by talking about his often niche and complex area of research in ways that could be understood by young, non-specialist audiences. Andrew gained an insight into what it’s like to teach to school pupils and developed his tutoring skills, whilst also earning some extra cash (all the positions are paid). As well as giving him an outlet from his PhD, Andrew’s involvement means he can now “sum up his PhD in three lines” – a valuable skill whatever his next career move.
Gemma Garrett, Careers Consultant
In last Wednesday’s blog we introduced you to some of the PhD students who spoke at last week’s Broaden your horizons event. Read on to hear from more of our students and what they’re involved in …
Hayley Peacock, a fourth year PhD student in Geography, is also a great example of how being open to doing new things can lead to further opportunities. Hayley’s involvement with The Brilliant Club led to her being invited to apply for the role of ‘Widening Participation Support Officer’ for the School of Geography’s Stepping Stones scheme. In this role she trained QMUL Geography undergraduates to deliver challenging 1:2 tutorial sessions to widening participation students from local schools. Hayley’s teaching experiences also gave her the confidence to coach in one of her other passions –