Careers outside of academia for humanities and social science researchers: think tanks and social research organisations

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 second in a short series of blog posts exploring some of the other opportunities available. This post will focus on opportunities in think tanks and social research organisations.

Researchers working in these sectors are valued for their excellent research skills, which often takes precedence over their specialist subject knowledge (unless the latter is relevant to the expertise of a given think tank). These skills could include your qualitative or quantitative analytical skills and knowledge of different research methods (including proficiency in statistical or analytical software packages, such as Strata, Excel or SPSS. Although some of these organisations have strong links to academia, it’s still important to highlight your research experience (including research modules you have taken and use of particular research software) when making your application. Don’t assume the recruiter will know what skills you have just because you have a Masters or PhD!

To get into this sector, it’s often important to get on the radar of the organisations you’re interested (rather than necessarily relying on advertised vacancies) – so be proactive! Create your own opportunities by sending out tailored, speculative applications and/or attending training courses or public events where research is being presented, to network and make contact with staff directly.

Although entry level roles aren’t typically well-paid, they are often a good way to gain experience and start building a career in this field.

Visit the Social Research Association (SRA) website for information about social research careers and to search for vacancies.

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Guest blog: Is project management the career for you?

4666Projects are performed by organisations in every industry and sector around the world. They enable organisations to change, grow, make better products or be more efficient. Project managers are vital to the success of such projects as they ensure the project is delivered on time, within budget and meets the expected objectives. 

Although a top tier role in terms of salary, it is surprisingly easy to get into and there is plenty of demand for project managers. However, competition can be fierce. Read on to get the facts about this exciting and challenging career!

What would I be doing?

Projects normally aim to increase growth, bring about change or increase efficiency. They can be performed not only to drive sales and deliver customer satisfaction, but also to improve the inner workings of an organisation. Projects also commonly take place in non-profit organisations, where the objectives will be humanitarian in nature.

Here are some examples of projects from different industries:

  • Building new social or private housing
  • Developing a piece of software
  • Creating an advertising campaign
  • A clean water project in a developing country
  • Organising a fundraising event or wedding

Project managers are responsible for the day-to-day management of such projects. Much like an admiral on a ship, they lead the project team through bad times and good, ensuring the project stays within budget and gets delivered on time. A project manager must also ensure the project meets its objectives and there would be administrative tasks to perform, such as risk and quality assessments.

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Guest blog: Three non-obvious careers for science graduates

So, you’ve decided that research isn’t for you? That’s okay – there’s life beyond the lab! Here are three alternatives that will allow you to put your undergraduate and/or postgraduate science degree(s) to good use.

Patent attorney

If you’re interested in the law as well as science, you might want to think about becoming a patent attorney – an intellectual property law expert who helps clients (from individual inventors to big companies) obtain and maintain patents for their inventions.

In broad terms, patent attorneys:  

  • assess whether an invention meets the legal criteria for patentability
  • apply for patents from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and the European Patent Office (EPO)
  • draft patent specifications, i.e. a detailed written description of the invention and the scope of the protections sought, submitted as part of the patent application process
  • defend or enforce the rights conferred by patents (alongside solicitors and barristers) once they have been granted

If that sounds like your cup of tea, you should start browsing the many training programmes offered by law firms. An undergraduate science degree is the only qualification you really need to be a candidate for one of these. According to allaboutlaw.com, around 40% of patent attorney trainees do not have an MSc, and around 70% don’t hold a PhD. So while a postgraduate degree certainly doesn’t hurt, it’s not necessary.

When you’ve secured a training contract, don’t expect to get your patent attorney wings for another 4-6 years. That’s typically how long it takes to satisfy the criteria for acceptance on to the Register of Patent Attorneys. While training is mostly on-the-job, it does involve external courses and examinations:

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From an MSc to a PhD

30064935701_ab73fc378c_zMany students who are considering a PhD do a Masters degree first. So what advantages do you get as a Masters student or graduate applying for a PhD, and how can you make best use of your time?

There are three main aspects of a PhD application – motivation, skills and knowledge – which can be impacted by a taught postgraduate degree:

Motivation

Many students take the wise decision do a Masters before a PhD to see if they are suited to independent research – therefore reflecting on how you enjoyed this part of your Masters degree should be an important part of your application. However, there are other possible aspects of your Masters research project that can help. Most projects are carried out alongside, or under the supervision of, PhD students. Talking to them will help you to confidently explain in your PhD application why you want to do a PhD and what the common challenges are. Your project will also allow you to give details on how you were motivated to complete your research in spite of specific obstacles and problems, which is essential for a good PhD student. Finally, if you are doing a Masters in the same subject you are planning to do a PhD in, this shows interest in the subject.

Skills

There are lots of skills needed for a PhD that can be obtained or strengthened by completing a Masters. Do note that many of these will be different than those for a job, and also that PhD positions often don’t have a job description with a list of skills to work from. So you will need to reflect on what skills are needed to successfully complete a PhD (attend the S&E Doing a PhD event in November to get started on this – check careers.qmul.ac.uk/events for registration details) and then see which ones you can evidence from your MSc. Literature search, scientific writing, lab and computational techniques are some examples, but each PhD project will have their own set of skills that would be required to be able to carry out the research.

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PGT: How to become an Investment Banker

Students aspiring to land places on graduate schemes in the city should start their career planning as early as possible. With many of our Masters students moving to live in the UK for the first time, and many Masters courses lasting only one academic year, getting your head around the UK labour market, applications and the selection process can be a daunting task. This article aims to bring together some tips on how to maximise your chances of success, and to get you off to a good start in your job hunt!

First off, it’s important to build up a strong understanding of the industry – by getting industry information from insidecareers.com, by reading relevant articles on efinancialcareers.co.uk, developing commercial awareness through articles in The Financial Times and brushing up on financial jargon on Investopedia. There is also a wealth of information for students looking to break into investment banking on targetjobs.co.uk. This knowledge will bring a range of benefits;

  • It will help you understand the range of departments and roles available within an investment bank, and help you figure out where you might fit in. Investment banks hire not only investment bankers, but also has trading, sales, research, technology, operations, compliance, legal and HR departments. Different investment banks are structured differently, with different names for their respective divisions.
  • If you aren’t sure if investment banking is the industry for you it will help you figure out the answer to this question. Consider whether the working pattern will suit you (some departments within the investment banking sector typically work long hours, and other departments typically have a very early start) and whether you will be using the skills you enjoy using in the role.
  • It will help you build up a strong understanding of how an investment bank operates – for instance how it generates income, who its clients are and what impact the changing regulatory environment will have on the industry – all of which will sure to impress at application/interview stage!

Secondly, many more people apply to investment banks than there are jobs available. For instance, JP Morgan hired only 1 in 50 graduate applicants in 2016 (The Financial Times).

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Practical tips for international postgrads looking for work in the UK

international (1)With strict visa regulations, it can be difficult for international students to secure a graduate role in the UK. However, it is not impossible and we have many international alumni who have successfully found interesting graduate roles here. As a postgraduate student, you only have one year during which you can gain valuable work experience and focus on your job hunt, while at the same time concentrating on your studies. This can be a challenging task and it is therefore helpful to have a good understanding of the local employment situation and requirements, so you can effectively manage your time throughout your studies.

We will mainly focus on the switch from a tier 4 to a tier 2 visa, which is an employer sponsored visa, but keep in mind that there are other visas that may be applicable in your individual case.

So, where can you find graduate roles in the UK?

The good news is that there are around 30,000 employers registered to sponsor tier 2 visas. The full list can be found here and a searchable list here. If you see a job that you like, it can be a good idea to check these lists first in order to find out whether the employer would be able to hire you. Doing this research will save you some valuable time and help to avoid potential frustration.

Now, let’s look at some top tips that may help you land that UK graduate role: 

Get some London based work experience – Getting work experience in the UK, during your studies or holidays, will enhance your CV and increase your chances of landing a role upon graduation. This could be in the form of volunteering or temping (keeping in mind hourly work restrictions relating to your individual visa).

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Guest blog: How to prepare for the 6 most common interview questions

If you’ve recently graduated, you may already be thinking ahead to what your next steps might be in terms of your career. As you begin to do so, your mind will start posing questions about the interview process – and that can feel quite daunting if you aren’t sure what to expect.

Read on to find out the 6 most common interview questions, with some tips on how to prepare for them and answer with confidence on the day.

Tell me about yourself

This is always one of the first questions in an interview. The reason you’ll be asked this is not because they want to know about your likes and interests, but because they want to hear what you value most about yourself in your career.

Think of it as a little bit like the overview you give on a CV.

The company will want to hear about your commitments to your career and what kind of person you are as a professional.

It’s useful to find out a bit about the company’s ethos ahead of your interview, so that you can gauge how you should approach this question.

cup-1615074_960_720What is your greatest strength?

If blowing your own trumpet is no easy task, then this question can be a tough one to answer.

The key here is to keep it relevant and think about what the company is looking for in you. It’s worth reflecting on previous jobs where possible (part time, internships and volunteering are all noteworthy), so that you can demonstrate your strengths.

This is a question that could ultimately set you apart from or give way to other candidates, so take this opportunity to closely match the qualities that the company is seeking.

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