Careers outside of academia for humanities and social science researchers: charities and NGOs

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 third in a short series of blog posts exploring some of the other opportunities available. This post will focus on opportunities in charities and NGOs.

Charities and NGOs need employees with strong research skills that can be applied in various ways to help the organisation achieve its mission – from building an evidence base for advocacy work, to monitoring and evaluating the activities of the organisation to see where improvements can be made.

It’s worth being aware that many of the research-focused roles in this sector won’t necessarily have ‘researcher’ or ‘analyst’ in the job title. So you may have to think creatively and read a few different job descriptions to get an idea of roles where you can apply your research skills. Key words to look out for could include: ‘monitoring’, ‘evaluation’, ‘impact’ and ‘policy’. Communication skills are often a key requirement for these roles, so include examples of your effective communication and interpersonal skills in your application.

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Developing your commercial awareness, by being aware

When attending an interview, one of the things you may be asked is a question around commercial awareness. Recruiters will want to know that you have a genuine interest in the commercial world and in particular they want to know that you are passionate about their business and the industry they work in. Demonstrating your knowledge and insights can be a daunting thing to do, but actually everyone (no matter their academic background), can do this.

Some of the questions you might be asked include:

  • How do you keep up to date with what is going on in our sector?
  • What challenges face our industry or business at this time?
  • What business story has interested you most recently?
  • Who are our competitors? What makes us different from them?

So how would you answer these?

If you are applying to a particular industry you should already be doing some research on the organisation you’re applying for. As you’re looking at their website, take some time to look at their recent news articles, their social media pages, even take a look at their Wikipedia page (although take that last one with a pinch of salt).

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Interested in postdoctoral study and considering your funding options?

Are you contemplating postdoctoral study and considering your funding options?  If so, you might be interested in attending some of the events planned for Fellowship MAY!

Fellowship Day began as an event in the School of Medicine and Dentistry more than a decade ago, and invited representatives from the major Research Councils, Charities and Trusts to come and speak about funding opportunities available for postdocs and early-career researchers.

This year’s event will change slightly in that it will be a series of talks, seminars and funding-related workshops taking place at Mile End, Whitechapel and Charterhouse Square campuses, running from 8-19 May 2017. The schedule for Fellowship MAY! is available below. 

To book on to these sessions, visit our bookings page, login and search for ‘FM‘ in the course code field.  This will list all Fellowship MAY! workshops.  If you don’t yet have a cpdbookings account, you can register here.

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How to research a company

gillGill Lambert, Careers Consultant

This blog focuses on how to research a company, an activity which is needed to make your cover letter stand out and also to answer the inevitable interview question “Why do you want to work for us?”  

I wrote this blog because my daughter recently asked me how to research a company. She graduated last summer and is looking for work through for graduate schemes.  I advised her to use the checklist below to organise the information and then I suggested a number of ways of gathering it. 

Information Checklist 

  • Basics: what the company does, who its customers are, who its competitors are 
  • Size & Reach: how many employees they have, where their offices are
  • History: origins and  defining moments 
  • Industry: trends, opportunities, threats
  • Financials & Operations: how, where and why it is growing (staying stable or shrinking), future plans
  • Reputation: what it offers that’s unique compared to its competitors, its market share, its reputation in the industry
  • News: press releases and articles 
  • Structure: the names of executives and advisers profiled on their employees page, how the company is organised, how the department that you are applying to impacts on the company’s business,  
  • Ethics: values, aims, personnel policies

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PhDs & Postdocs – How to find a job in industry

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.

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Applying for a PhD in the Humanities and Social Sciences (2/2)

Joe Cronin, Application Adviser

In part 1 I outlined some things to consider when thinking about a PhD in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Today I’m going to focus on how to deal with the application process itself.

Your research proposal is just that – a proposal. For almost all applications to PhD programmes (and undoubtedly if you’re applying for a funded position), you will be expected to write a research proposal. This can be a daunting prospect for those who ‘only’ have a Master’s degree and now have to consider how they would plan three years of research. But remember that whoever looks at your proposal is also going to be aware of this. Research proposals are simply a means to show that you are capable of conducting a long-term research project. They are not rigid plans that you have to stick to (and few people do anyway). With that said, it does pay to do some research for your proposal, if only to make sure that you have some knowledge about the topic you’re proposing to study (if it’s related to your Master’s thesis then this is less of a concern), and, in particular, to make sure that no one else has done your project already. However, you don’t have to show a comprehensive knowledge of your topic, nor do you have to know what the findings of your research will be. After all, you haven’t started it yet!

Make sure you have access to a library. When writing your research proposal, it’s a good idea to make sure that you can access a decent amount of scholarly material relating to

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I know what you did this summer

To commemorate the period during World War Two when Queen Mary College was evacuated to King’s College, Cambridge, eight students are invited to spend four weeks at King’s College during the Long Vacation Term.  In addition, one student is also invited to spend four weeks at St John’s College, Cambridge. This year, Martyna Sikora, a 2nd year Maths student from Queen Mary took part in the scheme and here she tells us how she found the experience.

One big reason that I wanted to take part in the Cambridge Long Vacation Scholarship was that I wanted to work on something very specific – a new forecasting mechanism called prediction markets. I had become fascinated by it while reading about different applications of probability and economics. I soon found a project involving just what I was looking for, at the Institute for Manufacturing which sits within Cambridge University. Following advice from my academic advisor, I contacted the Institute to ask for a possibility of a meeting. Luckily, after a call from a PhD student, I was offered an opportunity to work at the Institute with him provided I got the scholarship. I was therefore even more determined to submit a strong application to the scheme! So I had my academic advisor and the QM Careers service  check it over for me before I submitted it, and I’m sure that was a key reason my application was successful and I got the funding!

The scholarship included: accommodation at King’s College; money to cover travelling expenses to and from Cambridge; together with maintenance during the 4 week period (to buy food etc). Furthermore, I had reading rights access to the Cambridge University Library and borrowing rights at King’s College Library. However, I spent my time mainly at the Institute for Manufacturing working on my project with my supervisor, the PhD student. As a result, I gained experience doing professional research and working mainly unsupervised. This scholarship also enabled me to get an insight into what an academic career might be like and to gain organisational skills. Every Friday I met with my supervisor to discuss the progress of my research and my ideas about designing a prediction market and at the end of scholarship I had to present my results among people working in the Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory. Consequently, I improved my communication and presentation skills.

Kings College organized various activities for Queen Mary students. We had the chance to go to the roof of King’s College Chapel, discover the history and interesting traditions of this place and talk to PhD students about their careers. Apart from this, we went to see a play during the Shakespeare festival and I even tried punting a few times. I also took advantage of having a Cambridge Student Card and went to see other colleges including Trinity College, Clare College and St John’s College.

Applying for this scholarship was a great idea. Although I was spending my time studying, it was on a project that I found really interesting and I learnt many new skills while I was at Cambridge. The best bit for me was being able to spend time in the Institute for Manufacturing, working with people who were interested in the same things I was. So I can’t recommend enough to anyone thinking of applying for the scheme to do their research beforehand: contact different departments at Cambridge and get talking to academics. They’ll most likely welcome the extra help on their projects, especially if you can show them how enthusiastic you are about their work.