Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.
Job title and company: Business Affairs Manager, BBC
Approximate salary range for your type of role: £30-50k (more information here)
I’ve just realised that I have now been in the ‘world of work’ exactly the same amount of time that I was in higher education: 7 years. Aside from this fact eliciting the usual feelings of oddness at the relentless passage of time, it also highlights parallels between the two periods of my life. While at Sheffield I initially spent some time learning how things worked before becoming more focused on areas which specifically interested me, the same thing has happened within my career.
After submitting my PhD thesis (in English) in the summer of 2009 and after 7 full years at Sheffield University where I completed three different degrees, I felt burnt out with academia and craved the routine and security of a job. Without anything lined up, I went to London, moved in with a group of friends in a similar situation and furiously started applying for positions. At this point I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew I had limited experience, but I was also on the cusp of being awarded a PhD which was something I’d worked immensely hard for. As was a theme with me, I didn’t particularly have the confidence to settle on an idea of what I wanted to do and it really wasn’t clear how I would be seen outside of my academic comfort zone.
After a period of scattergun job applications, I managed to get an interview and then job as a Rights Assistant at the BBC. The BBC was an organisation that I’d always thought out of reach despite having looked at their job site more than anywhere else, but I’d stumbled across what was essentially an admin role which allowed a way in. This first job involved the contracting of writers for various in-house produced BBC TV shows. These were mostly one off dramas as well as continuing series and the role involved basic negotiations with talent agents, issuing contracts and making payments. Once inside, the BBC opened up as a place of real possibility, with plenty of opportunities to learn about other departments and to gain a wider context of how a giant public service broadcaster worked.
For the first year and a half, I hopped my way around fixed term contracts in similar Rights Assistant roles, buffeted around by the constantly ticking clock of short term positions. But it was this period where I began to gain a real interest in how technology and shifting consumer behaviour was changing the BBC in a very profound way. This focus helped me get a job in the Rights Business Development team which centred on the support of new, innovative and emerging areas of the BBC.
I am now a Business Affairs Manager working with the BBC Three channel. BBC Three has recently shifted from a linear broadcast channel to an online-only one which features services across the BBC, YouTube, Facebook and other destinations. This new strategy and approach pushes the boundaries in all sorts of ways and has required fresh and innovative thinking in terms of how editorial teams are supported. I am in charge of supporting all short form video produced, commissioned or acquired by the channel, and engage third party producers, social brands and other digital companies in deals for content or services. In addition, as a point of advice and expertise on rights, legal approach and industry precedent, my role has evolved along with the needs of the channel which itself represents an experiment for the BBC.
As a publicly funded organisation, the BBC has its tricky differences from the commercial sector but can be a truly inspirational place to work. At the BBC there is a constant need to be accountable to the licence fee payer, and while this can feel restrictive given the rules and regulations which are in place, it’s a constant reminder that it’s a unique, fascinating and ever-changing entity which belongs to everyone and it pushes people to be creative within certain parameters.
As I progress through my career I realise more and more just how valuable the skills i developed during my academic study truly are. As jobs become more senior at a place like the BBC, they become less about process and more about the analysis of ideas. Not ‘do this’ but rather ‘how should we do this differently?’. The creative, analytical problem solving that I developed – in particular – during work on my PhD thesis, has been increasingly vital to me in my current role. Skills of communication are also critical, particularly when there might be a very limited time window to persuade and influence a senior member of staff.
My advice to any researchers leaving academia and entering the world of work would be this: depending on your chosen discipline, it may not be your PhD itself which will be valued by an employer (though it certainly won’t hurt!) Instead, the attitude and skills you have developed and which are exhibited will mark you out and likely become more and more vital to you as your career develops.