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: Stakeholder Management Coordinator, Science and Technology Facilities Council @RDscience @STFC_Matters
Approximate salary range for your type of role: £30-33k
I did my PhD as part of a Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Birmingham, and this gave me an introduction to public engagement. I really enjoyed it and, throughout my PhD, I took lots of opportunities to try new ways of communicating my research.
I also completed two placements during my PhD: one with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), funded by EPSRC, and one with the science radio show The Naked Scientists, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering. These were great for giving me some varied experience, and made me realise I enjoyed this type of activity much more than my research.
When I finished writing up, I applied for a whole range of jobs in science communication, or jobs involving science but not experimentation, without much success. After 6 months of unemployment I was offered a job as an Editorial Assistant at an academic journal publisher, Taylor & Francis. I stayed there for 8 months, but there wasn’t as much interaction with the content as I expected, and so I started looking for other jobs.
I saw the advert for Stakeholder Management Coordinator and the description read a bit like my CV! Always a good sign…
I got the job, and I now work for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), coordinating the relationships between them and their external industry and university partners. I have a colleague who sits next to me who does a similar role with our parliamentary and government stakeholders.
The job is very varied and includes planning meetings between our Executive board and University Vice-Chancellors, as well as arranging VIP visits to our Rutherford Appleton Laboratories and collating briefings on STFC’s activities for these events.
I work in an office at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) on the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. I love the site as, for a scientist-at-heart like me, it’s just really cool! I came to use some of the facilities here as a PhD student, and some of my collaborators still work on site. There are also lots of opportunities to explore more of the site, and I’m encouraged to take them. These vary from helping with site visits organised by the public engagement team, to an initiative called “Other People’s Business” where the whole point is to go and have a nosy at what other people do.
I work in the “Strategy, Planning and Communications” team, and so a lot of the people in my office are in communications: both internal and external. I find that this means we’re all very chatty, and so the office is a very friendly place to be.
STFC also has sites in Swindon, Daresbury, Edinburgh and down a mine in Yorkshire. I’m planning to visit them as soon as I can, as our team is spread across them. We even have someone working at CERN who skypes in to our team meetings.
Compared to academia, the main benefit is my working hours! I work on flexi-time, so I swipe in and out every day and this means that if I work a long day, the hours add up and I can take time off later. It makes everyone work a bit more sensibly than I found they did in research. A disadvantage is that it is difficult to adjust to not being the project leader. During my PhD I drove the direction of my work and, by the end, felt like I knew everything about it. I definitely don’t feel like that here, as I have to ask other people’s advice a lot, and am often waiting on information from other people before I can complete a task.
Sometimes I feel frustrated that I’m doing a job that could be done without a PhD, but the five years it took me to finish gave me so much experience in a lot of different areas, which has made me who I am, so I don’t regret it. My communication skills, confidence to speak to new people or get stuck in with a dataset and dealing with last-minute tasks are the main skills I gained that are relevant to this role.
As an aside, I also took up triathlon at the start of my PhD and have had the opportunity to compete for GB all over the world, and complete two Ironman events. The flexible working hours in my job here have meant I am able to continue this and that’s something I am very grateful for.
My top tip for researchers leaving academia is to remember all of the other skills you have gained. Sometimes it is hard to prove to employers you have “work experience” as the role of a PhD student is often misunderstood. Think through your day-to-day activities and map common “competencies” onto them to help you going into applications and interviews.
Where can researchers look for jobs like yours? All of the UK research council (RCUK) jobs are listed on www.topcareer.jobs
What professional/accrediting bodies, or qualifications are relevant to where you work? Some of my colleagues are chartered with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).