Archives for category: Kevin Mahoney

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has just launched Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry; maintaining the UK’s leading position in life sciences, which is an update of its 2008 report on the skills sought by employers in the UK’s pharmaceutical industry.

One piece of good news from the report is that demand for people with a PhD has increased within the industry since 2008.

In particular, the report highlights a number of scientific/technical fields in which firms are having difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified people. Most of these involve the application of mathematical and computing skills (e.g. bioinformatics, health economics, health informatics, statistics). So, if you have expertise in one of these areas, now is a good time to look out for opportunities in the pharmaceutical sector

However, the report states that

~90% of respondents had found it difficult to recruit people with adequate communication and team-working skills.

In 2008 only about 70% of respondents had reported difficulties in relation to these skills. For researchers this underlines once again the importance of being able to identify the key transferable skills gained from carrying out research and being able to provide evidence of these in applications and at interview. Although this report focuses on the pharmaceutical industry, the same goes when applying to employers in any other industry.

If you haven’t yet started to think systematically about these things, two useful starting points could be VITAE’s publication The career-wise researcher and AgCAS’s University researchers and the job market. Both publications explain in depth what employers mean when they talk about particular skills and show how you can draw effectively on your experience as a researcher to provide evidence for these.

The full ABI report can be downloaded here.

If you’re a researcher in the social sciences you’re probably aware already that it’s possible to work as a social researcher in central or local government, with a think tank or with a major charity or campaigning organisation. However, you might not be aware that similar opportunities exist with a range of other organisations including: faith groups; industry trade associations, market research companies and media organisations.

If you want to see what’s out there the following websites are potentially very useful:

  • The Social Research Association’s site includes: a guide to careers in social research outside academia; a list of current vacancies and a directory of organisations which carry out social research.
  • W4MP lists jobs with political parties, pressure groups and think tanks.
  • The Government Social Research site provides an overview of opportunities in central government.
  • Jobs Go Public advertises opportunities with local authorities and social housing providers.
  • Charity Job is a good source for jobs in the ‘third sector’.

When looking at adverts on these sites, it’s important to check what exactly the employer means by ‘research’. Some posts will provide an opportunity to contribute to knowledge by carrying out original research but others will simply involve collating information from published sources and using this to produce briefing materials. It’s important also to bear in mind that think tanks and pressure groups will often have a particular political or moral agenda that they wish to advance and so they will be looking for research outputs that are compatible with this.

In central and local government and with the larger think tanks and charities there’s usually a clear career structure for social researchers. Promotion often means moving away from ‘hands-on’ research towards project management, seeking out new business and managing relationships with internal and external customers. In smaller organisations prospects for progression may be limited if you want to continue in the research function, but there may be possibilities for advancement by moving into other roles. In these kinds of organisations research work might in any case be combined with other functions such as event management or PR and media relations and this in itself will help you to broaden your skills.

Overall, salary progression tends not to be as good as in academia, but in most cases there is a better work/life balance. Also, a research career outside academia can offer you the chance sometimes to have an immediate impact on public policy and the possibility of gaining a higher public profile for your work.

Finally, if you choose the right kind of job, continue to develop your knowledge and research skills and maintain a wide range of contacts it may well be possible to return to an academic research career if that’s what you decide you want to do.

Ernst and Young, the multinational accountancy and professional services firm, attracted a lot of media attention recently when it announced that it would no longer require applicants to have a 2:1 degree and the equivalent of three B grades at A level in order to be considered for its graduate programmes.

If you’re a postgraduate researcher or a recent doctoral graduate and you’re thinking about applying for graduate entry schemes you might be wondering what relevance this news has for you. Surely if you have a PhD it can’t really matter what class of bachelor’s degree you got, let alone how well you did at A Level? Unfortunately, in a great many cases it does still matter simply because the forms for these high throughput application processes aren’t flexible enough to deal with PhD graduates. 

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As a UK-based researcher you might be interested in working in academia outside the UK, whether in a permanent role or just to broaden your experience before resuming a career at home. Given the international nature of the postgraduate student body, the fact that employers recruit globally to academic and research posts and the long tradition of British PhDs undertaking post-docs abroad, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find someone in your own institution who’s been there and can advise you on how to go about looking for a job in your chosen country. Read the rest of this entry »

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Many adverts for jobs in academia include an invitation to contact a named individual for further information. Understandably, people can be nervous about making this kind of approach and careers advisers are often asked whether it’s really necessary to take up the invitation. The answer is always an emphatic ‘YES’, mainly because other candidates certainly will make contact, and if you don’t, you risk looking less committed and enthusiastic than them. Read the rest of this entry »

37c83f6In December 2014, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) published a report entitled Careers of the Future which aims to highlight the 100 jobs that are likely to offer the best career prospects for people entering the labour market in the near future. UKCES is a public body that advises central government and the devolved administrations on skills and employment policy. The report is based on extensive research, and a supplement containing all of the background data can be accessed here.

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timthumb.phpAs my colleague Jane Simm showed in her recent post, for many years ‘competency-based’ interviews have been the mainstay of the selection process for UK employers. This kind of interview is based on the belief that past behaviour is the best predictor of future performance. Therefore, having identified in advance the skills and personal qualities (i.e. competencies – see this resource from Syracuse University) that are essential for effective performance in the job, the employer asks candidates to describe past situations in which they have demonstrated these.

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ResearchWordleOne of the key considerations for doctoral graduates looking to work outside academia is knowing which particular entry point to an organisation is the most appropriate for them. For example does the organisation have a recruitment scheme specifically for PhDs? If not, is it necessary to apply for the general graduate entry scheme or might it be possible to gain a direct entry job as an ‘experienced hire’?

If you’re currently asking yourself these kinds of questions, university recruitment fairs (e.g. the Sheffield Universities Recruitment fairs) present an ideal opportunity to meet employers’ representatives face-to-face and discuss your options. Did you know that many of the employers represented will also be offering internships/placements that are open to postgraduate researchers?

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