A PhD Student’s Perspective

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Ellie Cox

A paid work placement with Research Consulting led to an extended contract and subsequently a full-time offer of employment for PhD Student Ellie Cox.

After submitting her thesis, she will join the team as a substantive Senior Associate Consultant from May 2023.

Initially, I had wanted to go into academia after completing my doctoral degree, but this began to feel like a less viable option. These positions tend to be few and far between whilst attracting a huge number of applicants, plus they aren’t always very well paid. I thought it was worth seeking out some ‘real world’ work experience and exploring other employment pathways, to broaden my horizon beyond Higher Education and strengthen my CV.

I’m from Lincoln originally but moved to Nottingham for my undergraduate degree and then stayed for postgraduate study. I’m delighted to be starting a permanent role with Research Consulting after completion of my PhD, so it looks like this city will be my home for the foreseeable future. Nottingham has a lot to offer, my partner works at the local hospital, and we’ve enjoyed putting down roots here.

At the very start of my placement in November 2021, I provided support to a study for WellcomeUK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This looked at the impact of the Covid-19 data sharing statement which saw rapid and open access to research findings and data to inform the global response during this public health emergency. I then worked on a brief for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and currently – doing one day a week in the short-term – I pick up pretty much any of the extra tasks the team need doing to keep projects on track.

Using qualitative research methods and referencing systems has utilised similar skills to those employed for my PhD. I’ve also had the opportunity to sit in on interviews and learn new techniques for data collection, for example asking strategically composed questions to gain meaningful insights that elicit value and depth of insight.

Working within a relatively small team means you get to know people and understand how they like to work quite quickly. I’ve picked up new research and methodology skills, for example I had never used the NVivo tool before and am now confident using analytical frameworks to isolate and link key findings to help structure reports. I have always enjoyed the autonomy of the role, being trusted to just get on with tasks assures me that I’m being effective in my support to the team and helping them meet the needs of the business.

I think there’s a real gap in the awareness and availability of post-doctoral opportunities outside of academia or STEM careers. Putting together reasoned arguments, questioning assumptions, and exploring the processes of change in society and institutions are all essential Humanities and social sciences disciplines. They are also highly transferable skills grounded in the ability to draw together, analyse and critically evaluate information.

Being engaged in part-time, paid employment alongside my PhD has given me financial freedom and the ability to accumulate some savings whilst finishing my studies. With the cost of basic living expenses on the increase you find that the allocated funding gives you enough money to get by on, but not much else. Thanks to the placement I’ve been able to fund the social activities that provide a healthy balance to research and work.

It’s been a rewarding experience that has opened up an unexpected career path for me and I’m very much looking forward to starting my new position as Senior Associate Consultant in May 2023 and expanding on my skills and knowledge already gained through Research Consulting. I am also looking forward to continuing to work with the team and contributing to their ongoing success.

It has been a pleasure to work with Ellie over the past year and we are delighted that she will shortly just us on a full-time basis. Moving from medieval history research into a consultancy business might seem like a big leap, but it demonstrates the transferrable skills developed through doctoral training.
Dan King, Director

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