Even thinking about your career is a job in itself. While studying at the LSE, students are encouraged to think about and plan what they will do once they have graduated, whether that’s entering the corporate world, working for charity or government or pursuing academia. What can you expect, what should you plan for and when should you start? At this crucial time of year, we have interviewed two PBS graduates, now PhD candidates, to see what they did, what they are doing now and what tips they have for getting started successfully on the right career path in academia, teaching and research.

*These interviews form part one. More interviews across a variety of sectors will follow.

Celestin Okoroji is PhD candidate and a former student in MSc Social and Cultural Psychology.

Why did you study MSc Social and Cultural Psychology?

When I came to LSE I studied MSc Social and Cultural Psychology. Before that I worked in local government for a couple of years doing policy and project management. And even before that I studied psychology at undergraduate level at Brunel university.

What are you doing now?

At the moment I’m working on my PhD in social psychology here at LSE. When I was accepted onto the MSc I was shocked and once I arrived I knew my long term goal would be to complete my PhD in the department. I felt (and still feel) that there are important questions that social psychology wasn’t trying to answer and therefore I might as well be the one to try. My work focuses on the social psychological consequences of unemployment, which in the past has been mostly approached at the individual level. I try to offer an alternative to that.

When did you start thinking about your career?

To be honest I’m still thinking about it. I’ve already had a little bit of a career in local government and a bit of experience in teaching. In some ways academia just seems to offer the things I’ve already been doing but in a neater package. So I get to teach, I get the intellectual challenge and (at least in my area) to consider the policy ramifications of my work and how it might effect people in real world contexts. My advice to others though would be to think about what kind of thing you would do for free if money was no object. Whatever that thing is, head for that.

What LSE resources did you find useful while you were a student to help you with what you are doing now?

There are many resources at LSE including a great LSE Life service, a huge library and regular access to academics. But, at least for me, the greatest resource was other students. Learning from them and thinking through issues with them helped to shape my own work but also my broader outlook on social psychology.

What skills are you using in your work that you picked up from your MSc? 
Having been out of education for a while before my MSc, I refreshed a lot of skills and picked up new ones. Most obviously, writing for academia which is quite different from writing policy or writing for a wider public audience. But I’m also using many of the methodology skills I learnt on the course from thematic analysis to regression. I also had to figure out a lot of ways to manage my work load and work smart which I still use now during my PhD.

What are your top tips for current MSc students thinking and planning their careers?

Start early, if you know where you want to go after the MSc then incorporate that into your dissertation and your half-unit options. But if you don’t then don’t stress, learning is an end in itself and just by being here and learning with your peers your likely to be inspired with new ideas for the future.

If you know you want to do a PhD then try to get some general ideas down on paper as soon as possible. Consider what kind off theoretical tools you are likely to use and what the empirical domain is. Then seek out academics whose research interests align with yours and strike up a conversation. The next steps will unfold from there. But if in doubt there are plenty of PhDs in our department, including me, who will be willing to talk you through all the steps. Good luck!

 

Sandra Obradovic  is completing a PhD in our department and is a former student in MSc Social and Cultural Psychology.

What are you doing now?

I am currently finishing up my PhD and preparing to apply for academic jobs. I chose to do a PhD early on in my MSc when I realised the project I wanted to do for my dissertation was so big in scale that it was more suitable for a PhD, and so I decided to apply.

When did you start thinking about your career?

I’ve always found academia very interesting and I think I naturally gravitated toward a career in academia because of it. I enjoy learning new things, reading about research and conducting research. However, while these interests could have taken me down a purely research-focused route, I think it was the extent to which I enjoyed discussing, debating (and later on) teaching that solidified my decision that an academic career was the right option for me.

What LSE resources did you find useful while you were a student to help you with what you are doing now?

The LSE has such amazing resources but it’s easy to get lost in the stress of it all and simply forget to take the time to use them. Personally I always found (what is today) the LSE Life services to be excellent; the range of tools they offer in terms of academic writing (which has helped me when writing journal articles and the bulk of my thesis), presentation skills (which has helped at conferences) and career advice (which is currently helping me prepare for job interviews and CV writing) have all been instrumental in shaping my career prospects. And, while not specifically related to any ‘academic’ skills, I also found the LSE SU useful because of all the various active life-style options they have, including yoga which has many times helped me de-stress and re-focus.

What skills are you using now from your MSc?

I think I’m using most of my skills; planning and executing a research project, time-management, multi-tasking (in terms of reading, networking, publishing, drafting articles, constructing visual representations of my research etc.), communicating complex ideas in a simple language and developing theoretical ideas and insights.

What are your top tips for current students in thinking and planning their graduate careers?

For anyone interested in an academic career, or simply a PhD, I would advise that you 1) reflect on whether you’re good at being your own boss, in terms of managing a big project and motivating yourself to do work, 2) don’t be afraid to reach out to other people, whether it is current PhDs (both in your own institution and outside of it) or prospective supervisors. Gain knowledge and insight into how it is to do a PhD in different places, as supervision style and work-style tends to differ across universities, and you don’t want to get stuck for 3-4 years in an unsupportive institution. 3) think about why you want to do a PhD; often times students come to me and say “I want to do a PhD” but they don’t know why or on what topic. This tends to signal to me that they’re either 1) unsure about their future and feel at home in their MSc which makes them rationalise the PhD as a simple continuation to that, when it’s actually quite different, or 2) they’re actually not even aware of their own skill-sets and how these could be translated into non-academic career jobs (this tends to be the case among those who have gone from a BSc straight into an MSc). 4) go speak to someone at LSE Careers! They’re amazing at giving you perspective on the range of careers out there and what might be suitable for you. Lastly, make sure whatever you do, that you know that it’s never too late, and no choice is definite. You can always do a PhD in 10, 20 years, or do a PhD and never work a day in academia – plans change, and so do careers.