At our PhD panel in November 2021, we heard from speakers now working in four career sectors – the UK public sector, academia, consultancy and an international organisation. Their different trajectories reveal experiences of career development which will interest anyone laying the foundations of post PhD progression.
In our ‘PhD Journeys’ series, we focus on the experiences of each of the panellists – this blog explores the career trajectory of Jun Yu…
Jun is a Policy Analyst at the OECD in Paris, currently working on children’s rights and wellbeing in digital education.
Jun described the OECD as having many different teams for different career preferences and skills, and he sees career pathways open to a wide range of LSE disciplines – from Anthropology to Economics. His work is in the intersection of policy and research, and he works in a huge directorate with different areas and people with different types of expertise. CERI (the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation), Jun’s team, conducts policy analysis, involving the production of research and exchange with academia. Jun’s team is the closest to the work he did in his PhD and the skills used in his PhD.
The right door at the right time
In terms of his career journey, Jun believes it is incidental that he got this job, and it is not what he intended to do. Originally, his preferences were to either stay in academia or move to the private sector, but the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic changed things.
Jun finished his PhD right before the first lockdown when there was lots of uncertainty and this brought up questions about what he wanted to do and where to take his research. He used LinkedIn and jobs.ac.uk and found them to be good sources for his job search, recommending that you think early about what prospects are available. He was inspired to go into policy work after seeing the political response and its failures during the pandemic. Then the right door opened at the right time.
Leveraging transferable skills
A Media Studies PhD may not sound related to this role, but it’s not about specialisation – it’s about the skills he could leverage which made his transition possible. Jun’s advice: don’t discard jobs that may not look relevant at first glance; think about whether you want to work for the organisation and how to package your skills in the right way. Many skills and benefits Jun gained during his PhD proved useful for the job, including many transferrable skills which we may not always recognise (e.g. analysing research, comparative literature reviews, time management, independent work etc.). The PhD discipline, of course, can shape and determine what role or department you apply for, but all PhDs come with a wide range of transferrable skills.
A sense of having an impact
Currently, Jun finds lots of overlap with academia in his role, for example working in collaboration with academic experts for workshops and reuniting with professors from LSE. He sees the OECD as a good workplace, offering a good pension scheme and mental health support, as well as being fast paced with continually fresh insights. Jun sees all this as contrasting with PhD study where there may be no immediate tangible outcomes, and he finds it more rewarding to have a sense of producing outcomes and impact. Overall, there is a faster pace than academia without being as fast and pressurised as the private sector.
Despite finishing his PhD in middle of first lockdown and the hard job market dynamics and long transition time (nearly one year is typical for the OECD), he was successful! Going through a period of joblessness strengthened Jun’s resilience and sense of being able to survive anything.
To sum this up, he quotes Wittgenstein: “you need a friction in order to walk”. Indeed, it’s when things feel hard that they might be going well.
With thanks to all our contributors to the PhD Journeys series – Astrid Hampe-Nathaniel, Jaskiran Kaur Bhogal, Jun Yu and Anne Irfan.
For more support with planning your next steps after your PhD, book an appointment with Catherine Reynolds.