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Catherine Reynolds

March 29th, 2023

PhD Journeys: Lamia Irfan, PhD Social Policy 2018

0 comments | 5 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Catherine Reynolds

March 29th, 2023

PhD Journeys: Lamia Irfan, PhD Social Policy 2018

0 comments | 5 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

In our ‘PhD Journeys’ series, we focus on the experiences of LSE alumni after their PhD – this blog explores the career trajectory of Dr Lamia Irfan

 

Lamia is the Applied Research Lead in Innovation and Design Labs at CAPCO, London.

Lamia completed her PhD in Social Policy at LSE in 2018 as a mature student and a parent. After her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher on a study of religious conversion to Islam in prisons in England, Switzerland, and France, with a focus on Muslim men’s experiences within the criminal justice system in England. Her current role involves understanding emerging behavioural patterns and market trends to outline opportunity areas and new product concepts for financial services. Lamia’s research spans financial services and social policy.

 

Navigating your career

A zigzag shaped pathway is how Lamia describes her career trajectory, certainly not a straight line. Moving from Accountancy and Finance disciplines to Sociology is one significant shift; moving from Pakistan to London, via Liverpool and Oxford is another; moving from working in academia to the professional services sector is a third. While her career journey has been far from linear, Lamia describes the motivations behind each of these moves and the career satisfaction and security she now finds through work.

 

Exploring different routes

During her time at LSE, Lamia took on additional research assistant roles, including working for LSE Consulting, and made contacts with people in her field. She won a prestigious three-year postdoc funding scheme which allowed her time to publish articles from her PhD on prisons and to develop her work. She found this work fulfilling and effectively completed the arc of her PhD, but the short-term nature of academic contracts and inherent instability were not satisfactory. The faster pace and practical impact of the consultancy world attracted Lamia, along with the permanent contracts.

Connections continue to count. It was another LSE alum who gave Lamia her first break into consultancy and there she proved that her research ability, logical thinking, and questioning style were valued. The rigour required in her earlier studies was valued by her new employer and she proved to be an asset to the organisation. Success in this first role opened doors to others and now Lamia works as a leader, recruiting others in a large London tech consultancy. From being the only PhD on the team, she now hires others and proves the value that PhD graduates bring.

 

Finding your place

Fast-paced work does not characterise the entire private sector. Big organisations are also bureaucracies with cultures of their own and ways of doing things that take time to understand. However, the work they do usually has rapid and measurable impact, and Lamia enjoys contributing to this through the research work she does. Organisations also include many different roles so the opportunities outside higher education are very broad, and moving from one role to another and one organisation to another is common.

The key to getting in is developing your ability to say what you can do for the employer in terms they understand. Once you’re in, your workload is more varied and stretching yourself professionally becomes easier. But the first step is to show you fit in. At selection stage, this requires presenting your personal narrative to show clearly how you will add value and make a difference in the way the employer needs. Reframing your story and editing it to show how you fit in is not easy but is essential.

 

Over to you…

How flexible is your thinking about career development? Can you too leave one culture and thrive in another? Is a zig-zag shaped career path attractive to you, or not?

Whatever your thinking may be, LSE Careers is here to help…

 

For additional careers support, you can:

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About the author

Catherine Reynolds

Posted In: Alumni | Careers Advice | Graduate profile | LSE Careers | PhD | Postgraduate study

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