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Catherine Reynolds

Dr Maria-Christina Vogkli

September 8th, 2023

PhD employer panel – Finding your fit

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Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Catherine Reynolds

Dr Maria-Christina Vogkli

September 8th, 2023

PhD employer panel – Finding your fit

0 comments

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Four senior employers all with PhD qualifications and currently working in non-academic organisations spoke at the LSE PhD Spring Retreat in June 2023. They shared their stories of their own transitions from academia to other roles as well as their experience of hiring PhD students: what they look for in a PhD job candidate, standout qualities and powerful ways to market them. Here I’ll summarise their key messages.

Recognise the value of your skillset

Employers highlighted the value and skills PhD students gain during their studies. They explained that PhD students can function as intellectual entrepreneurs and are experienced innovators, using and developing research methods. PhD students network with others, seek and manage funding, teach, deliver presentations, apply communication skills to disseminate their research to diverse audiences, manage projects, employ analytical skills, understand the complexity of problems and are eager to find solutions to various challenges. The speakers emphasised the need for job applications to articulate the benefits of the PhD for the new role.

Demonstrate your experience

The four speakers also underlined how people can prepare beforehand for making a transition outside academia or working across academia and other sectors. When applying for a job, it’s important to be aware of, and articulate, the value you can bring to the new role and organisation. Have both an academic and a non-academic CV prepared in advance to adjust to each application. “Every inch of your CV is valuable real-estate” for describing what you bring. Skills that PhD students often continue to develop beyond academia are management, relationship management, project management and strategic skills, and employers will hire on potential, as well as prior experience. Check out the LSE Spring Micro-Internships as well as other vacancies advertised on CareerHub to find and apply for new work experience opportunities.

Consider the different possibilities

There are many possible routes after an LSE, and our speakers represented four different trajectories, all London-based. Our speakers were:

  • Dr Steve Coulter, Head of Economy at the Green Alliance, an environmental think tank. Steve was Head of Industrial Strategy and Skills at the Tony Blair Institute until recently. He is also Senior Visiting Fellow at the European Institute of the London School of Economics (LSE), where he was previously a faculty member teaching and researching European political economy. He has a PhD in Government from LSE.
  • Dr Stephanie De Mel, Senior Economist and Head of the Urban Lab at Westminster City Council. Stephanie’s research interests include labour markets and skills, programme evaluation, and the economics of cities. She has worked across academia, policy research, international development, and government in the UK, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Rwanda, and Australia. Her current work includes developing an economic development plan for Westminster, analysing the local economic impact of the evening and night-time economy, and evaluating the effectiveness of various high-street development programmes.
  • Dr Simona Milio is a Senior Director in Public Policy at ICF where she leads the European Market team. She holds a PhD in European Political Economy from LSE where she was previously Associate Director of the Economic Social and Cohesion Policy Unit. She has led over 100 multi-discipline comparative studies and evaluations with teams of up to 56 experts during 20 years of working for national governments and EU institutions (DG EMPL, DG Regio, DG Connect, DG Home, European Parliament, Eurofound).
  • Dr Lamia Irfan is the Applied Research Lead for Innovation Design at Capco, a technology consultancy. Her 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. She completed her PhD in Social Policy at LSE in 2018. After her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at SOAS and the University of Birkbeck.

Interested in events like this?

PhD alumni career panels are hosted several times a year by LSE Careers; employers are invited to campus too. These are centrally organised events to help you learn about possible futures and how to manage transitions. The events offer breadth that may not be available in your department. You can also arrange these yourselves or co-create with our assistance.

Tell us who you want to hear from, what you want to learn about, and we can plan events to support your career development. We’re here to help you learn.

LSE Careers is here to help…

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About the author

Catherine Reynolds

Dr Maria-Christina Vogkli

Dr Maria-Christina Vogkli manages the SPRING programme at LSE's PhD Academy.

Posted In: Alumni | Careers Advice | Finding work | Insider tips | LSE Careers | PhD | PhD: Beyond academia

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