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- Kristy, deputy director, phD in chemistry
Kristy, deputy director, phD in chemistry
Occupation: Deputy Director, Science Council
Sector: Charity/Not for Profit (Professional Body)
PhD subject: Chemistry
Why did you do a PhD?
I only started to think about further study about two and a half years into my degree. I realised that the jobs that were on offer to BSc graduates didn’t interest me and I did a PhD to open a wider range of opportunities at a higher level.
Describe your current job briefly:
I am Deputy Director of the Science Council, whose main aim is to promote the advancement and dissemination of knowledge of and education in science, pure and applied. We are an independent body with a membership of over 25 professional institutions and learned societies, and through them we support over 300,000 scientists in the UK.
One of our key activities is the award of the Chartered Scientist designation (CSci) which aims to benchmark best practice and professionalism across all scientific disciplines.
Why did you decide on this career?
My first job after my PhD was in research, working for the Atomic Weapons Establishment. Whilst I was there I became interested in science policy work (staff issues, communication of science and improving the public perception of explosives!), but very much as an extra-curricular activity. I then saw a job in chemistry higher education activities development (working predominantly with universities but also at the interface with schools and industry) advertised with the Royal Society of Chemistry so I applied and, to my surprise given my lack of experience in this area, got the job.
During this role I was offered the opportunity of a secondment to the Science Council to work on the development of the CSci designation. When my secondment came to an end, the more involved role of Deputy Director was advertised, I applied and was very happy to be given the job.
What was your job search strategy and how were you recruited?
At university I used the careers service and saw my job with the Atomic Weapons Establishment advertised in Prospects. It took me 5 months to get that job because of the obvious need for thorough security checks.
The RSC job was advertised in New Scientist where it really stood out – it was very different to all the other vacancies. My current job was advertised in the national press, but I heard about it whilst on secondment.
Why do you think you got the job?
Despite the obvious need for scientific knowledge and specific research skills, I think that I got my first job because during my interview I created a good rapport and they could see that I was going to fit into the existing research team.
With my second job I think I was successful because I went in with willingness to try out new ideas. My drive and enthusiasm came across and they must have felt that they could teach me all the other things I would need for the job!
My current job requires a lot of diplomacy because I deal with very senior and influential people, as well as a high level of organisational skills. Having worked here on secondment, they had evidence of my ability to work with people at these levels which again was probably as important as the knowledge which I have picked up.
Do you think a PhD has had a positive impact on your career?
Absolutely, even though I didn’t realise how much when I was actually doing it. My PhD has been invaluable for different reasons in each of my different jobs – sometimes the science is useful, but on the whole it is the other skills I developed as I was doing research – self organisation and motivation, self confidence, ability to work autonomously. I’m sure the skills I developed during my PhD will be applied throughout my career.
What advice do you have for PhD students to boost their employability?
I’m wary of giving advice because I was the sort of student who wouldn’t have listened to it! Perhaps the most important message is that you have all the skills that you see in job adverts and are talked about in publications like this one – you are developing them ALL while doing a PhD. Communicating at different levels; assimilating and analysing complex information, planning and managing your workload – all those vital skills are there - the key is to recognise that you have them