Lucy Grimshaw

Lucy worked as an MP's researcher, but then decided to move into public affairs at the British Library.

"I studied for my doctorate in Palaeolithic Archaeology at the University of Durham. I was hugely motivated by this topic, and by a career as an academic archaeologist. But, like a lot of people I guess, I loved and hated the experience of writing my doctorate in equal measure. I struggled at points, but I kept going and eventually made good progress.

"Once I had completed my doctorate, I was in two minds about what to do with my career. Although I still wanted an academic career, I felt that after my doctorate some of my passion for the subject had gone. I applied for academic jobs, and got some interviews, but I found the whole experience quite disheartening. I was eventually offered a temporary lecturership, but the proposed workload was huge and it would have required me to move to a new city leaving my partner and family. I agonised over this, but eventually turned the job down. This was very risky, but I had come to realise that I was not committed enough for an academic career.

"I took some time out, and thought about my life and what I wanted to do. I decided that I was good at writing, at analysis, at statistics and managing data, all of the research skills that I had learnt from my doctorate. I also realised that I did not have any experience outside of academia and that I would need to build some up.

"A friend of my father suggested that I might enjoy working as an MP’s researcher. This appealed to me as I was interested in politics and wanted to do something where I could make more of a difference than in the academic world. So I contacted the Liberal Democrats and started work as an unpaid intern. I then went on to another unpaid internship for an MP. I then secured a paid job with an MP who was the Liberal Democrat spokesman for the Arts, Heritage and Culture. My background in archaeology was part of what got me this job, and was really useful.

"I enjoyed working as an MP’s researcher, but it got a bit repetitive after a year. Although there is a lot of research, it is mainly summarising information from others, rather than solving problems yourself, and other parts of the job are more basic administration. Also, working with MPs can be challenging, as you are essentially a team of two and need to work very closely together in high pressure situations.

"After about a year, I decided to move into public affairs, which is a common step for MPs’ researchers. Public affairs deals with the relationship between organisations and national politics. Public affairs officers spend their time organising meetings, lobbying MPs and writing letters. Sometimes you make a real difference, but at other points you do not feel like you are getting anywhere.

"I got a job working for a trade association which represented companies working in environmental areas. I worked there for 14 months, and although it was interesting, I could not see much opportunity for development. I then moved to a public affairs job at the British Library. However, I’m on a short term contract and so it is unclear whether I will be at the British Library for very much longer.

"I would like to move into something more research-based, possibly a think tank – or even getting back into academic research. I am not going to rush the decision, so I might find myself taking a career break after the end of my contract to reassess my options."