Dr Alex Turner completed her PhD in Analytical Forensic Chemistry and Criminology at ARU in 2016, and now helps to provide expert guidance on the topic of children's wellbeing.
'I knew when I was completing my PhD that I didn’t want to stay in academia’, Alex explains, and ‘it was during my viva that it became apparent that the area of my research I was most passionate about was social policy and making a change in society. So, when I left I looked for roles in the Civil Service and voluntary sector’.
This worked out well for Alex, as she is currently working as the applied research lead for The Children’s Society, a role that ‘involves leading and managing commissioned research and providing expert guidance to external organisations on the topic of well-being and well-being measurement’.
"Having the opportunity to teach and lecture while studying my PhD emphasised the importance of being able to communicate research to a range of audiences."
How did Alex negotiate this career shift into the voluntary sector? ‘I saw the advert on Guardian jobs for a research role in the voluntary sector and applied. As part of the interview process, I had to present a piece of research, answer questions based on previous experiences, and also sit a statistical test using SPSS. While the subject was new, the skills I had learnt during my PhD were transferable and enabled me to develop and grow.'
Alex highlights that she gained many transferable skills during her PhD journey. ‘As my PhD was mixed methods, I developed skills in survey question development, statistical analysis and data visualisation as well as qualitative approaches. I was also able to lecture, which helped to develop my confidence in public speaking and disseminating research findings.'
Public speaking in particular was one skill that Alex felt improved markedly over the course of her PhD. ‘Having the opportunity to teach and lecture while studying my PhD emphasised the importance of being able to communicate research to a range of audiences. I use this to adjust how I present when talking with young people, research colleagues and to key decision makers.'
"[Working in the charity sector] I get to talk with children and young people directly, to hear about their experiences and what change they went to see. "
By using her research skills in the charity sector, Alex sees first-hand the results of her research and it is this part of the job she finds most rewarding. ‘In my role, I get to talk with children and young people directly, to hear about their experiences and what change they went to see. In working for a charity, we advocate those findings back to the decision makers. I work with partners in government departments, local authorities and directly with schools and services to make changes to improve children’s well-being.'
What advice does Alex have for any current or prospective PhD students? ‘Focus on what you enjoy’, she says. ‘The process of completing a PhD takes a lot of self-motivation, so when you hit a tough period, it can help to focus on the bits you enjoy to get through.'
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