Case study

Quantitative researcher and consultant — Philip Corran

As a social researcher for the Tavistock Institute, Philip works on a range of social research projects across the across the public, private, community and voluntary sectors. Find out more about his work

What degree did you study?

I studied for an MA in Social Research at Goldsmiths, graduating in 2015, and then went on to do a PhD at King’s College London in sociology, which I graduated from in 2019.

How did you get your job?

I saw the job with the Tavistock Institute advertised on Guardian Jobs and applied. I actually applied for a different position, which was massively competitive, and I didn’t make it past the initial Skype interview (although I felt like I got on quite well with the interviewers and there was a good vibe). The recruitment panel thought I would be a good fit for the quantitative researcher position they had going, however, and encouraged me to interview for that instead.

What's a typical working day like?

I'm involved in lots of different tasks for different projects. Since it's all project based, there are hectic periods where everything is happening at once and you need your brain to be in three places, and then there are lulls when you have time to do more gentle bits of work. I spend a lot of time working with other people, speaking with colleagues and partners in other organisations.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like learning things and thinking about things carefully. All the evaluation and consultancy work I do involves thinking carefully about different elements of our society, the ways in which services and organisations run, and working out how to measure and/or work with different aspects of them.

I also like balancing that with some of the more boring elements of research - I quite enjoy doing mundane tasks on spreadsheets and so forth, but there is also a lot of opportunity for talking to colleagues and people from other organisations which can be really gratifying. One of the best aspects is when you work with another charity, public service or organisation in general, and you meet really passionate and dedicated people.

What are the challenges?

Things can move slowly and it's always a challenge trying to do the best job possible for an organisation working with a limited budget.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My Masters taught me research design and research methods, as well as dealing with data and research topics as they come in the real world, as opposed to neat and tidy datasets which would be easier to practice on. It really prepared me for the messiness of the data and processes involved in doing research with public services or vulnerable people in real life settings.

My PhD also helped me to develop my people skills, collaborative skills, and organise myself and my time more effectively.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have been project managing much more and working on consultancy projects, which is helping me to learn the Tavistock Institute's way of working with organisations. 

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

  • Choose one that you are both passionate about and, if possible, teaches you skills which will be useful to employers.
  • Find a course which gives you face-to-face contact with teachers as much as possible and the opportunity to speak with them outside of lectures/seminars. That made a massive difference for me and is increasingly challenging to find.
  • Balance the costs and benefits carefully - the Masters I did was half the price of some of the others I could have gone for, but it was absolutely the right one for me and gave me a greater level of interaction with experienced lecturers than I could have hoped for.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Most research organisations are organised quite hierarchically. There are certain skills they want for certain positions. Make sure you have the skills required for each job you apply for and bring that through in your application.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for gaining experience as a volunteer or during your degree. That experience will be really helpful.
  • Make sure you brush up on your basic Excel commands and the areas the employer works in so you can do some analysis or write something if you need to.

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