Blog post header image with text saying Career Stories: Research Analyst. Posted by Charlotte Whitehead, Career Coach at Career Practic.

Becoming a Research Analyst

This blog post is one of a series that aims to provide inspiration about career development and change.  They also bring to life some of the concepts that I normally discuss with clients during our career coaching sessions. I hope they provide food for thought in relation to your own career.

Photo of Adam Freedman

I met Adam Freedman through LinkedIn. We discussed how Covid-19 has impacted him in the early stage of his career.

What are you doing now?

Adam was appointed to his role as Assistant Research Analyst at the Chartered Management Institute in August 2019. 

Then Covid-19 came along: after only eight months in the job, he was put on furlough. 

Nevertheless, Adam’s made the most of his time at home by extending his network on LinkedIn and learning about different jobs and careers. He’s also been developing new skills (Spanish, SQL database management coding language), alongside doing some creative writing. In spite of the challenging circumstances, he’s been building his professional resilience.

What were you doing before? 

Adam studied sociology at A level (along with Geography, History and English Literature AS level). Within only a few weeks of starting the sociology course, he fell in love with the subject and knew that that was what he wanted to pursue at university. 

He chose to do a Batchelor of Social Science degree at the University of Manchester not least because the course offered a wide range of options for what he could study. This included compulsory modules in the first year on social theory & social science research methods alongside optional modules; and a combination of research methods & further optional modules in years 2/3. In his final year he completed a dissertation on experiences of virginity loss amongst non-heterosexual men.

What are your interests?

Right from the start, Adam has been drawn more to the micro-level (i.e. individual) aspect of sociology e.g. gender & sexuality, inclusivity, family, religion, crime, education, as opposed to the macro-level aspects relating to social structures and systems.

Where do you see these interests taking you in the future?

Often people in their twenties feel under pressure to commit to one thing in order to launch their ‘career’ but in reality, it’s not until they’ve had a few years of trying things out that they are in a position to be able to get a feel for which area to focus in on. (Indeed, it can often take quite a bit longer than that!)

Adam recognises that he’s still in the early stage of his career and he’s comfortable with the idea of trying a few more things before specialising.  At this stage he feels drawn more to policy research or development rather than social research, but the area of policy could be education, third sector, equality/inclusivity, workplace.  He’s open to ideas…

What are your strengths?

It was evident from our initial chat through LinkedIn & our subsequent conversation that Adam really enjoys meeting people.  Although he hasn’t taken the CliftonStrengths® assessment, it’s possible that he has relationship building strengths such as Connectedness or Includer, or maybe an influencing strength such as Woo. The ease with which he makes connections with others is something that will stand him in good stead as he researches career possibilities over the next year or so and builds his professional network. 

Adam may also have Learner as a dominant strength.  He talked enthusiastically about the two internships he completed which exposed him to areas he hadn’t worked in previously, taught him new skills, and gave him an opportunity to develop new professional relationships.  He wants (and needs) opportunities to grow and develop in his work.

What does work mean for you?

The experience of being on furlough has brought home to Adam just how important a job is:  it’s not just about the money.  He’s realised that work gives him a sense of purpose; it makes him feel he’s making a contribution that is valued by others.  

We discussed how this links in with Maslow’s hierarchy of basic human needs. One of those basic needs is esteem: feeling valued & respected by others, and being able to feel a sense of self-worth & respect toward oneself.  Another is social belonging. Those needs are normally met in a large part by having a job, but what if the job is taken away? There are gaps that need to be filled.

Fortunately, other parts of Adam’s life give him a sense of meaning too: his family, his university friends, the newer friends he’s made since university, his hobbies. So although furlough has put on hold his contribution to the professional community, he has other ways to feel valued and have a sense of belonging.  

How has Covid-19 impacted your career?

Adam observed that furlough has been a significant disruption just as he’s getting started in his career.  This year should have been one in which he was having some formative career experiences in his work: developing skills, broadening/deepening his knowledge, building relationships, gaining experience. As things have turned out, the furlough experience was not an experience he had anticipated!  But he’s done what he can to use the time wisely.  

Many people will be in a similar situation.  The best that any of us can do is to reflect on what the Covid-19 experience has taught us.  Indeed, this may well be a common interview question in the coming months and it’s one worth preparing for.

What career tips can you share?

Adam offers these tips to people in the early stage of their career:

Tip #1: Keep a notebook during work experience to log all the tasks you’re doing.  It’s easy to forget what you’ve done but if you’ve noted it all down, this will be invaluable for building your CV.  Anything & everything is worth recording.

Tip #2: Subscribe to LinkedIn now.  A lot of job opportunities are advertised through the site & it’s less spammy than some of the big online jobs boards.  

Tip #3: Use LinkedIn to research job roles, sectors, and businesses/organisations. Accept all invitations to connect & don’t be bashful about sending out your own. [NB. Always include a note to explain why you’re sending the invitation!]

Tip #4: Seize any opportunities to meet new people e.g. through alumnae get-togethers or connections via LinkedIn.  The idea of ‘networking’ can be off-putting but actually it can be fun, and it’s invaluable in terms of broadening one’s horizons.

Tip #5: If you’re interested in policy research, a Batchelor’s degree or above in social science research methods is essential. 

Adam’s LinkedIn profile is here. If you’d like to get in touch with him directly, he’d be delighted to hear from you.

If you have a story you’d be willing to share on this blog in order to help others in their career development, I’d love to hear it. Alternatively, if this story has got you thinking about your own career, let me know if you’d like to arrange an initial discussion.

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