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

Becoming a Research & Policy Manager

Marc Strathie is the recently appointed Research and Policy Manager at ScotlandIS. ScotlandIS is the membership and cluster management organisation for Scotland’s Digital Technologies Industry. In this career story he explains how he’s developed a career in research and policy.

What were you doing before?

Photo of Marc Strathie

Marc studied Political Science and Government at undergraduate level and proceeded to a Masters degree in American History. His first job was in the Civil Service where he contributed to policy development through risk analysis.  He progressed to the role of Policy Analyst at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry where he worked closely with public, private and third sector organisations to provide expertise on policy-related decision making.

How did you make the change?

Marc’s career is not one of career change as much as career evolution. Each stage of his career has built on what’s gone before. As Marc narrated his story to me the following career concepts stood out:

Strengths: Marc’s roles have, as he described it, always played to his strengths. 

He spoke enthusiastically of the satisfaction he gets from meeting new people and fostering relationships, and of his deep commitment to social inclusion.  He also takes pride in producing cutting edge policy documents.  

If I were to hazard a guess at what his strengths are in terms of CliftonStrengths®, I would say he might have Woo as a dominant strength because someone who has this strength – which stands for ‘winning others over’ – loves meeting people!  

I might also guess that Marc has a few strategic thinking strengths such as Learner, Input, Analytical or Strategic as these are the sort of strengths that would enjoy research and analysis.  

I suspect Marc might have a couple of executing strengths such as Focus and Achiever, which help him get work done and meet deadlines, along with relationship building strengths such as Positivity and Includer, the latter being great for building those all-important relationships with stakeholders.

What impressed me was how – even without the language of CliftonStrengths – Marc could articulate what his strengths are and the value they bring to his work.  Many people struggle with saying what they are good at, partly because our social conditioning tells us we mustn’t brag(!), and partly because people often don’t have the words to describe precisely what it is that they do best. The CliftonStrengths assessment is valuable in this respect and is one that underpins all the work I do with clients. 

Personality needs: Marc derives great energy from meeting people and building relationships.

But he observed that he also needs time alone to knuckle down to the policy analysis side of his work. His work provides the perfect balance of social interaction to thinking time.  Getting the right people balance is a crucial area to consider in career change because it can have a huge impact on whether or not we flourish in a role.

Vocational interests:  Broadly speaking, people tend to have a natural vocational orientation towards people, information or things.

One of the tools I use to help people reflect on where their vocational orientation lies is John Holland’s RIASEC framework. Holland’s research identified six vocational orientations. The RIASEC letters stand for:

  • Realistic: hands-on ‘doers’
  • Investigative: thinkers
  • Artistic: creators
  • Social: helpers
  • Enterprising: influencers
  • Conventional: organisers

People usually have one dominant orientation that is supported by a second and third one. As Marc talked about his work, what I could hear was a strong leaning towards Investigative, with the focus of that Investigative being Social (wanting to help individuals, communities and businesses to thrive), and a desire to influence thinking and promote positive change (Enterprising).  

Job (Re)Search: Marc has always taken a proactive approach to learning about the sector he wanted to work in.

He has done this through identifying a range of suitable events to attend, meeting people at those events, and learning more about what they do in and the organisations they work for. Marc made two important observations about this part of his career development: first, that through his research, he gradually focussed his attention on one of two areas of particular interest, and second, by actively engaging with the professional community, he became known (and remembered) by the very people he was interested in eventually working with. 

What tips can you share for making a shift?

Marc offers these tips to people interested in policy work:

Tip #1: Try to attend as many events as you can. This helps you extend your network and get known by the sort of people with whom you share interests.

Tip #2: Once you’ve attended a few events, you’ll find yourself drawn to some areas more than others. This is the time to niche down.  Be more selective about subsequent events that you attend.

Tip #3: Once you’ve identified some key areas of interest, set about getting some hands-on experience in relation them.

Marc’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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