Sarah H.

Faculty REF Officer, Arts and Humanities
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Sarah H.
Research Postgraduate
United Kingdom

My employment

Faculty REF Officer, Arts and Humanities
University of Southampton
United Kingdom
Science and research
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Faculty REF Officer, Arts and Humanities in the United Kingdom

My main interest was in doing something which involved translating research for use outside of the academy but I wasn't set on whether that would be by working within Higher Education or working for external stakeholders that use research.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

The University of Southampton, which is a research intensive Russell Group University with around 6,000 staff.

What do you do?

Research administration and management, which covers a wide range of support for research and enterprise projects across the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. At the moment my focus is on preparing the REF submission and supporting research impact.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

I have always been interested in lots of different subjects. I did my undergraduate in Scotland where I was able to study 3 subjects at sub-honours and which encouraged that appreciation and enjoyment of breadth. My MA and PhD at York deepened my respect and understanding of the research process and gave me experience of grant writing and chairing seminars, which are useful in my current role. I was attached to the CGHH, an interdisciplinary centre which did a lot of engagement with health policy makers and with the public and this furthered my interest in how research is used by society. A Wellcome Trust secondment at the end of my PhD to the World Health Organisation gave me some experience of how academic research might better interact with the policy world. I think enjoying a broad range of subjects, respect for research, and an interest in communicating i, has made my current role a good fit.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

Yes and no. I was open to a range of opportunities in my job search within broad parameters. My main interest was in doing something which involved translating research for use outside of the academy but I wasn't set on whether that would be by working within Higher Education or working for external stakeholders that use research.

Describe your most memorable day at work

Among my most memorable days at work were the first few weeks of my job where I had to get to grips quickly with an overview of a range of projects and meet in person with the academics I would be working with individually. This was a good/fun/intense introduction to what the job involves - being both detail oriented and building trusting relationships with the academics who I support. I also drank an insane amount of coffee.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

I organised events for a student society, including a Burns Night, a ceilidh and a public debate between local parliamentary candidates on climate change. Planning fairly large events was helpful for developing organisational and team building skills and built my confidence, as well as being a lot of fun.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Whether you are an undergraduate or a post-graduate doing some people-orientated work or volunteering is helpful in demonstrating that you are a team player and broadening your options. Teaching and extracurricular activities were fun and good for my well-being at the time I did them, but also helped in interview (including for the research based secondment).
If you are a PhD thinking about a career outside academia make use of the careers centre and the research development team sessions aimed at you as they will really help you articulate your transferable skills.
The job market might be tough at the moment, and finding a job normally takes several applications, so keep in touch with and support your friends, and don't be afraid to look at each other's applications and give feedback - sometimes friends or family will be more comfortable selling your skills than you are!

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

All questions welcome :)

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