Why did you choose LSE, and why did you choose your programme of study?
I chose to study for my PhD at the LSE for three main reasons. First, its research excellence and international reputation. Second, the strength of the faculty in the Department of Government. Especially, the presence of Professor David Soskice, with whom I shared a lot of research interests and already had a working relationship. He later became one of the supervisors for my thesis and we have written a number of journal articles together since then. Lastly, the LSE campus is located in the heart of London, a city where I had lived since I started undergraduate studies at UCL in the mid-2000s and was definitely not ready to leave.
My academic background is in economics, where I obtained BSc and MSc degrees. It was therefore a big decision to move into political science for the PhD. After living through the global financial crisis and its aftermath, however, I became convinced that economics and politics were inextricably linked and that major macroeconomic phenomena could not be explained without taking politics into account.
Given I was moving disciplines, the LSE 1+3 MRes/PhD programme really stood out to me, because the MRes year offered the opportunity to get up to speed with the main concepts and theories in political science before I started my research. Political science as a discipline is also more open than economics to interdisciplinary work and so switching subjects meant I was better able to pursue my doctoral research agenda on the political and institutional drivers of the dangerous current account imbalances that emerged between advanced economies prior to the crisis.
Overall, how do you look back on your LSE experience?
I look back fondly on the LSE experience for the most part. Doing a PhD in London can certainly be isolating, especially in a campus where quality work space is at such a premium, but you cannot beat LSE for the excellence of the faculty and the doctoral students. The links I have made studying at the LSE will be of great benefit as I advance my career. As a clear example of that, I am currently co-authoring papers with two separate doctoral students I met through cross-departmental research seminars, as well as with my PhD supervisor.
The LSE has also increased the support and work space available to PhD candidates with the introduction of the PhD Academy, which provides a space where PhDs from different departments can meet and exchange ideas. The PhD Academy is also used by the LSE Careers Service to meet with PhDs and advise them on the next step in their career, whether that be in academia or beyond.
Please describe your career path to date:
Upon completing my thesis, I began a position as a post-doctoral researcher officer in the LSE International Inequalities Institute (III). This position was part-time for two years, so I combined it with some work as a graduate teaching assistant in the LSE Department of Government and some research assistance for Professors David Soskice and Nicola Lacey.
Within the first year of my time at the International Inequalities Institute, I applied for and got a permanent position as a Lecturer in Political Economy at the King's College London (KCL) Department of Political Economy. The lectureship begins in September 2017.
Studying at the LSE helped me get both of these positions. The prestige of an LSE PhD is recognised by all universities internationally. More specifically in my case, the LSE Careers Service and my PhD supervisors provided invaluable advice and opportunities to practice for the interview processes for both positions. The focus the LSE puts on getting peer-reviewed journal publications before completing the PhD also made me stand out on the job market. When I went for the post-doctoral research officer position, I had not yet completed my PhD, but already had three articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Why did you choose your current job?
I took a different approach to many PhD students in that I only applied for two post-doctoral positions when in the final year of the PhD and then I only applied for one permanent position (during the first year of the post-doc).
I chose the positions very carefully and applied only for those positions I was a good fit for. Both the post-doc at the LSE III and the permanent position at KCL put a focus on interdisciplinary work, which was perfect for me as my work straddles economics and political science. Taking a very targeted approach to applications meant that I did not have to try and sell myself as something I wasn't and gave me sufficient time to prepare extremely well for the job talks and interviews. One piece of feedback I have got since getting the permanent position at KCL is that the faculty really appreciated all the research I had done on the department and the faculty.
Tell us about your current job:
My current post-doctoral research officer position is in London at the LSE III. The III is a fantastic place to work. The interdisciplinary institute involves academics from all over the school, is open to many different methodological approaches and has a real intellectual buzz about it. I share an office with another post-doctoral researcher. She has expertise in anthropology and sociology and uses mainly qualitative research methods. This is clearly along way from my expertise and that has meant we have learnt a lot from each other and have successfully combined our expertise to supervise the dissertations of two MSc students.
The position at III is predominantly a research position, so I have spent most of the year working on my own research on inequality. I have co-authored one working paper for the institute and have another couple of working papers in the pipeline. Alongside my research I have been given the opportunity to teach PhD seminars and MSc lectures on the political economy of inequality and redistribution.
The work I have been doing, which has many moving parts and puts a lot of competing demands on my time, requires excellent time management, as well personal motivation and discipline. The teaching side also requires good communication and presentation skills.
What advice do you have for LSE students who are looking to enter a similar profession to you?
I would advise LSE PhD students who are looking to stay in academia (especially in Europe) that they should try and publish in peer-reviewed journals before they go on the job market. This will help them to stand out and demonstrate that they have the ability to publish. Alongside publications, many other aspects are important. I would recommend that PhD students get teaching experience and teaching qualifications (the LSE PGCertHE programme is open to graduate teaching assistants teaching at least 20 hours per year), be good citizens within their departments (by organising seminars etc.), get practice presenting their work wherever possible, attend conferences to meet scholars in their field and get their name out there and think about how to maximise the impact of their work (both within and outside of academia).
Lastly, I would strongly advise PhD students to not be shy about asking for help when going on the job market. The LSE Careers Service offer a mountain of useful advice and are available to do mock interviews. Your supervisors, fellow doctoral students and other faculty members will also be important sources of knowledge and guidance, as well as an informed and challenging audience to practice your job talk on!