At long last, I am happy to introduce the third entry in the Cocoon's Alt-Ac Workshop--our new series providing tips, information, and testimonials on how people with higher degrees in philosophy can effectively pursue careers outside of academia. Today's post is by Carl Baker, who is now a statistical researcher in the UK's House of Commons. I hope you all find his entry helpful and informative!:
By Carl Baker
This post contains some thoughts on how experience teaching and researching philosophy might prepare you for a job in Parliament or Government.
First, a bit of information about me. I did a PhD in Philosophy at Leeds on at the debate around semantic relativism and aesthetic disagreement. After that I worked for two years as a postdoc at Aberdeen’s Northern Institute of Philosophy. During that time I decided that a life in academia wasn’t for me. Mainly, I was daunted by the prospect of career insecurity for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless I assumed that my skills would be ill-suited to any other career that I would be interested in. But with hindsight, I now see that lots of the skills I developed during my PhD and postdoc are central to what I do now.
Long story short, I got a job as a researcher at the House of Commons Library. I’ve been working there for three years now and I enjoy the job immensely. My colleagues and I offer a confidential and impartial enquiry research service to MPs and their staff, who they can ask questions on any topic and get expert answers. We also publish public-facing briefing papers on a wide range of policy and stats topics. My work is mostly on health statistics, with a smattering of other topics such as telecoms statistics.
Below are a few skills that I think will be valued by those recruiting for jobs in Parliament and Government, and ideas for how a philosophical career might have prepared you for them. None of the points below are particularly novel, and are not all specific to public sector jobs. There will also be specialist requirements for some roles (e.g. getting my job in stats required a test of numerical competency). But this might be of use to anyone thinking of making the leap from academia.