This summer I spent 10 weeks in the Department for Work and Pensions, working in an analytical team, as part of the Government Social Research Summer Placement. It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of an amazing team and to work alongside analysts who are conducting research in some of the areas that resonate the most with my interests. Listening to them and trying to understand their work gave me a real flavour of what being a researcher in the public sector means and, essentially, allowed me to observe what kind of work my “dream job” would involve on a daily basis. I was particularly fascinated with the analysis that is conducted in areas such as income distribution, childcare, global and public health, and found it captivating to be able to understand how the evidence produced as a result of this analysis influences the policy-making process and, thus, has the potential to have real impact on people’s lives.
Since my internship came to an end this week, I have decided that it is time for me to reflect more deeply and summarise the key lessons that I’ve learnt during this experience. I think one of the most important things that this internship has helped with is recognising what are the essential skills needed in order to be an excellent public sector researcher, both in terms of the raw knowledge needed (i.e. research and policy evaluation design and methods), but also broader skills, such as critical thinking and project management. It has also provided me with various opportunities to discover the skills that I have already and to improve them, but also to discover a new set of skills that I still need to gain.
Moreover, this internship helped me reveal new areas of interest, areas that I would have never thought that would be of such great interest to me. I never seriously considered conducting research related to public health, although I have always found it interesting; but having a chat with someone in the Department of Health and going through various analytical measures used in public health policy evaluation, such as life expectancy or healthy life expectancy, I felt like this could really be one of the areas that I would like to maybe specialise in, sometime in the future. Not to mention that, throughout my experience, I have met lovely people, who have always supported me, some of whom I am now very thankful to be able to call friends.
For all social sciences students, I would recommend this placement wholeheartedly! It is definitely one of the best ways of training your analytical skills and seeing how social research impacts real life. And if you are passionate about the public sector, it gives you a broad view and understanding of the variety of roles that exist in this sector.