As part of National Careers Week 2016, Nilufer Rahim tells us what it's like to work as a social researcher at NatCen.
What is your role at NatCen?
"I'm a Senior Researcher in NatCen's Policy Research Centre. My role is to manage qualitative research projects. That involves designing the research, collecting data, analysing and writing it up and liaising with clients. I also help out with winning new business and managing staff. The sorts of projects I tend to do are in employment and labour market research."
Do you need any special qualifications to do your job? What did you study?
"You need an undergraduate degree, I studied Sociology. Having a degree in a social science is an advantage."
What was your first research-based job?
"I started as a Research Assistant at a small research consultancy called Inclusion. It was a great introduction to applied social policy research and got me interested in labour market and employment research."
Why did you want to work at NatCen?
"I'd heard of NatCen's reputation for doing high quality research and thought it would be a good place to develop my research skills and get exposure to a wide range of projects and policy areas."
What is the most important or exciting part of your job?
"I like the variety. The range of projects you can work on is really diverse, from large-scale evaluations for central government or smaller studies for charities. We tend to work on 4 or 5 projects at a time and they can be on very different subjects so you're always learning something new and never get bored. Also, each day is different. One day you could be out on fieldwork doing interviews, another day you could be presenting your findings or you might be writing a proposal on another."
What has been the stand out moment of your career so far?
"Giving evidence based on our research to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in the House of Commons on the role of Jobcentre Plus. It was definitely one of the scariest things I've done but it was good to know that our research was being used to inform policy decisions."
What is the best thing about working at NatCen?
"Hmmm, there are a few things... The people working here are great. It's a very collaborative and supportive atmosphere. I've been lucky to have really thorough training at NatCen and learnt lots of new skills. The work is also incredibly interesting and our research is aimed at benefitting society."
If you weren’t a researcher what would have been your Plan B?
"Something that involves cooking and eating!"
What are your top tips for anyone wanting to be a researcher?
"Prospects and the Social Research Association have useful information on starting a career in social research."
If you have any career-related questions you'd like us to ask our researchers please email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to us: @NatCen