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Sophie - connections between your PhD and your current role
Name: Sophie
PhD discipline: French
Area(s) of work: Parliament; civil service
Year of graduation: 2004
Date of Interview: 03/06/2008

Now Playing: Sophie - connections between your PhD and your current role
Sophie reflects on the particular PhD skills that serve her well in her current role as a clerk in the House of Commons.

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Does the work that you do now have any direct or indirect connection with the subject area of the PhD? 

It does not have any direct connection at all but then I think it would be hard to find a job that does have any direct connection with eighteen century French libertines but in terms of the skills that I developed, I think, it does have quite a lot of relationship. There is a lot of research, a lot of collating material and thinking critically, particularly about the material. With committees, we're shadowing the government so we're looking at what the government's policies are and criticising them, basically. So critical thinking and questions that you might want to ask to tease out holes in policy, that kind of aspect of it, I think does relate back to what I did. I'm tempted to say transferable skills but I think that's a bit of an easy phrase to use and I'm not sure that is exactly transferable skills. I think it's more direct than that but I definitely think I've been better at doing this job than I would have been if I hadn't done a PhD.

And do you think that's mainly research skills and critical thinking?

And drafting skills as well, I mean, having written however many, seventy thousand words, or whatever it was, when you come to write a Select Committee report of twenty thousand, it doesn't seem that bad.

Can you see some connection between the processes involved in writing a PhD thesis and in drafting the document for your committee?

Yeah, when you get to the end of an enquiry the clerk is responsible for drafting what's called the chairman's draft report so it came as quite a shock to me that MPs don't draft their own reports. I guess that's something that, if you think about it, is quite obvious in retrospect. So, yes, I think there is quite a lot of overlap. What came as a shock to me as well, when I started, is that you write this draft report and then you give it to the committee and they change it all and that's fine because it's their report. But it can irritate you a bit if you're used to an academic situation where you're in control of everything that you write. Then changes are made and you find sentences starting with 'however'. The wonderful thing that you've beautifully drafted is torn all to pieces and changed. I think it's obvious and it's right and it's healthy that it's their report and they write whatever they want in it, but in terms of psychology, it's a departure from an academic style of writing. In terms of writing the report and putting the issues together and doing the research and picking out the bits that are most relevant then it's quite similar to PhD writing, yes.

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