Thursday, 12 July 2012

From aged PhD to aged Intern

Posted by Lynne Forrest

I’ve previously blogged on why I’m doing a PhD in my forties and how I regard it as a career ‘second chance’, having not really quite got it together, career-wise, for the first 20 years of working life. As part of that spirit of positive thinking, when I started my PhD I decided I would embrace all the opportunities that came along. One of these was the chance to do a three month Internship, via my PhD funder the ESRC.

Now Internships don’t generally get a very good press, being pretty much regarded as a way for businesses to avoid paying someone a salary whilst offering ‘job experience’ that mostly consists of filing and making the tea.

However, I’d recently read that doing an internship was a good PhD career move. Also, as these were paid internships that were being offered by a range of high profile Government and charity organisations which required specific skills (of which tea-making wasn’t one), it seemed like a good idea. As a mature student, I didn’t need an internship to gain general work experience. I was looking for an opportunity to develop my skills base and gain experience in an area that wasn’t covered by my PhD.

The internship that I was interested in involved working in the Strategic Research Team at the Scottish Government conducting health research and translating the research into policy and practice. They were looking for someone with systematic reviewing experience, advanced quantitative skills and who had worked with large datasets, all of which applied to me. It seemed a perfect fit. And it was – they’ve offered it to me!

Although I’m very excited at this opportunity, the same age and status-related worries apply to doing an internship as to doing a PhD. However, for the most part, PhD students are treated similarly to staff in my department* and so I’m sure I will cope just as well as an aged Intern as I do being an aged PhD student. Unlike young interns I also have children, who are not best pleased that I will be away for 3 months. I’m hoping to negotiate flexible working hours and will be home every weekend, so I’m ignoring the emotional blackmail and guilt and am going anyway. It’s just too good an opportunity to turn down.

I think it’s going to be very interesting to be able to observe the reality of how the translation of evidence to policy actually works in a political environment and, indeed, to see how much policy is, in fact, evidence-based.

As well as the amazing career opportunity, the other positive for me is that I will be spending three months in Edinburgh, my home town. Having spent the past 15 years in Newcastle, I’ve latterly become terribly nostalgic for Scotland (getting all misty eyed over VisitScotland adverts and watching tartan and bagpipe-style programmes at New Year. I know. I need help). The reality of a few months in dreich Edinburgh over the winter may be just what I need to get over this.

Anyway, I’ll let you know how I get on….

*except that PhD students are required to ‘hot desk’. When I complained and got a proper desk it was on the understanding that I gave it up if someone ‘more important’ required it…


  1. Rebekah McNaughton23 July 2012 at 14:00

    This sounds like an amazing opportunity Lynne! I would be really interested to read how you get on. Also, where you found out about these opportunities?

  2. I am an ESRC student so was sent an e-mail about the internship opportunities. All the information is also on the website at

    If you're not an ESRC student I'm not sure what other opportunities there are but I've certainly seen some offered by charities.