Three Months at Livingston James – Making the Move from Academic to Professional Research

Isla Martin joined Livingston as Research Associate in June 2022.  Isla works alongside Livingston James’ Head of Research Kirsty Sim to support the Livingston James team and their clients with executive search processes and market mapping.  Here, Isla shares her thoughts on her new role three months in, and her experience transitioning from academic to professional research.

In June this year, I graduated from the University of St Andrews with an MA (Hons) in International Relations. For the four years prior, my entire university career had focused on research. I was fortunate enough to be studying an exceptionally broad subject – researching everything from Brexit to arms trades and ultimately culminated in a dissertation centred around the justification of torture in Guantanamo Bay.

I think it’s safe to say that discovering how to conduct research in executive search has involved a huge learning curve for me when compared to my time at university.

Choosing a Career in Research

Before graduating, I was keen to ensure that I stepped into a job that would allow me to use the skills I had gained while undertaking my degree. I wanted a role that was challenging, broad and would facilitate further learning and development.

In addition to this, I really wanted to work somewhere that reflected my personal values. I was keen to join an organisation that specifically created time and opportunities to give back not only to the wider community, but also to its employees through ensuring that the appropriate measures were put in place to help them develop throughout their careers.

The Research Associate role at Livingston James was the perfect position for this. As a company, Livingston James places its values at the forefront of all it does. We work hard to make a difference and grow together as a team.

Academic vs Professional Research

There are certainly similarities between executive search research and academia. Attention to detail is paramount in both disciplines. At university, attention to detail was the difference between a first or 2:1 grade on an essay, whilst at Livingston James, attention to detail might involve ensuring a better cultural fit when matching a candidate to a client, or noticing a qualification hidden at the bottom of a LinkedIn profile that boosts the likelihood of a Candidate being progressed to interview.

A key difference is in the methods and resources I have at my disposal in my new role. I’m no longer trawling through journals and books to find the perfect quote in support of my argument. Learning about the benefits of social media, particularly LinkedIn, has been instrumental to my development as a Researcher. Further, in my experience, there is a much more personal side to research in executive search that I wasn’t often able to explore at university.

My research now involves speaking to candidates and clients directly every day to understand how best to assist them in their talent search, spending time out at meetings, on the phone, or on Teams calls as opposed to hours spent at the library.  This is my favourite part of the role. I really enjoy getting to see the direct impact that my research has on a process – whether that’s by finding the right candidate for a role that an organisation has struggled to fill or by helping someone to reach their potential by approaching them about a more senior position than they had previously considered. The reward that comes with research at Livingston James truly doesn’t stop.

While I certainly miss St Andrews and I’m very grateful for the solid grounding in research that my time there has given me, working at Livingston James has been the perfect challenge. It’s opened my eyes to just how broad the term ‘research’ can be.  I can’t wait to continue growing in my role.

To find out more about career opportunities at Livingston James contact [email protected]

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