Being self-employed October 24, 2011Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Media, Performing arts, Science and Engineering, arts administration, employability and skills , 1 comment so far
Sometimes people who don’t think they’ll ever work for themselves, suddenly find themselves doing so. And it isn’t just about embracing a new entrepreneurial spirit and queuing up for Dragons’ Den. It is increasingly because employers are advertising positions that ultimately require the worker to be self employed.
This has not been un-common in sales related roles and certain industries, e.g. pharmaceuticals, but I have noticed it creeping in to others too: I have seen adverts for positions in community arts, the media and finance.
There are lots of reasons an employer might do this. For some organisations they are looking to fulfil a specific short-term project and look to effectively “out-source” that to an individual. Other organisations may try to circumvent a recruitment freeze through this method too. However there is perhaps also a cynical reason for the apparent increase in such self-employed positions: it shifts significant financial, administrative and legislative responsibilities from the employer to the contractor.
So what does this mean? UK workers continue to enjoy a lot of security in their work. Employers must comply with an increasingly complex legislative framework regarding the recruitment, health and safety, holiday entitlement, sick leave, terms of employment, pay, redundancy and disciplinary processes. The law was recently strengthened to further protect agency workers. By becoming self-employed, you no longer benefit from this legislation because you are officially, your own employer.
In practical terms, it also means that you are entirely responsible for paying your own tax and national insurance contributions. You need to register as self-employed with HM Inland Revenue. There are some helpful resources on the Inland Revenue website that cover starting your own business – which is effectively what you do when you become self-employed. I have met students who get very anxious about this side of being self-employed but the information nowadays is written in plain English and is designed to be more helpful than before.
It also means that you will submit an invoice to the “employer” for the services you provide. Again, the invoice doesn’t need to be anything particularly special, just details of the work done, dates, your details and the amount. The employer usually indicates the amount they are willing to pay. If the employer is offering a commission only role, then you need to consider whether your skills and the markets are strong enough to provide a sufficient income.
There are advantages and disadvantages to being self employed. From a tax perspective, you may be able to off-set expenses (e.g. laptops / travel) against your tax liability. However you will also need to save money to cover potential sickness periods or holidays (including bank holidays) that would normally be covered by the employer – you will not get paid for those. And of course you will not enjoy the full legal protection that workers receive.
Being self-employed can be an exciting option, giving more flexibility in the roles and organisations that you work with. It can be very liberating. But there is also a reason why the UK has such tough employment protection and you need to consider your own abilities to manage yourself and your commercial contracts. Many universities have student entrepreneurship societies that can help you build confidence and experience, whilst also supporting you with the practical aspects of being self-employed.
The rise of the non-geeky scientist August 1, 2011Posted by TCG Info in : Science and Engineering, Skills and Competencies, employability and skills , 2comments
Maya Losa Mendiratta has a degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in genetics from Imperial college. For the last five years she’s been working in science events, and currently she is the conference programme manager for London Technology Network. Here she writes for us about the rise of a new type of scientist – the non-geek.
“Geeks are the new sexy. Everyone knows that. But quietly, in the background, another phenomenon has been on the rise – the non-geeky scientist.
If you think Brian Cox’s explanation of the Higgs Boson does get the main points right, but also wish he would change his haircut already, or if you disagree with Baroness Greenfield’s take on synaptic transmission but also want to know where she got that killer pair of heels, there’s a good chance you might be a non-geeky scientist yourself.
You might be looking at that neurobiology textbook you’re studying and, besides trying to memorize the different neurotransmitters, be thinking that, really, you could come up with a much better layout and colour scheme.
If so there is a good chance you might be bored doing just research, and pursuing an academic career might not be the best choice for you. But what to do then?
There is no need to wonder if it is too late to change to a degree in marketing. Because here’s the thing: if you have other talents plus a science degree you are in demand.
I know people with science degrees who are working in business, policy, journalism, law, government, events, communications and, yes, marketing and for all of them a science degree or even a PhD helped or was even essential for them to obtain their job and excel at it.
What kind of skills can you bring to the table then as a trained scientist and that are so much in demand? You can look at data objectively, interpret and present it because you can read graphs. This is quite rare to come across in the non-scientific world.
You are probably better at most maths operations than non-science graduates. You value accuracy and rigour, and use these in your work. You are also good at designing a project and reporting on results, as scientific experiments are one kind of complex project. This is just to give you an idea.
And what else do you need to make it out there in the “real” world? Good written English, plus writing skills in general, are essential. Bear in mind that you would need these anyway if you stay in science, to write your PhD thesis. Practice your essay-writing skills and take courses if your English isn’t up to scratch.
A demonstrable experience and enjoyment of working with other people is also a must – you can join a debating club or university magazine. Or even better, go work in a shop or summer camp during your hols. Office experience is also good, just to show you are not too stuck-up to do filing.
Deciding what sector you want to go into by studying it and being able to explain that choice is also key. Then you can apply to that crucial work placement. And after that you can throw your CV to the employers and recruiters in your chosen arena, lean back and wait for the offers to come piling in.”