Job Title: Research Analyst
Type of Company: I work at a prominent divinity school in North Carolina. The school's main job is to educate and qualify people to become Christian ministers. I work in non-degree programs, on a grant studying and promoting the health of United Methodist pastors.
Education: BA, English, Davidson College MA, English, Louisiana State University
Previous Experience: I started as a "field interviewer" in a study of children's mental health. That job taught me about surveys, interviews, and how research works, which led to my present job studying organizations (especially churches) and how they function, and learning about the ministers and volunteers who lead them.
Job Tasks: Some of my job can be summarized as "putting things in laymen's terms." I like to write and I like taking the words and ideas of experts (like doctors and psychologists) and explaining those ideas in terms that most people can understand.
Sometimes I have tasks involving taking a lot of "raw" information and "cooking" it down to its simplest, most useful form. For instance, we do surveys that involve hundreds of people answering dozens of questions. From that big mass of data, we will write a report that uses a few charts or tables and a few paragraphs to summarize the things we learned or policies we recommend.
Part of my job relates to the ethics of research on human beings. Our office uses interviews, surveys, and medical exams to collect information about people, some of it sensitive information about people's health and family life. We have rules and procedures to follow to make sure we always ask permission, always explain what we're doing, don't release private information accidentally, and protect people's rights. I help make sure our office adheres to these safeguards.
I use a computer every day: to get information from the Internet, to write and edit articles, reports, etc., to send and receive e-mail, and to sort and analyze information in spreadsheets and databases. It's complicated work that involves a lot of other people, a lot of phone calls and meetings.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Meetings and paperwork are two of the worst parts of my job. They are a necessary evil for any large workplace. We are involved with complex projects and with lots of companies and organizations, and it takes some boring, repetitive work to keep everybody informed and coordinating their efforts.
The positive side of a big organization is working on big projects with a lot of resources. I get to travel, to buy books, and to introduce myself to new people if it will help me improve. I enjoy using my mind, my experience, and my people skills to solve problems. I like to write and I like to do public speaking, and I get a little bit of both those activities. The people I work with are one of the best parts as well: smart and passionate about what they do.
Job Tips: I have to admit, I didn't exactly plan the way my career has worked out! If I'd planned ahead, I would have taken courses in statistics and database programming.
Especially if you want to work in a school environment, I recommend learning about the Internet: web page design, multimedia, how to send and receive information online, how to continuously engage your audience so that the teacher is also learning and the learners are also teaching.
Additional Thoughts: I was a bright kid, got lots of praise for good grades, and took pride in being smart. What I have figured out as an adult in the working world is that how smart or talented you are is important, but not the most important thing. Two things are more important.
1) Work hard. Take pride in doing a good thorough job. Take your time, don't rush or cut corners. And be conscientious about keeping your promises or obligations to others you work with or work for.
2) Get along with people. That means being kind and honest and fair with people. It means communicating effectively. And it means learning how to cooperate, how to be part of a team, how to nurture and maintain relationships, how to help others when possible and ask for help when needed. Almost everyone can accomplish more and get rewarded more as part of a team than as a "lone ranger."
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