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Claire Toogood, Research and Insights Manager (Episode 45)

    Claire Toogood, Research & Insights Manager (Episode 45) | Claire is developing HE careers advisors and careers advice through research

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Claire Toogood, Research & Insights Manager for AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services.

    Helping improve graduate careers advice through research

    AGCAS is a membership organisation which represents university careers advisors. Claire’s current role is primarily to support their members use research to support their professional development or enhance their service for students. Sometimes this means doing research herself to understand the changing landscape and offer evidence-based guidance. Other times it means supporting members to conduct their own research which can help then generate the evidence needed to lobby for change.

    “We’re in a really fast-moving sector. Higher education is full of challenges, full of excitement. But that does mean that we really need to keep up with what is happening in the wider world. We need to do the things that are proven to work and we need to find out what those are.”

    Walking a squiggly line between research and research adjacent

    Claire’s career is a truly squiggly one. She has worked in several different university roles including planning and projects, timetabling, careers advice, researcher development, and lecturing. Her varied career hasn’t always been easy to explain.

    “The other challenge is identity. Having sat in so many different roles within institutions, you know, admin or professional services or academic and those kind of words that we use to just bring people together in these big clumps. I was the same person in every single one of those clumps. And I think that’s been a real challenge for my career – who exactly am I and how can people understand me and what I do because I don’t always fit neatly into boxes.”

    The AGCAS role straddles many of her interests and experiences, and as it’s a small organisation she has the opportunity to get involved in lots of different things.

    Putting research into action

    Although Claire has done research projects herself they have always been practically focused. She describes a project she did to collect case studies which has led not just to academic papers, but also to teaching resources, training courses and advice.

    “So that really gave me confidence in what I was doing in terms of my own research activity, and it’s led to various spinouts. It allows me to support our members with similar projects because case studies and careers align really nicely. And it’s allowed me to talk people through what I did, what best practice is, and really build on that experience.”

    Another aspect of her current role is using coproduction and engagement methods to work with AGCAS members to ensure they are doing what they need.

    Ongoing challenges Claire faces include navigating long COVID and finding space to think – both for herself and for members. This is one of the reasons she is such an advocate for research.

    “I think the research process helps with that, doesn’t it, in a way? Because you do the project, but then you disseminate, you evaluate the impact and actually that time that you’re spending doing that is time really well spent because it’s informing your future practice and it’s helping you.”

    Don’t wait for permission

    As well as championing research, Claire’s advice to others would be exploring your interests without waiting for permission.

    “If you want to start exploring something start reading around it, start thinking about it, start looking at whether somebody might fund it. Many areas have got some sort of pot of funding or a staff development course or something. Just starting to put yourself forward for those things and being confident in your own abilities.”

    Good advice from someone who knows her stuff!

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