UCL Careers


Unlocking Success in Comms Careers: Insider Tips & Essential Skills from Industry Professionals

Read about how to establish a researcher career in Communication.

Someone typing on a laptop.

23 March 2023

Fancy a career in communication but not sure what skills you need? No need to worry - we asked industry professionals what skills they utilise in their roles.

We recently had our Researchers Careers in Communication: Publishing, Editorial, & Writing Panel. We were joined by the following incredible panel:

  • Dr Harry Geddes, Associate Editor, Nature Communications
  • Dr Josephine Salverda, Senior Project Editor, Faber and Faber
  • Dr Layal Liverpool, Freelance Science Journalist, with articles in New Scientist, The Guardian, Nature, and WIRED, and a book on the way.
  • Dr Erin Johnson, Press Officer, Business in the Community

We asked the panel about the fundamental skills needed for their roles. Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Time management –
  • With tight deadlines and quick turnarounds time management is a key skill for many communications roles. You can expect to be juggling multiple tasks at the same time and may not be able to spend as long as you’d like on them. Therefore prioritising, synthesising tasks, and managing your time is an important skill for your toolkit.
  1. Excellent Research Skills –
  • Embrace the excellent research skills you’ve developed from your time in academia and transfer these to a role in communications. Many members of the panel felt as if their academic experience helps them quickly synthesise a lot of information which helps with their writing and understanding of content.
  1. Attention to detail –
  • Another skill you’ve probably picked up during your PhD is attention to detail. This skill is particularly useful in an editor role.
  1. Awareness of the big picture –
  • A skill mentioned by multiple panellists was the importance of being able to understand large amounts of technical information and condense this into the main themes that can be easily understood by their team or an audience.
  1. Strong writing ability –
  • This one might not come as a shock, but a strong writing ability is key for communicating information to the masses. This includes the ability to communicate complex information to be understood by a variety of audiences.

Our Panellists also shared with us their tips for getting into the industry:

  1. Get work experience –
  • Both Freelance Journalist Dr Layal Liverpool and Senior Project Editor Dr Josephine Salverda highly recommended internship/work experience to help gain experience of the sector and help land your first role.
  • Dr Josephine Salverda
    • Completed a 2-week paid work experience placement at Penguin Random House. This helped her gain an insight into various departments and helped with career progression.
  • Dr Layal Liverpool
  • Make sure to check out our vacancies on MyUCL Careers where we source and advertise a great selection of researcher relevant opportunities including internships and placements.
  1. Embrace silly questions –
  • A key theme from our panel was that you should not be afraid to ask questions about the industry. They recommend reaching out to people in a role you’re interested in on LinkedIn as well as utilising your networks. This is a great way to gain an insight into whether a particular role is a good fit for you.
  1. Convince the employer –
  • When applying for a job, it’s important to show the employer that you truly want to work for them, research the company and show them why you want to work for them in your interview answers. 
  1. Freelance writing tips –
  • Build a portfolio for when you apply for freelance gigs
  • Start to build a network
  • Send CV and ideas to publishers/journals
  • Sign up to publisher freelancer databases.