Alumni share thoughts on leading like a sociologist

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What can you do with a sociology degree? One way of answering that question is to list a series of job roles. But as two public webinars highlighted last term, studying sociology can also contribute to different approaches to careers and leadership across multiple sectors and organisations.

The event, If Marx was a CEO, Goffman was an influencer and feminists ran the finances: What does it mean to lead like a sociologist? was organised by Dr. Allison Hui as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Panellists, including several alumni from Lancaster’s Sociology Department, highlighted the importance of recognising that for many people careers aren’t simple ladders. People accumulate knowledge and skills throughout their lives that allow them to contribute in potentially diverse roles across a ‘jungle gym’ career.

As alumnus James, a careers advisor, suggested, cultural fit is often much more important to employers during hiring processes than technical knowledge, and so it is important to “Think about who you want to work with, not who you want to work for.” Stuart Lawrence-George, a Regional Operations Manager in a hospitality company agreed. He noted that while some people may not know what the word sociology means, they will understand the value of topics that sociologists study, so getting that on your applications is key. Rebecca Maxwell also suggested asking “What kind of things are these organisations developing or creating that I can add value to as a sociologist?” and considering how sociologists might contribute in sectors like technology.

Panelists had a range of useful insights on how sociology develops core characteristics for good leaders:

  • “Awareness, understanding and empathy are three key skills that would be wonderful for any leader, and sociology lends itself so well to those things” - Ben Hewitson, Teacher and Researcher
  • “If you think about people that you think are good leaders, they have an awareness of the people that they are talking to and the people that they are working with on a regular basis. If you look at the purpose of sociology, which is understanding those key things, you can see how sociologists add value. So when I stand up and present to an organisation or a group of people, I’m thinking about ‘looking at who these people are, looking at the culture that they operate in, looking at what’s important to them, what should I be talking to them about?’” - Rebecca Maxwell, Director, Business Adoption, Oracle Consulting
  • “A good leader is someone who is inclusive and someone who is innovative… We’re in sociology because we’re not satisfied with the status quo. The folks who are in standard finance, engineering, they’re often happy for the game to continue as is. We see how unfair and how unjust it is and therefore we want to make a mark and help people.” - James, Careers Advisor

Two current final-year BA Sociology students co-hosted the event and shared the key points they were taking away from the discussions:

  • “What I’m taking away as key is what Stuart said about the language of sociology. No matter what job you end up in, what path you end up going down, you can take the concepts, you can take the theories and you can apply that. You can make it more accessible. You can use that language and it can be beneficial in a whole variety of spaces.” - Brad
  • “I really liked our discussion of how maybe there aren’t many paths that require a sociology degree, but we have so much to offer to such a wide range of sectors. I guess reflecting upon that, you would want to represent yourself as a sociologist and it’s also a quite good test for a company to see if your ethics and your sociology aligns with the way in which they work” - Gabriella

A series of postcards is being produced to share key insights from the events. For more information or to enquire about receiving a copy, please get in touch with Allison at

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