I realised that this week marks a year since I submitted my thesis. In some ways it feels a lot longer than that, and in others, like it was only yesterday. To the untrained eye (and my CV), it could look like I’ve not really been up to much, but actually looking back it has been non-stop work (I could *really* use a holiday!). So the idea with this post is to talk a bit about the unseen work of trying to stay in academia after a PhD.
To begin with, I started applying for academic jobs. It’s always been my goal to carry on in an academic career – this was why I returned to study for my masters and PhD. Previously, I had been working as a research assistant but knew that I needed a PhD to be able to progress further, so I gave up my post to become a student again. Over the year, I think I’ve applied for ten jobs at a range of institutions, and I’ve had one interview. I’ve found that it is pretty standard that Universities won’t give feedback to candidates who don’t get shortlisted. So it’s a bit of a catch 22, and very frustrating; it’s hard to tell if I am getting any better at applications. I’ve now stopped applying for short term (one year or less) contracts for the time being, until the Spring (but that’s a future blog post).
After a few months, I stopped focusing on job applications as it was not proving good for morale and job applications had been taking priority over other things (as they have deadlines), which meant I had not made as much progress as I’d hoped on writing up papers from my PhD. So I switched focus early in 2017; I’ve continued to apply for jobs but less frequently, and instead had a bit of a writing blitz, which was much more satisfying (I do really enjoy academic writing). And it is paying off; since then, I’ve had two journal articles published, I’m working on minor revisions for two more, and have two further papers out for review. I’ve also been able to do some of the side project ideas that I’d put to one side in order to get my PhD finished on time, and have got a few collaborative papers developing out of those for further down the line (thank-you, all 🙂 ).
I’ve also been applying for more grants this year, which has also been enjoyable. Unlike job applications, I do feel like I’m learning from the process and might be getting better at it; it’s also been helpful to get feedback from unsuccessful applications. I think that proposal number 8 is about to be submitted. The grants I’ve applied for have ranged from £1,500 to £250K. Some have been as an independent researcher, but it’s more common to have to go through a host institution. Two of them I wrote but did not get submitted; one decided I was ineligible to apply without an academic job already, and the other I didn’t get a host institution in time (it would have only been 50% full economic costing, so was quite an ask). Two have been unsuccessful so far, but I was absolutely thrilled when I got the SRHE Newer Researchers award! I’m waiting to hear about the remaining three (it might be a while).
Who can I be now?
So it has been quite a busy 12 months. It has been quite hard to keep going with the job applications, and I had thought I would have a job by now, but striking a balance between job applications and doing the things which I enjoy (and are still academic work – writing papers, grants, doing small projects – you have got to love what you do, otherwise I would have stopped long ago!) has been an important part of keeping up momentum. I think that making use of the time to catch up with papers is particularly valuable as each one will bolster my CV a bit more. I’ve had a couple of short freelance research contracts in the last couple of months, and I am going to be hosted by IET as a visiting fellow for the next 12 months to carry out my SRHE project. So the plan for now is to keep going 🙂