I would just like to make a quick post due to time constraints - it is simply to advise those of you doing social science or humanities PhDs to try to spend some time during your studies building in some work shadowing or work experience in a potential future employer (e.g. consultants, government departments) - your primary job market now is the "outside world" - it is NOT academia.
I completed my ESRC-funded PhD in April 2006. I then undertook an ESRC 12-month postdoc and was subsequently employed as a 6-month Research Officer at the LSE. I have published my work in leading journals, presented at all of the top conferences in my field, gained teaching and even administrative experience. However, 142 applications for lectureships down the line, I have still never been interviewed for a single job (other than my 6-month LSE position). This is now a VERY common experience and one that is only going to get worse as he public sector is squeezed financially after the next election.
My advice to you would be to forget about academia. Instead of gaining teaching experience you would be better advised to network with employers.
Wow Wj_gibson that is incredible - although I regularly hear of people applying for up to 50 jobs (or occasionally more), your experience is unbelievably harsh. Given what you have had to endure your advice is excellent - and I do think that too many simply drift into academia as they feel that is what is expected/can't think of anything else to do.
For those of you however who would prefer a more cheery Monday morning story - I too am in Social Science, excellent undergrad and Masters universities, but I've been doing my PhD at a relatively mid-ranking institution. I have no publications, and submission is a ways off but I have got a lectureship. Its just a one year post, but in the next city, so no moving across country; and it was the first job I was interviewed for (after around 20/25 applications). Its a full lectureship on very good money, and I know that it was my teaching experience (as well as extensive conference organisation and 100% bidding record) that got me the job.
Whatever people say, it is not all about publications, its about being an all-round candidate.
Well, many congratulations Sleepyhead. It is always heartening to learn of others who have managed to progress their careers.
Suffice to say I had quite a few dark moments over the weekend. I currently work in a tiny market research agency, and whilst I do use some of my PhD-level research skills, the truth is that I don't need a PhD to do this job, let alone 2 postdocs. Certainly, it is well below the sort of position that someone with my level of qualifications ought to be doing at the age of 32!
I truly hope to move on soon. I can't see any hope for me in academia, as I simply don't have the energy to finish more publications when I am working 9-5 in a demanding job, and I certainly can't afford to give up work and try to live off a few part-time teaching hours (plus, the number of universities within realistic reach of where I live is small - there are only 3, really).
I can only try to move forward as best I can, I suppose. The psychological impact of my experience has been absolutely trerrible, though. Depression, chronic fatigue, intense stress and neurosis. I hope that my own epxerience is indeed an unusually negative one and that others are not having to go through anything like what I have had to endure these past few years.
Well, this is gloomy but thank you for the wake up call. I'm trying to build up experience in schools as I know there's a shortage of school teachers in Classics (more retire than train) but I come and go over whether that's actually what I'd want to do. For those interested in that side of things though the researchers in residence scheme is a good way of getting experience. The first thing I was told when starting my PhD was not to do it in order to get a job as you won't, but at the same time several people have reminded me that there's a world shortage, rather bizarrely, of Latinists at the moment and that was sort of keeping me a bit positive. Hearing a bit more reality makes me realize I need to be doing much much more about what happens to me following the PhD! :$
Good heavens, nothing like a cheery post first thing on a Monday morning when I'm just sitting down to study! Seriously though Wj_gibson, I'm really sorry to hear about your experience, it sounds like an utter nightmare and I can fully understand why you have had such problems physically and emotionally. I read posts like yours and think why the hell am I bothering to do this though, and that in itself upsets me. Being very nearly 40 (later this week) and a woman I don't really see any way forward following this other than academia which is why Sleepyhead's post cheered me up rather. Academia has been my dream since I was about a year into my BA, I don't wish to let go of that dream. I've seen both sides, several of the lecturers in the dept are ex students at the uni so I hope to goodness that something will come up which will allow me to emulate their success. I don't kid myself that its going to be easy or that I can walk into a job, but I am a fatalist (is that right????) at heart, I fully believe that what will be will be and things happen for a reason. I do feel relatively positive about my position at the moment in that my field is currently very active and is receiving a lot of funding - the project I am p/t RA on is the single biggest personal award that the ESRC has ever given, and it is only the first stage of what will hopefully be a long running development. I think though that this is due not so much to the academic side (although the end result will open up multiple new avenues of research which to date have simply not been possible) but more to the application to the public sector and to the 'man on the street'. I do feel that this is going to be the way that a lot of academic disciplines are going to have to go in future years, reaching out and applying knowledge in a way that the population in general can benefit.
I don't really want to upset anyone.
But, by the same token, what has happened to me is real and I think it would be a disservice to readers of this group if they were not made aware of it - after all, academics rarely inform their PhD students of "horror stories" such as mine out of a fear that it will impact negatively on not only th emorale of existing PhDs, but also on the potential to recruit new PhDs in future.
So these things do happen. There will be others with more positive stories and who have gone on to secure gainful long-term employment within the academic profession, but a slaient warning - receiving considerable (and competitively-judged) public funding to compelte your studies and then even advance them further will not guarantee to do anything for you in terms of your employability. I would advise a long and very frank chat with your supervisors.
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Hi wj, Thanks for passing on your experiences, scary as they are. This is something I've thought about quite a lot, and I would like to have broader options, but am not sure how my PhD would help me in another career; possibly teaching in a prvate school? I'm doing Film Studies, so can't see that there would be much industry demand for that. I've tried to stay positive - my supervisor has an excellent record with his PhD students, about 75% of his graduates (there are about 18 of them) are in permanent academic posts, but, as you say things are getting harder.
I will defo have that chat with my supervisor.
I'd be really interested to know what kind of back up plans other people have, or what people think could be available.
btw! I know a public day school with an excellent rep which always seems to be looking for Classics teachers, there really is shortage.
Sorry to hear about your situation.
Just out of interest - Have you tried applying for positions in other disciplines? Nearly half of those who work in Business and Management Schools have never specifically studied either Business or Management as such. Previously I've been taught by people who have PhDs in a range of subjects; Sociology, Psychology, Economics etc.
I wouldn't want to work in a Business or Management School, to be honest. The topic is of very little interest to me and it would be very difficult for me to pursue the kind of research I've pursued in the past and would aim to pursue in future in a Buisiness/Mgmt. context.
I am skilled to work in Politics and Sociology departments. Unfortunately, thus far no depts have shown any interest.
Hi again Wj_Gibson
I do know a few people - more on the sociology side - who have gone to business schools to work, but they tend to have researched industrial relations/sociology of work, which I know isn't everyone's thing. Do you mind me asking what, more precisely, you have researched in your PhD and Postdocs (if you aren't comfortable/don't want to relinquish anonymity, that's fine).
Most of the Unis I know that are taking on staff are newer universities/ex-polys that do emphasise teaching. From your description you seem to have emphasised research - which we are all told that we should do. Although the people I know who are struggling to find work are the more research-oriented candidates; one of my friends in that position is now moving to Pakistan for a job, and he's an archetype New York Jewish guy! Are you also looking/willing to go abroad?
whas is 'bidding' sleepyhead - your 100% bidding record? - is it grant applications or something?
By 'bidding' I mean the success rate on the external funding opportunities I've applied for. Not sure where I picked the term up from - probably some dull faculty meeting. I'm not sure how other institutions/organisations refer to it, but at my current one a member of staff's "Bidding Record" (how many bids they submit, how large the grant, the success rate) is seen as a major point of reference to their abilities as a researcher, and whether their work is relevant/cutting edge.
If this makes any sense at all!
Well put. These were also concerns of mine which helped towards my decision to quit my doctorate - nobody really discusses the downsides which really is a disservice to those considering to do a PhD. It wasn't really going to benefit me, and I prefer to play guitar/start a business in terms of challenge. I've now had two real job offers (thank heavens I had real engineering work experience!) and am taking one 10 mins from home, on a great salary, and no need to worry about papers or research in my spare time! Just work and play - I'll be playing my guitar more, seeing my girlfriend more. Life is getting better :)
I wouldn't be willing to go abroad, to be honest. I value being relatively near my family and friends. Going off to Australia is just something I can't countenance to be honest.
My research was in the field of Global Studies - it looked at anti-globalisation protests to critique this whole idea of a snowballing "movement of movements" foudned in principles of global civil society - I saw that as a load of myth-making and set out to show just how fragile and limited much of that activity was as a politiacl statement of discontent with technocratic neoliberalism. So it touches on ideas of social movements, global forms of identity, their relationship to local politics, etc. I followed this up further in my postdocs. I have 2 publications, which is perhaps a little on the slender side, but I did teach core IR Theory for 2 years during my PhD (2 semniars per week) as well as teach on a postgrad global politics course, and a lecture for the MSC in NGOs and Government at the LSE.
People in my field simply think I've been very unlucky - which I suppose I have been, but it's not much of a comfort. Certainly, people I speak to think I'm not really doing anything identifiably "wrong" as such. The feedback I've had from applications says much the same. There's the odd "tweak" I can do to cover letters and CVs. Simply that, statistically, some people have to lose out in the academic job market on account of the numbers going for jobs.
Thanks Wj, for your rather grim post, and I hope you find something soon. No wonder you're disheartened, sounds absolutely soul destroying and I wish you luck.
You've added another layer of evidence to what I've seen and suspected, that there are few academic jobs around. I'm in Australia and the job situation here is terrible too, from what I can make out. Seems to be either casual teaching, mostly tutoring, or short-term contract research work, and there's precious little of that around too. Neither of those offer options decent long-term prospects! I've also been thinking about life after the PhD and have a public service job to go back to, which is an option...otherwise am thinking maybe of private research companies...either way, these are sobering thoughts.
And like you Stressed, I'm only young at heart too (!) and sometimes wonder what the PhD will get me - but then am not doing this to get a job, which is just as well!
Looks like we all need to work on our back up plans a bit more!
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