Signup date: 20 Nov 2006 at 12:14pm
Last login: 06 Nov 2020 at 11:23am
Post count: 138
I would first ask yourself why you want to do it, because the reality of a PhD is very different from the way in which a lot of students imagine a PhD to be prior to embarking upon it. Much of the research can be tedious, time-consuming and can often involve going up blind alleys that have to be discarded in the final analysis, no matter wht time was spent on them.
I would also talk to a trusted academic from your university (or former university by the sound of it) and ask for their honest opinion of your abilities nd prospects for completion.
Finally, I would explore all the funding avenues that you can.
To be fair, I did say I didn't want to be unduly negative - many people do go on to establish academic careers. And I wouldn't suggest people give up their PhDs. There are a great many positive experiences about having that time to explore a subject in great depth, in a manner that no one has ever done previously, and there's plenty of international conferencing opportunities and the like (though casting not having to work in McDonalds as a positive experience is fatuous - people who are accepted onto PhD programs are well capable of competing for the remaining graduate jobs that are "out there"; I do sometimes feel that the unrealistic spectre of a McJob serves simply to shore up a sense of worth among PhD students; it is really not difficult to abandon a PhD and walk into a decent graduate job, and I know of several people who have done precisely that). I had the opportunity to spend 3 months doing research in North America; just to be clear, I don't look back on that and regret it.
But it's a simple fact of life that there will be fewer and fewer academic jobs out there for people over the coming years, which is why I strongly believe it is the responsibility of academic departments to urge their PhD students to consider what their PhD could lead on to if not an academic career in the longer term. And they don't really do that effectively enough at present, which is why I make it my business to try to make that clear to PhD students wherever they may happen to be (this forum and others like it). So it's even more vital than ever (IMO) to try to enjoy the PhD experience as it happens, but not become too fixated on it as a gateway to a specific career (i.e. academia). Most likely, a 9-5 is what beckons afterwards - not on a checkout as some seem to think, but certainly in some kind of private sector capacity. And PhDs generally do very well in such enviornments. This isn't negative, it's realistic (plus, I think the 8 points that Walminskipeasucker outlioned in the original post were effectively a description of an academic career, even thoguh he/she professed otherwise).
"Failing" to establish an academic career is not automatically a negative - in many ways it can be a very positive experience (albeit some years down the line; changing career always involves a coupe of years of uncertainty and insecurity, which can be difficult to cope with); but the transition period (essentially, the "giving up" of the academic dream, which is my case was a very strongly-felt dream) is a difficult one, and one that the profession deals with (in my experience) poorly. That's all I'm trying to communicate here, and it pays to be aware of it. It doesn't cancel out the positives, but it shouldn't be marginalised/under-estimated either.
Again, I don't want to come across as unduly negative, but with regard to point 1, I think you could be in for a rude awakening one day - as what you describe there is not very far from the job that I currently do, tbh. I'm considering going off to train as a secondary school teacher in September, as my PhD (and postdocs) have not prevented me from having to sell my labour to the private sector in order to survive.
You know what, after seeing Mandelson's plan to convert academics into a slightly more highbrow version of McDonalds till workers, today is the day I come to my senses and thank my luckiest of lucky stars that I am not in the midst of embarking on an academic career. I think acadmeia is about to become intolerable. I strgonly suspect that the consumerist logic that to which Mandelson has given a green light will translate into a demand that academics are at their desks 9-5 Mon-Fri "happily" dealing with every trivial request that comes their way from their "customers" in the name of good service. And then be expected to go home and plan lectures, and produce world-leading research until 3 o'clock in the morning. What a joke.
Furthermore, although the wider job market in non-academic spheres is quite bad at the moment, it will recover in time (indeed, in my current non-academic role I see evidence of this already).
Whereas in academia it will never recover. The current situation in the academic job market is not simply a consequence of over-production of PhDs - it is also a symptom of the way in whihc universiities have quietly been eroding the number of permanent full-time posts available within depts. in favour of a constant stream of low-pais, insecurely employed temporary staff who can be pushed around more easily and who don't come with same pension burden etc. as full-time staff. It's a bit of a university manager's wet dream - a constantly rotating stream of contract staff - the "sweatshop-isation" of academia - whilst protecting budgets for full-time admin/managerial staff.
I think that with the current scenario, and the fact that the academic prfoession really can't stop the horror stories from emerging thanks to the largely unregulated nature of this and other social networking spaces for postgrads/postdocs, that universities will eventually struggle to attract PhD students (or at least students of the academic calibre they expect). And even then, those that do hang around for PhDs will mostly look toward non-academic careers - meaning that the numbers of people available to teach seminars for UG courses on the cheap will erods and the existing academic staff will suddenly find they have to teach everything themselves.
Still, the academic world as a whole has such a "head-in-the-sand" approach to the future of the profession that this will only become a "crisis" after this effect takes hold.
That's good advice, Bewildered.
I allowed myself to be convinced that winning my ESRC postdoc would really advance my cause. Prior to that I did think about alternative careers outside of academia, but as soon as I won that I did think that this would settle things nicely for me, I could publish some work and stand a very good chance on the open academic market of an entry-level lectureship. It hasn't happened for me.
I took the current market research job really out of necessity. I needed a job that paid a living wage, end of. I've been here well over a year ad I'm becoming very keen to move on. I work in total obscurity. At least I could feel more like my academic achievements (I'm very much a straight A sort of student) meant something. At the moment I really do feel like I might as well have spent my postgrad years drinking and taking drugs. It might have been more fun and I'd be about as far advanced in a career as I am anyway. :p
But in all seriousness - academic depts are very poor at informing PhDs of the viable alternatives. We end up with less of a clue than we did after finishing UG degrees. I'm thinking that working for a government department or a think-tank is the way for me to go but it all seems a very long way to get even there from where I am. But I'm wasted in my current job. I really am.
I'm sure you have indeed been through some of this, Sneaks, but you need to appreciate that to do what you suggest requires me really to think about leaving my job, which is a professional, 9-5 endeavour (often more hours than 9-5, in honesty) and which requires me to work hard and is thus intellectually difficult. Guest lecturing is out of the question in those circumstances, and it's very hard to really finish any writing off unless I more or less give up my other outisde interests in life entirely and spend all of my time outside work on it. I've had my CV checked over by a few acdemics and other than some tweaking they can't see anything wrong with it.
Yes, I did give the neo-Gramscian approach a bit of a kicking - but so it should, its assumptions about the automaticity of the development of shared interests in a global neoliberal economy take absolutely nothing about the complexities of cultural translation, or about activists' own fantasies concerning how power operates, into account. I used a psychoanalytical and critiacl thoery approach to attack those arguments, which makes my work even more of an obscurity. But it was exmained by Jan Aart Scholte (big globalisation theory) with lots of strong praise and hints about where it could develop. I published work in Global Society and in Alternatives. I do have other articles in various states of completion, although as I said earlier I don't have the ability to get the momentum going to finish them whilst in my current circumstances. And I'm getting to the point whereby I've been out of academia for so long (18 months and counting) that it will be difficult to convince departments that my knowledge is up to date, given that I am in no position to update myself on it. I do have a good understanding of IR Theory and can teach it. I'd like to write on a Lacanian approach to IR and the role of fantasy therein, but that won't be possible at the minute. It's frustrating and upsetting beyond belief.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This rather depends on what you're actually writing about. Landing a piece in Political Studies is a good idea as, not only does it have a very high reputation, it is also a "generalist" journal - i..e publishing in a journal such as this will be taken as a sign that you can relate your own particular research to the field of Politics as a whole, which will stand you in good stead if you aspire toward an academic career (which, as you're thinking of publishing something, I presume is the case).
But PS is a very competitive journal with a lot of submissions, whereas you might stand a statistically better chance of being published if you submit to a more specialist journal instead. I would ask an academic in your dept for advice, and to get some feedback on the article you propose to submit before making a firm choice (as, I'm sue you're aware, you can only submit to one journal at a time).
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