Yet another really eventful week—like a roller coaster again. I look forward to the day that I do not start my posts with a sentence like that. Last week, I decided I was going to accept my fate as a career changer by learning all sorts of new skills, doing a mass emailing of CVs/cover letters and possibly working for free at first in order to get myself into a new industry. Then on Monday, I decided that that was not the best course of action. Rather I would start a business within the fields I’m interested in (online marketing, PR, copywriting, web design). I have more than one friend who has struck out on their own in these general fields and I do have a lot of skills and qualifications that might feel neglected in an internship or entry level position. This had always been one of the possibilities I was considering, but I really thought I needed a just for now job at least for a few months before going for something that takes as much energy and enthusiasm as starting a business. But a burst of inspiration from no particular source led me to think I ought to take the situation in hand rather than roll over and accept my fate.
Then on Wednesday, I got offered an interview in a small, education-related business in this sector. It has been the one successful application of the twenty-one I sent over the last few weeks. What the experts have been telling me holds true: this position was only advertised on free sites. There are no recruitment agents involved and probably no need to fork out any money for them since there are so many people like me trying to get a foot in the door at the moment. It was one of three jobs I applied for that did not involve a recruitment agent—that’s how few and far between ads for these lower level jobs are. It really does feel like a bit of luck and it doesn’t seem like there’s a downside. If I get the job, it will be great experience in a business of the type that I would like to start at some point and it gives me some time to plan the start of such a business. If I don’t get the job, it’s non-academic interview experience, possibly a worthwhile connection in the industry and I can go through with my plan of starting a business now. I really like the idea of being my own boss and having control over what direction my work will take. So I will be spending much of the next few days getting ready for this interview.
Another thing I want to point out to current and potential postacademics this week is an article in the Times Higher on some European research which reveals how dissatisfied academics are with their careers. It reports that 30% of junior academics in Britain claim they would not have chosen this career if faced with the decision again. I am not an expert in drawing conclusions from quantitative data, but I see two disturbing things here. First, that one clearly needs hindsight in order to realize academia is not for them, which I think in turn suggests that aspiring academics don’t know what they’re getting into until it’s too late. I’m sure it’s partly down to the mythmaking (as other postacademic bloggers have suggested before me) about how superior a job academia is.
Secondly, that 30%—nearly a third of my colleagues in Britain—is dissatisfied with the job at least to a small extent. One of the most irritating things about the profession, I find, is that people won’t admit it when things aren’t up to scratch, are ethically questionable, or even downright wrong on so many levels. In academia, everything is impressive, successful, ideally internationally excellent, and the unspoken rule is that claiming these things makes them true. If nearly a third of the workforce is dissatisfied with the job, my long held suspicion that these professors of excellence know very well what the failings of their institutions are and deliberately cover them up with spin, like they cover up their own dissatisfaction with the job. I work with a lot of people who try to preserve the aura of being satisfied and successful in their careers. Some even seem to want to make the job out to be glamorous with lots of exotic travel and exciting speaking invitations, but I’m not fooled. I know how little impact most academic work has, even within its own microscopic field, and I know how lonely and boring research trips can be. So there’s some food for thought for those considering a job in academia. I will be having a serious talk with my PhD students after putting in my notice, when there are no longer any potential ramifications of undermining the mythmaking.
Finally, thank you very much to JC for reviewing my blog. My site traffic has shot right up as a result of this recommendation and I can see I need to optimize this site a lot more effectively (one of the things I’m supposed to know all about in my new career) so some more people can find it and make use of it. I am adding that task to the list that will be addressed once life feels a little less like a roller coaster ride.