During funeral planning and preparations, I got my regular notification from jobs.ac.uk about roles in the South West, and on it was an advert for a ‘Researcher Development Programme Manager for Postgraduate Researchers’ at the University of Exeter. On closer inspection, it involved programme design, teaching, event planning…and ultimately supporting postgraduate researchers. I’d been a PGR and taught for 6 years – this felt like something I could maybe do. So I applied, thinking if I got an interview it was a foot in the door. I got an interview – but it was scheduled for the day after my Nan’s funeral. Some people told me not to go, that I would not be in the right place to interview of job and that there would be other opportunities. My thinking was I would be in Devon anyway, I might as well give it a go. So I went into the interview with no anxiety and no expectations – I was going for the experience fully expecting not to get the job.
And by some miracle, I got it, and packed up my (lack of a) life and moved back to Devon to start a new career and a new chapter.
When I started the job I was still seeing it as a bit of a stop-gap and was surprised when I started to fall in love with it. I realised that this was a job where I could continue to do what I love – teach – but also to really help change people’s experience of their research degree for the better. Working in Professional Services enables me to set clearer boundaries, and I actually spend a lot of my time working with PGRs to counter the culture of overwork, and to encourage them to set their own boundaries and engage in self-care. I am an active tweeter and insist on tweeting about my work and personal lives from the same account – so that my PGRs know I am a human being who goes home at 5pm and has a life. And I actually have one now! I have hobbies and interests – I sew, build lego and read comic books and spend time with my family and friends.
What have I learnt from all this? Well, rash decisions are a bad idea but going with your gut isn’t. I wish I knew more about myself before I chose my first career – having done some personality tests and psychometric profiling (Profiling for Success, MBTI and Insights so far!) over the last few years it is clear that I need structure and I value family life and care for others above all else. I also want to change the world a little bit. Maybe 5-year-old Kelly was on to something. Maybe if I knew all this before I might not have ended up in the wrong career. But maybe I might not have ended up in the right one.