We’re delighted to share this blogpost by piirus.ac.uk member Dr Beth Hellen who explains a little about her path from PhD to career librarian and how she got to where she is now. Her career decision-making process provides a useful example for other early career researchers who aren’t so sure any more about seeking a traditional academic post.
For 15 years I was on the academic track. I wanted a lectureship, I wanted my own research group, I wanted to write all the papers and do all the analysis.
And then one day I didn’t. I fell out of love with my research, I grew frustrated by the endless stream of job interviews for posts that I wasn’t getting, and moving house all the time stopped being exciting and just became tiring. I began to think that actually, maybe, I wasn’t the special one, maybe I was one of the many, many people with PhDs who don’t find a place in academia. And I was surprised to find that it felt all right.
In fact, once I’d decided on it, it felt fantastic. I gave myself permission to think about what it was that I loved about academia, what I hated, and what I thought I was really good at:
- Firstly, I love the University atmosphere, I love there being around students and the increase in excitement every September, but I don’t really want to work with Undergraduates.
- Secondly, I’m excited by new research, but not just my PhD field. I’m interested in so many different subjects, and I want to help promote all of the great work people are doing.
- Finally, I care about data, about making your life easy for next time, about making sure that PhD students and postdocs have the skills they need.
So I’m making a move into academic libraries and specialising in open access and data management.
The comment I hear most when I tell people about my new career is “That’s a big change”, but I don’t see it like that. In my new job as a Research Services Librarian I use so many of the skills I learned as a postdoc (and I wouldn’t have got the job without that experience). Attention to details, data management, data analysis, teaching, networking, knowledge of the publishing process, and experience of working with senior academics are all skills that are essential to my new job as a librarian, and they’re mostly skills I either didn’t realise I had, or that I assumed everyone else had too.
So if you’re thinking of changing fields and doing something new, I’ll give you this piece of advice: Really think about what skills you use every day, and then go and ask your friends outside of academia how confident they are at those things. I can guarantee you’ve got more skills and more directions that you could go in than you think.
About the author: Beth Montague-Hellen has been working in the fields of bioinformatics and evolution for the last 10 years. She is now taking a short break from full time employment during which she is working part time as a Research Services Librarian and taking an MSc in Digital Library Management, both at the University of Sheffield.