Recently, I have started to feel as though my voice is unrepresented in ‘being an academic’ discourse. I have some theories as to why this might be, which I will get to. But first – some background, so that you can know what that ‘voice’ is.
I submitted my PhD, in Classics, in August of 2014, and had my viva in November of that year. A small mix up with the exams office meant I didn’t get my official corrections until the end of January 2015, by which time I had done them all anyway. Yet another mix up saw the acceptance of my corrections delayed for some reasons, and eventually – in June 2015 – the confirmation of my award came though. A bureaucratic nightmare that at the time felt like the worst thing that could ever happen to a person (obviously, it wasn’t). I was told that being finished could feel like a huge let down, and it really did (more on that another time). The stress and uncertainty of that whole period had a huge effect on my job hunt.
Early in the cycle, I talked myself out of applying for jobs as I went through a period of crushing impostor syndrome. Of the remaining jobs I applied for, I did get an interview but didn’t get a position. With the (well-recorded) state of the academic job market at the moment, I’m definitely not the only one who hasn’t had much success in the ‘getting a job’ department. I was offered some teaching in my PhD department for semester one this year, and I (eventually) got on with the process of ‘getting a job next year’. For me that meant THE BOOK (this will be the topic of a future post, so more details then). It also meant researching and writing several different iterations of a research proposal. One of those is will soon be submitted for Leverhulme (again, more on postdoctoral fellowships in another post). So that’s where I am. An academic who is not an academic.
Now – a quick word on privilege. I am. Very. Very, very privileged in the position that I am currently in, which is that I do not need a full time job in order to survive. That has meant that I have had time to spend working on the book, articles, new research, and the all-important ‘next big project’. It also means that as time goes on, and (in one way) I get more and more advantaged over others who don’t have a job and who don’t have the luxury of near-full time research, but I get more worried about the pay off. That is – the getting a job. (Also, that I really do want to be working). That said, I am still exceptionally lucky.
So, why does this voice tend to not exist? There are a lot of early career academics, and alt-ac (or academic adjacent) PhDs talking about their struggles and their paths – and this is all really valuable. But, there is something almost shameful, and therefore unspoken, about the wanting-but-not-having of being post-PhD without an academic job and still working towards getting an academic job. I’m struggling with the concept even now that I have signed up to talk about it! Am I shooting myself in the proverbial foot by even daring to open myself (and my job search) up to the world? Only time will tell, I guess.