- a series of short term employment contracts,
- being a “permanent” employee,
- working as a freelancer.
I can’t claim to have ever experienced true “precarity”: I’m accustomed to lack of job security and my income fluctuates, but my material and psychological wellbeing are not in danger. I think that this is why some people see the “portfolio career” as a kind of freedom and opportunity for professional development, whilst others see it negatively: if it is a disguise for precarity rather than genuine freedom, then it is a problem. The difference lies in the wellbeing of the people affected, which of course depends on many factors. Finding a way out of precarity is imperative, and the search is extremely taxing on those who find themselves in this position.
We need to imagine the PhD differently and promote it more honestly.
This may mean strengthening the pathway to non-academic careers. Or it may mean reimagining and crucially reconfiguring our ideas around what it is to be an academic…
- A sense of achievement when appointed: you made it after a long ‘apprenticeship’ through doctorate study/PhD.
- Time is freed up from job applications and interviews, so that you can finally get on with the research you are so passionate about. Or else now that time can be dedicated to writing grant applications.
- Community. Being on the “inside” opens connections that could be valuable to your research, as well as a support network.
- Access to facilities: the library, the lab, a warm place to write in. Not to mention IT provision – with support staff.
- An academic email address will unlock many things: more connections & your Google Scholar profile, to name just two. (We know that this isn’t the case in every country, which is why it’s no longer a requirement for piirus.ac.uk membership.)
- Access to research funding: traditional research funders send money to the institution, not the individual, so only those on permanent contracts may apply.
- A better CV/resume – prestige of the job, the institution, plus it is easier to maintain a current CV with just one job rather than a patchwork of contracts
- Professional development opportunities may open up, either through internal training or through funding to attend external events.
- Financial reward and stability: a salary that qualifies you for a mortgage or bank loan, just like all your peers.
- Various kinds of paid leave, freeing you from complex financial planning, such as for illness, parenthood and holidays.
- Freedom from requirement to complete complex tax returns each year.
- Pension contributions and membership to a universities pension scheme. You might possibly also have access to healthcare schemes.
- Entitlement to redundancy pay to help stabilise your finances if you are forced to move jobs.
- Sabbaticals, or various unpaid leave entitlements that could widen your experience, contact network and research expertise.
And lastly, slightly tongue-in-cheek:
- the office summer/Christmas party. (Although some might not consider that a benefit!)