In part one I outlined the factors that steered me away from choosing the academic route. I had decided a career in university administration may be more suitable. Here, I consider which roles would be best for my skills and outline the role I’ve found.
Part 2: digging deeper into the darkness!
Once I had decided I was leaving academia, I talked to many people from different areas of university administration about their roles. This included people from research support services, the registrars office, postgraduate recruiters and librarians. All commented on the ability to move to new areas fairly easily and even encouraged moving area or team ever 18 months to progress quickly. Several highlighted the variety of the tasks that they undertake on a daily basis as the best part of their role. From this I realised that I would fit in many roles, but I was warned that when transitioning from academia, others might question my motives for moving. I had to consider that those offering positions could interpret my career change as just a stop-gap before finding another job in academia. And they might have thought that I had not got proven administrative skills, that other candidates perhaps had. In order to support academics or the wider university a PhD is certainly not a necessity and when applying to many roles may not be seen as an advantage.
Therefore, I looked at positions that would play to the strengths of my experience in research, such as:
- jobs related to support or recruitment of postgraduate students
- posts in direct support of researchers
- positions where first-hand knowledge of research would be beneficial
When writing applications I put heavy emphasis on the qualities I had gained in running the Journey and the transferable skills from my academic career. I quickly made it to the final interviews for a couple of positions, missing out due to better candidates, a lack of administrative experience and even others believing that I would be ‘bored’ in the role! However, after waiting a few months for another suitable role to be advertised, I found one where my skills could be employed. My knowledge of the physical sciences combined with a proven project management were seen as very beneficial when I applied for my current post as administrator for the Research Technology Platforms.
As part of this role I talk to researchers and facility managers on a daily basis. In fact, even my line manager is an academic (albeit one that knows a great deal about how the ‘dark side’ works)! I have also gained a much deeper understanding of how departments and finance works, although there is always more to learn, as I work alongside finance, human resources and external affairs. There has been as much collaboration needed with individuals and groups, if not more, than I ever had in academia. Being close to the academic and administrative border means that tools such as Piirus can still play a role in my work life, as I need to understand how others across the globe run their research equipment and others’ approaches to things like financial models. I have enjoyed my initial foray in this role, on the peripheral of both research and administration and I look forward to what challenges it provides next, as well as discovering how to overcome them.
As for the matter of the ‘dark side’: I hope to change the opinions of at least a few of those in academia, on what the ‘dark side’ is and does. When each side comes to blows I can see both sides of the story and potentially help each to understand the reasoning of the other. My time in academia will help me in my new career and I still would have done it all again, looking back on it now.
So this covers my change to date. No matter how unalterable the attitudes of others may be to the ‘dark side’, following on from my football analogy in part 1, I will leave you with an analogy of a successful switch; one young Steve Bull made a switch early in his career from the ‘dirty’ blue and white of WBA to the ‘majestic’ old gold of Wolves and went on to become the club’s top scorer and have a stand named after him. Perhaps my switch will work out just as well . . .
Please watch out for more blog posts related to my new role, the challenges I face and comparisons to academic life.
What else do you think is relevant when considering a switch from an academic career to an academic support role? Please do share in the comments field, below.
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