I like the internet. That might seem like a bit of a silly thing to say, but it’s true. I do. I like that I can find information, waste time, watch movies, keep in contact with friends and family. And, I like that I can find voices that resonate with me, voices that make me feel less alone and vulnerable – particularly in the big bad world of trying to land an academic job.
But, increasingly, I am frustrated by the fact that I cannot find a voice that reflects my situation. And, in many ways, I’m not surprised. Let me explain.
I have a PhD. It’s been examined, corrected, awarded, and I have walked across the stage. So, from that perspective, I am not seeking ‘what can you do in graduate school’ style blogs and articles. That ship has sailed, whether I did the right things or not. I’m also not interested, at present anyway, in finding a permanent non-academic job. That is to say, I want to stay in academia and I want to find an academic job. So, the voices of those negotiating the shift from academia to industry are – while interesting and helpful in many respects – not what I am looking for. And, I don’t have an academic job at present. So, while I do (sometimes) like reading about early career academics and negotiating fixed term contracts and heavy teaching loads (for instance), it’s also not exactly what I am after.
As for not being surprised that I can’t find a voice like mine, I think that’s obvious. It’s perilous, the job hunt. That’s true, I suspect, across the board and not just in academia. People probably don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they haven’t got a job straight out of graduate school, so perhaps it is best to stay quiet. We are trained, in so many ways, to be both insecure and over confident, and drawing attention to the fact that one has not been ‘selected’ already certainly brings out the insecurity.
And then, I think: I have been so very privileged in the position I am in currently. And by that I mean that as an un- or under-employed ‘academic’, I have had the opportunity to not have to work full time in a non-academic job. So, I have spent the time since my viva working on a monograph version of my thesis, which is now under review. I have been able to devote time to working on other publications, on some new research, on writing a(n extended) proposal for my ‘next big project’. (But, I am also acutely aware that I might never get the opportunity to do that project, but I obviously don’t like to think too much about that…). The flip side is that I don’t have the institutional support to, for example, go to conferences. I simply can’t afford to pay my own way.
I know that I'm not the only person in my position. Even if I didn’t personally know people who were then I would be able to hazard a pretty accurate guess about it. Right now, I don’t want to revolutionise higher education in this country, I just want to be able to teach and research the things that I am passionate about.
So, I would love to hear from others in the same position – and I want them to know that they’re not the only one.