Feel as though i'm wasting my time!! Help please, is all lost??

(12 Posts)
cantresistchoc Sun 25-Sep-16 22:25:38

I'd really appreciate some honesty here if at all possible. I'm in my 40's, x2 kids (1 newborn) and have spent the last 2 years trying to return to an academic position. I am so despondent, seriously pissed off, and feel like a failure. I was one of the lucky ones in the noughties, for I made the transition from PhD to f/t perm. lectureship without any difficulty whatsoever. But...the culture in the Dept. was atrocious, as was the workload, so after sticking it out for 4 years I jumped ship. So here I am 10 yrs later striving to secure another lectureship and have either failed to be shortlisted for vacancies or have got through to interview only to be rejected.

I have amassed valuable experience on the "outside" but with being freelance (self-employed) lack references - and I certainly don't have any academic references to submit with being on the outside for so many years. I have continued to be research active - cutting edge stuff in social sciences (self-funded), have established great links with media etc, have lots of teaching experience (ug & pg), etc.

Sooo, when I attend interviews - 4 in 12 months - I feel these have gone well, I receive good feedback, the panel demonstrates lots of interest in my research, yet I am unsuccessful! The last interview, which had me dragging my family 600+ miles (round trip) is a case in point. During the interview lunch with staff and other candidates, it immediately became apparent that 2 of the candidates were well known to the panel - indeed the female candidate took me aside and apologized as she had already been informally offered the job. Needless to say, she was duly appointed. I came away - again - feeling as though I was simply making up numbers!! Seriously, why drag me right across the UK when I was never in the running for the bloody job? I have been shortlisted for both lectureships and senior lectureships.

So in essence, what the fuck should I do? Might there be hope or am I just wasting my time, energy and self-esteem by focusing on HE?

Apologies for typos...one finger typing as breastfeeding feisty baby.

Closetlibrarian Mon 26-Sep-16 14:01:55

Commiserations. The job market is brutal at the moment. I'm in an academic post (SL) but I'm hoping to move institutions. I have been short-listed but ultimately not got two jobs in the last two years. Last time around I got a strong sense that the successful candidate was 'known' to the panel. I don't know that there's much you can do about this, other than some hardcore networking (are you attending conferences, etc?) which you may or may not have the time, money or inclination for.

Your comment about references gave me pause. Surely even if you've done freelance work there's someone you worked with who can give you a reference? And can you contact someone who knew you in your previous academic life to give you an up-to-date reference (they can talk about your track record prior to leaving academia and hopefully also talk about how your work in the meantime has built on a previously successful academic career, etc). If I were on the panel, I would think it a bit odd that there was no referee from your academic career (leading me to question why you left academia previously).

The fact that you're being short-listed is brilliant in itself, by the way (but so frustrating not to actually get the job, I know)

fluffikins Tue 27-Sep-16 13:47:25

I think you need to get your foot in the door somehow so you are the internal candidate. Possibly some freelance teaching at a department you rate? Or at least sucking up to people at conferences. I think it's incredibly hard to get a job in academia without people knowing who you are before you turn up to the interview.

Have you mugged up on ref and tef?

HistorianMum Thu 29-Sep-16 14:11:14

If you are research active, surely there is someone who has been reading/commenting on your work who might write a reference? To be honest, 4 interviews in 12 months sounds really good going. I can understand you are frustrated but if you are getting that close, you must be impressive. Some departments may actually like the fact that you have been outside and have all these links, given how important impact now is. The last interview scenario does sound rubbish, in that they should not informally have offered a job to anyone at that stage. However, you shouldn't get too paranoid. My department has made three appointments over the last year. In one case, one of the candidates was well known to the department - she's collaborated with our HoD on projects, but she didn't get the job ultimately, and everyone on the shortlist for interview was a serious candidate, with supporters in the room. In other words, I don't think we were prepared to interview anyone who didn't look worth appointing. If there is anyone at these 4 departments you trust to give honest feedback, you could try asking, but tbh, departments often just give you some guff about how it was very competitive etc etc.

cantresistchoc Thu 29-Sep-16 23:40:39

Thanks for the advice and tips...it helps to hear opinions and suggestions!

Closet, I do have references but they are non-academic. During my last interview I had a cocky prof. throw disdain upon them...given the refs were on my application form at the point of applying, his comments simply reinforced my suspicions that I was making up interviewee numbers (to satisfy HR) for a candidate they already had lined up for the job.

Fluffkins, I applied on spec to approx 30 departments for contractual VL work. Those that replied simply told me to wait until posts were advertised because I would have to go through HR and compete for vacancies like everyone else. Needless to say, here l am....on MN decrying the state of affairs! I can't even get bog standard VL hours...I suspect most, if not all, go to internal postgrads (nurture our own mentality).

I have no idea how to pitch my freelance teaching skills to departments? That would be ideal! However, I suspect it would fail in my discipline.

Historian, perhaps I am not forward enough but it had not crossed my mind to ask a person who knows my research to provide a reference...or perhaps my confidence is simply shot with knock-backs. That person is not a colleague, just someone in the sector. Not sure I could face the humiliation if they declined. I am research active and have concentrated on building links with the press/media for "impact." I do have 2 research papers in preparation to submit to peer reviewed journals but I can't motivate myself to finish them because I can't find a sodding job. It doesn't help when my peers from 10 years ago are all now top rung SL or Profs.

HeddaGarbled Thu 29-Sep-16 23:57:12

I do sympathise but your sentence starting three lines from the bottom of your last paragraph makes me what to slap/shake you. Finish the papers and submit them and don't be so ridiculous. You know that publication will help you get a job.

Bountybarsyuk Wed 05-Oct-16 19:01:26

Hedda is right, there is nothing, but nothing you can do to get a job more than have great publications. Of course, if you are up against other people with great publications, other factors come into play. But the bottom line is REFability and publications, even if you think you won't be in the REF, they are looking for people who may have a future in the dep't, and that's people that publish!

I'm kicking myself here a bit OP, as I also have several papers on the go but none actually going out. So, my exasperation is with myself, I just thought I'd share itsmile

Scottishthreeberry16 Wed 05-Oct-16 19:09:59

Feel your pain, OP. Pretty much the same here although, despite being in an area which lectures on feminism etc, the sexism was rife when it came to posts. Young men, with not a nth if comparable experience or qualifications got the jobs. They could, however, toddle off down to the pub to discuss the latest films and footy whilst the middle-aged female part-timers had to return home to look after kids. It's appalling and I moved careers in the end. Still miss being an academic though

cantresistchoc Sun 16-Oct-16 12:48:28

Hedda, thanks for the metaphorical shake/slap...but that is the point too isn't it. Sometimes we need a bloody big kick up the backside to get things done, particularly with the full-on demands of family life. With a mentor, I'd no doubt have my research papers out there...but as it happens, I don't have one and nor do I have any academic chums to spur me on over mid-morning cake and coffee with encouraging comments. Self-motivation only goes so far when one feels academically isolated there is still no guarantee of an academic post even if papers are published. I know this work will be published but tbh I think fear of rejection is getting in the way too.

Bounty, my sympathies. I hope you can find the time and/or motivation to get them finished and sent off.

Scottish, similar situation here. I'm a feminist but I worked out long ago that 'feminism' is rather divisive and there's most definitely an "exclusive" group in my field.

So over the last couple of weeks, I've been selected to do what is essentially donkey work - voluntary role - for an academic group, which will hopefully result in some contacts and a reference. I've also been asked to do more work with the media but I'm hesitating - this would be a demanding 'unpaid' engagement over several months and I simply don't know in my ignorance whether this high profile media engagement-stuff would help an academic career...

EmeraldSittingRoom Sun 16-Oct-16 18:21:44

I've been selected to do what is essentially donkey work - voluntary role - for an academic group, which will hopefully result in some contacts and a reference. I've also been asked to do more work with the media but I'm hesitating - this would be a demanding 'unpaid' engagement over several months and I simply don't know in my ignorance whether this high profile media engagement-stuff would help an academic career
Could you parlay that into an AHRC/New Generation thinker application? If you're in the Arts & Hums, you might check your eligibility.

lljkk Sun 16-Oct-16 21:53:56

culture in the Dept. was atrocious, as was the workload, so after sticking it out for 4 years I jumped ship

So why do U want back in?

cantresistchoc Mon 17-Oct-16 10:16:15

liljkk - I was good at my job....and with being an adult I know there are bad departments as well as good ones.

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