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Returning to academia and feeling disheartened....(9 Posts)
15 years experience, 2 Oxbridge degrees, had a great research management position, many publications before DC came along. I took a break from academia and have been working in an unrelated job for the past few years to fit around DC. I decided to return to academia and have had 7 interviews but no job offers.
I'm feeling disheartened for a couple of reasons. I am not finding many jobs similar to the ones I had. I see an 'ideal' job about once a month and apply to it which leads to... ridiculously competitive interviews. The last one I had a pre-interview task, a test, a presentation and an interview with 4 people in what I can only describe as 'aggressive interviewing'. I had so much direct experience but felt a bit insulted by the whole process. No friendly approach whatsoever and I was even thinking about walking out at the time! Two interviews did go very well and the feedback was positive. But of course, someone with more experience beat me to it.
Job applications and interviews take so much time and I was expecting a job offer much sooner. Should I drop my standards or keep applying for similar jobs at the level I had in the past? It's been about 8 months now, countless applications, 7 interviews and no job offers. I feel like giving up. After these interviews I'm also not sure I want to return to academia at all and am losing confidence... Is it to do with my career gap or is everything more difficult in academia these days? Or maybe I've changed since I've had DC and shouldn't return to the academic environment after all. I loved my previous job but these days it seems all about REFs and meeting targets. Is it? Help!
I am very junior to you, but I would have thought 7 interviews was really good going?
What field are you in?
You have done very well indeed to get that many interviews and suggests that your 'turn' is just around the corner. Are you working on anything currently? There may be an issue with the gap in publications...perhaps it has implications for the REF if you are taken on as a full-time member of staff but then don't have any REFable publications. Can you ask a former supervisor/work colleague where you are tripping up in relation to that?
Yes, it is all about the REF unfortunately, and that will be driving hires at the moment. I am not that clued in except for what I personally have to do so that's why I suggested getting advice from those more in the know.
I’m surprised that there has been that many jobs come up. There’s been maybe 3 jobs nationwide that I could apply to in the last year.
I can understand your frustration. I came second for three jobs in a row, but did land a permanent post after that. I remember seeing this happen for a few people. If you’re getting so many interviews, I would have thought you must be a strong candidate.
If you are reaching the shortlist that often you are likely to get one eventually, unless something specific is going wrong at interview. Ask for feedback every time and if there's any way of checking what the references are saying then do but otherwise I'd say your chances are good. You do need to sound like you are up to speed on REF/TEF/KEF etc though, sadly.
Congratulations on your experience and on your DC
You have done well in your job search, too and may well get a list eventually.
My question is why you would to put yourself through such a heartbreaking process.
There must be other roles in other businesses and organisations which could make use of your experience and would be glad to have you and would demonstrate thus in how they deal with you.
Even if your heart is set on academia, do please consider other options and be valued for your contribution.
All the best.
"unrelated job for the past few years"
Er, what is 'few' to you? Keeping in mind BBC defined "few" = 41 in about 2009. I ask b/c REF was a big deal in 2013, which is 6 yrs ago now.
I'm very curious what the features of an 'ideal' job are to OP, too.
My experience was that a gap in employment makes you unhireable due to the REF etc requiring you to have been active during that period. Getting interviews isn’t necessarily a positive indicator as they often interview out of curiosity or just to make up the numbers
when they’ve already earmarked the job for an internal candidate but have to pay lip service to making it look fair
"Getting interviews isn’t necessarily a positive indicator as they often interview out of curiosity or just to make up the numbers"
No well run department does this. It's not worth their time. For the last 3 L/SL posts that our department has advertised, there have been well over 100 applicants. There is simply no need to 'make up numbers'. I would have thought that getting an interview really means you've done well, OP.
There are three main things that panels look for in our place. The first is high quality publications. It's not a numbers game any more (we just rejected, without interview, an SL candidate with 40 papers). A person with a few very good papers is seen as preferable, but they do need to be research active. The second is collegiality - there is definitely a movement against 'star quality' professors who don't pull their weight and towards younger people who are seen as "getting it" (meaning that they understand the modern game that has to be played to get on in terms of teaching satisfaction, research, and projects). The third is grant income, or at least experience of winning and managing a project (small for early career people) and a definite willingness to apply for bloody everything until some income is brought in.