Need to relinquish all motivation and aspiration. Tell me the WORST things about being an academic

(59 Posts)
CareersDontGetEuologies Fri 13-Nov-20 19:35:34

Five years, almost to the day, since my PhD viva, and today was my fiftieth or so (though I forced myself to lose count) postdoc interview failure. I've had a few pieces of casual work and one very short FTC and have LOVED it all, but with every failure causing me exponentially more distress: clearly, I need to accept my limits and stop applying, if only for the sake of my MH.

So tell me, what is TERRIBLE about being an academic? What do you HATE??

OP’s posts: |
Snowdrop30 Fri 13-Nov-20 19:38:03

How people compete with each other to say how many hours they work. It's wildly unhealthy.

CareersDontGetEuologies Fri 13-Nov-20 19:40:31

You know, I once worked 240 hours in one week, even though I was paid for 8. Keep 'em coming.

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Notanotherusernamenow Fri 13-Nov-20 19:43:29

University is proposing a 10% pay cut to deal with impact of Covid. I’m 35 and on a permanent lecturing contract and I earn net £26.5k per year. My promotion to SL has been suspended due to Covid.

CareersDontGetEuologies Fri 13-Nov-20 19:50:05

I'm afraid that doesn't quite help me - I'm almost ten years older than you and never had anything permanent. Shit though, I accept, for you. brew

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damekindness Fri 13-Nov-20 20:03:58

The total lack of boundaries between work and home life. The way taking leave is framed as a dereliction of duty. Having to prioritise student experience regardless of impact on own health/well-being whilst simultaneously being made to feel utterly expendable.

...and breathe

Wildswim Fri 13-Nov-20 20:08:02

I'm ten years post PhD and I have never had a permanent job. I've taught on hourly paid contracts, have published 2 journal articles , a book chapter, and a substantial monograph.

I love research and live for it but I'm an independent scholar and have gradually realised I'm much better off for it. I don't have to worry about being woke or about politics , and when I check out academics working in my discipline on Twitter I'm often turned off by their opinions and politics, to be honest. I'm better out of it- my work can be truly objective and independent. This may of course just be relevant to the area that I'm in.

JacobReesMogadishu Fri 13-Nov-20 20:11:02

Students seeing themselves as consumers. I literally had an email from a student this week complaining about things they didn’t like about the course, some suggestions of how the course should be run and a reminder that the course will end up costing them 60k and they expect better.

Notanotherusernamenow Fri 13-Nov-20 20:24:59

I guess my point was, I feel stuck. I can’t progress and I earn so little that I could earn just as much in a less stressful and difficult job. I don’t see how I can ever afford to change my life. I haven’t had children because I can’t afford them. I’m too far down the road to do anything else. I love my job but I had a meeting last night start at 9pm. I finished 4 solid hours of teaching at 6.30 tonight. I’m exhausted.

FraterculaArctica Fri 13-Nov-20 20:28:37

Fifteen years post PhD here. Hate the way you can only do a good job by working all the time. I have 3 small DC and it's impossible.

NeverEnoughCake2 Sat 14-Nov-20 00:37:51

16 years out from PhD. It's gone midnight and I'm still recording online teaching materials, as I had to stop working and do "mum" stuff with DC earlier, and this is the only way I get enough sh*t done to stop my HoD inviting me for "chats to help me prioritise my workload." I work for a "good" uni and the competition is ferocious, not helped by colleagues with no kids or who have partners who do pretty much 100% of the parenting/domestic workload. Your career lives and dies by your publication record, but you only get time to work on writing at evenings and weekends. The more senior you get, the less of the interesting research stuff you get to do, and the more you get to herd cats with serious egos. Oh, and I'm not on a permanent contract.

MedSchoolRat Sat 14-Nov-20 08:51:41

I don't feel like I hate anything about the job. I couldn't be better paid elsewhere. ime, "permanent" jobs are more insecure than FTCs. I found working in other types of jobs much more stressful. I have little to do with students because I don't like teaching so no issues there. I would like to change below things, though:

I find ethics applications tedious. Our IRB has over-reach and strange ideas about "risk". I could do without that.

We're very tied to Microsoft products even when they aren't fit for purpose.

I'm obliged to do annual fire safety training for a building I'm not supposed to enter ('rona).

A lot of my colleagues -- they are lovely, but they can't communicate their ideas easily. Takes a lot of patience to decipher their cleverness into a written description.

A lot of academic meetings are pointless & achieve nothing. I had a stint in another industry & fell in love with bossy effective chairs.

TheEndisCummings Sat 14-Nov-20 10:47:33

the whingers!!

Numbersarefun Sat 14-Nov-20 11:00:11

DH’s hobby is his research. He never (or at least very rarely) takes a break from it. Not great for him I feel. However, there could be worse things than the wine growing industry I guess!

Pota2 Sun 15-Nov-20 11:06:15

I have a permanent post but I think that the amount of precarity in the profession is awful. Constant short term contracts, excessively long probation periods, and lack of security take their toll and I am not sure how some people do it. I also dislike the way that hourly paid staff are just treated as disposable and brought in so that someone else can do less teaching.

I dislike the competitive nature of the profession. I have lovely colleagues and am lucky in that sense. But in all my life, the nastiest behaviour that I have ever seen on a professional level has come from academics, hands down. I was shocked to learn that there are people out there who want you destroyed if you disagree with them. And that often those who label themselves as inclusive or fighting for the marginalised are the worst bullies.

People will use you to advance their own careers. I guess this happens in other professions too but it’s quite prevalent in academia. To get ahead, you have to exploit others to some extent, whether that is phd students who have no hope of a job, precarious postdocs, colleagues on teaching-only contracts, or people you persuade to write for your edited collection that boosts your own profile but does little for theirs. I turn the edited collection invites down as a rule now. Especially ones where it’s clear from the outset that they aren’t REF-able but the overall project allows the academic in charge to claim impact-points.

The stifling of debate, especially regarding gender and sex rights. I have realised that critical thought and rational argument count for very little. A factually inaccurate and poorly written article that is almost libellous in nature, written by a ‘woke’ prof and collaborators is currently doing the rounds on Twitter. Many academics are heaping praise on it. In it, the authors smear some junior scholars who have dared to have a different opinion on women’s rights (an opinion based on facts). They are accused of incompetence throughout. It’s disgusting behaviour but it’s applauded because the senior prof engaging in the smearing claims to be fighting for minority rights (for anyone interested, it’s an article by Sharon Cowan et al in Scottish Affairs and it attacks a previous article by Murray, Hunter-Blackburn and Mackenzie in the same journal).

It’s all about who you know, not what you know. Who your friends are, who you name-drop, where you work etc. Mediocre work gets funded and praised and any critique is labelled as hate-speech and can destroy your entire career. It’s awful.

So, anyway, I hope that puts you off! I don’t know what else I can do as a job so I am staying in there for now but it does get harder and harder all the time. I like my students, the flexibility, and the intellectual challenge but my god there are some rotten things about academia.

CareersDontGetEuologies Sun 15-Nov-20 13:14:03

I love you all. This is really helping me out.

Being forced away from DCs for work (only ever had v part-time posts so not yet experienced) yes I HATE that.

All the competition, name-dropping, trampling on subordinates. Yep. Seen it. HATE it.

Being bullied by the Woke Police: I tend to STFU about anything contentious so never get much of it, but have nevertheless been ablesplained nonstop about how my disabilities undermine womankind's career prospects. HATE that.

But yes, I think it's the precarity that will ultimately do me in.

OP’s posts: |
Lougle Sun 15-Nov-20 13:20:02


You know, I once worked 240 hours in one week, even though I was paid for 8. Keep 'em coming.

That's a bit of hyperbole, though, right? Given that there are only 168 hours in one week.

That aside, I'm really sorry that you haven't got a job. I think children are told that as long as they work hard enough, they can do anything they like. Then, we realise it's all untrue.

CareersDontGetEuologies Sun 15-Nov-20 13:21:51

Yes, I was being intentionally ridiculous brew

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Spindelina Sun 15-Nov-20 13:36:20

I left the NHS to do a PhD then a postdoc. I went back. Reasons:
- job security
- some semblance of work life balance
- paid more and pay / career progression more obvious
- management as a skill better recognised and so done better
- more people people
- not the only woman in my group

lekkerkroketje Sun 15-Nov-20 19:09:12

I'm on my third country and forth city (and 6 th post doc contact!) since I graduated 4 years ago. I'm now debating getting pregnant in a different country to dh in a language I don't speak (but that means no teaching, yay!) or quitting to go back to dh in a country (an entire fucking country) with no open jobs in my field and ridiculous criteria about only tenure track can apply for grants.

Apart from the precariousness, the actual job itself is ok (see lack of language skills: no admin, no teaching, no colleagues bitching, no whining and I only read emails in English so no participation in fire drills, entertaining visitors, compulsory inductions... grin) I don't miss conferences. Rapey dick swinging and patronising on zoom just aren't as effective and I can mute the fuckers. I'd be happy to never see the inside of a conference centre or cheap hotel again! And no more drunk profs.

So basically, move somewhere where no one will talk to you, then get a life outside work when they've forgotten you exist!

CareersDontGetEuologies Sun 15-Nov-20 19:42:22

"Rapey dick swinging and patronising on zoom just aren't as effective and I can mute the fuckers."

blushgringringrin Best line EVER.

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GCAcademic Mon 16-Nov-20 09:11:58

Rapey dick swinging and patronising on zoom just aren't as effective and I can mute the fuckers. I'd be happy to never see the inside of a conference centre or cheap hotel again! And no more drunk profs.

Oh god, so much this. I just received an update for a conference in the US I'm supposed to speak at in late 2021. I was hoping it was going to go online, but, no, they're still planning for it to take place in person. My blood ran cold. I don't think I can take an in-person conference ever again. Not to mention taking two ten hour flights in four days. I hate, hate, hate the networking. And you can't even hide in the toilets in the US as they have those weird gaps in the sides of the doors, so people can actually see you in there - what the fuck is that about?

Pota2 Mon 16-Nov-20 09:30:09

God the waste of money of flying a load of people halfway across the world so that they can speak to a small audience for 20 minutes. I hope that is scrutinised more in the future and that provisions are made for remote delivery of papers. I do like the national conferences a bit more because I think there is value in being in the same room as others when sharing ideas. I hope there is more flexibility on this in the future though.
I hate networking and usually skip the conference dinner. It’s really cliquey too and there’s lots of subtle ‘you can’t sit with us’ stuff going on. I’ve had to go to many large conferences on my own and it’s been intimidating.

TheEndisCummings Mon 16-Nov-20 10:20:12

I love the travel! I have seen parts of the world I would never have seen, stayed in lovely hotels, eaten amazing food. Don't take that away. Mind, maybe I get bigger audiences than you!!

Pota2 Mon 16-Nov-20 10:29:39

Well yeah on a personal level it’s really good because you can go places you wouldn’t otherwise do and take extra days to make it into a nice holiday. From a financial (and climate change) viewpoint, it makes little sense though and it tends to benefit those who are already in a privileged position in academia. I don’t see many hourly paid lecturers getting a free trip to Australia for a 20 minute speaking slot. I’d rather resources were spent on giving as many people as possible some job security.

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