Mumsnet Logo
Premium

Please
or
to access all these features

Academic common room

When is it time to give up on an academic post?

17 replies

HatTea · 28/09/2017 14:20

Hi,

I have been applying for academic posts and non-academic ones for a year now and I have had no luck (I have had interviews but they haven't gone further than that).

I completed my PhD earlier in the year (red brick uni). I'm just wondering when it is time to give up and move on to something else? I'm so fed up that I have applied for receptionists/admin posts (I have experience of the latter) with no luck, and I am considering applying for a cleaning post at the moment ...

Aside from the PhD, I have 3 journal publications, experience of winning funding and running a research project in the NHS, good experience outside of academia in different fields, and lots of "online visibility". I am good at interviews, and my application has been viewed by a few colleagues who have said it is very strong. So I am not sure what is wrong and whether it is time to cut loses and move onto another field or apply for jobs on a much lower pay scale? (For those wondering, I always address each of the criteria mentioned in the personal specification)

My friends think it must be my headscarf deterring people from hiring me, but I don't want to use that as an excuse, because it is impossible to prove, and it may or may not be true (although the stats are not on my side). My guess is that those recruiting within academia normally do have their own PhD students (who have just completed) to hire, and naturally its harder competing with an internal candidate.

Would truly appreciate your advice. Thanks

OP posts:
Please
or
to access all these features

Summerswallow · 28/09/2017 15:54

How annoying.

On the headscarf issue- our uni specifically tries to hire from diverse/ethnic minority groups and practices positive discrimination (so they say) and so at HR level, this would count in your favour- I can't say how this would play out in practice at the hiring panel stage though.

Are you looking for any post- or just lectureships? If you are getting interviews, then you are doing something right and I think you will get something sooner or later. It is frustrating though to feel you are always just losing out, to an internal candidate or elsewhere.

Can you look in a related but not the same discipline? In a different area? Are there very few jobs in your field? There's a lot in certain areas but few in others, I've discussed this before on the board and if you could offer teaching in a related but not necessarily 'your' discipline, and pull your research within that framing, then you may be very desirable as a new lecturer hire for a less oversubscribed discipline (I can't really say what I mean without giving examples from my field, which may not be relevant to you). I think it's very different in the humanities, than the social sciences, than in the sciences- you may have more luck on here if you could disclose which broad category into which you fall.

Please
or
to access all these features

ArbitraryName · 28/09/2017 21:52

If it's lectureship posts, they may well not want to hire their own PhD students. I know of many departments where they just don't consider their own students for jobs (unless they've had a lecturing post elsewhere in between).

It's horribly competitive. And can take ages. One of my friend's husband has been in casual academic work for the past 9 years. He's got a 2 year teaching post now and is delighted. My friend had several years of short term contracts before she got a permanent job too.

Both DH and I applied to disciplines outside our PhD area for jobs. I've never even been interviewed for a job in my own discipline but have managed to get a different one to employ me instead. DH has managed to get interviews in his own discipline (our shared one tbh) but never gets offered the post. He's doing very well in his adopted discipline, even though his entire research career is oriented towards the discipline that won't hire him. I don't really understand why since on paper his CV (and potential REF submission) is pretty incredible unlike mine.

Please
or
to access all these features

try2hard · 29/09/2017 06:43

I think if you have good publications (are they 3-4*?) and funding the I'd say interview technique is the key, no matter how well you think you do you might be coming across poorly or you're not highlighting your strengths. You'd be surprised at how 'lazy' selection panels can be in terms of looking at profiles- if you don't make your strengths obvious then sometimes they can be overlooked.

Do you feel you ever gel well with the people on the panels? Im on panels on a monthly basis and often just the feeling the person would be nice to work with sways the decision - some people come across so officious or overly cold/'professional' it's easier to find faults rather than look for things that support their application.

Please
or
to access all these features

flumpybear · 29/09/2017 06:49

Are you applying for junior post doc roles? Anything above this level and you won't be considered

Have you thought about applying for a very short term job and trying to get in that route or is there a
Temp agency at your local university as these are often good ways in to a university job

Head scarf - doubtful imo

Are you pushing yourself enough at interviews and when applying? Can you take some career advice from your university?

Good luck - By the way if you're applying for receptionist roles you won't get a look in I doubt as they'll assume you're using it as a stepping
Stone - jobs are super competitive so be the best you can be applying for the research jobs

Please
or
to access all these features

Anatidae · 29/09/2017 06:52

Highly doubtful it's the headscarf, speaking as a former academic, while there are many criticisms I could make of the hiring process, no one ever cared where anyone was from/believed. We were a very mixed bunch.
Do you want to go into academia? How about the NHS scientist grad programs? Or running trials in a CRO? If you have clinical trial experience they'd snap you up.

Please
or
to access all these features

MaverickSnoopy · 29/09/2017 07:12

Ex academic HR here. Agree with all of the above posters. What's sort of posts are you applying for? IME those straight out of PhD move into postdoc positions or obtain their own funding.

Having seen many many applications from strong candidates I can say that even some of the strong ones get filtered out. In my last department we would have interviewed a max of 8 but on average 6 out of between 40-50 applications (10-15 strong). Shortlisting often took hours.

I recall one person applying for 4 jobs with us before they got a post (and they were very strong). I can think of another person who kept applying and didn't succeed. In the end they got some funding and chose us as their location...they saw out the funding and then applied for another job and got it. You have to stick with it and work for it really hard.

The main thing that always came up post interview was, which candidate would fit best with the research group. So look closely at the jobs you're applying for and look at the research groups to see if you're a good fit.

You've worked really hard to get where you are. The path you have chosen is hard to break into....but don't give up.

Please
or
to access all these features

try2hard · 29/09/2017 09:32

I don't think you should entirely discount the headscarf issue. I agree most departments are incredibly multicultural and consciously won't think it's an issue, but ultimately similar-to-me biases will operate in any selection process, and your headscarf will also be an automatic trigger of unconscious biases and stereotypes. What you do about that is harder, because obviously it's not your fault - just try to let them get to know you as an individual so they see beyond it and see how you'd fit in the team is my best guess.

Please
or
to access all these features

geekaMaxima · 29/09/2017 11:09

Agree that your profile sounds more postdoc than lecturer level. In my field, someone straight from a PhD might be hired at lecturer if they had a killer impact case in the making, but that's about it.

From being on panels, a common reason for ECRs who look good on paper but don't get hired is that they fluff the presentation. We look for someone who can communicate their research as part of the big picture, not just a narrow focus on the details of their own work (however good it might be), as it's a good indicator of researcher "maturity" and independence that contributes to grant success. A job talk is not like a conference talk, and many lecturer candidates go into the "appointable but..." category for failing to make the distinction.

Have you ever seen academic job candidates give their presentations? Some depts allow PhD students and postdocs to attend and I think it's a great idea as they get to see the standard, what works, etc.

Please
or
to access all these features

PiratePanda · 29/09/2017 19:36

These days you don't have a hope in hell of landing a permanent post straight out of a PhD -- you need to be going for postdocs, and you need (ideally) to be willing to move, and/or apply for your own funding. I'm in humanities, by the way; this no longer just applies to the sciences.

I recommend to all of my PhD students that they give it 5 years - you'll never forgive yourself if you don't - but that at the same time you should develop a viable non-academic Plan B that you would be happy to pursue instead of an academic career. If you hit the 5 year mark and you're no closer to a permanent post, that's the point that you embrace Plan B in earnest.

The second thing you must do throughout is keep publishing, no matter what.

Finally, and most importantly, don't - whatever you do - take casual or even fixed-term teaching posts, unless you have literally (and I mean literally literally!) have no teaching experience on your CV at all. They are a hiding to nothing. You are better off taking a job that doesn't require much deep thinking to pay the bills - receptionist, say - and spending the rest of your time publishing your way out of there.

Because most academic posts really care only about research.

Please
or
to access all these features

PiratePanda · 29/09/2017 19:38

One more thing - yes, you may be being discriminated against if you have a distinctively Muslim name (they won't see your headscarf until you get to interview, so if you're not getting to interview, it's not the headscarf). It is 100% evil, and should not happen - but unconscious bias is strong.

Please
or
to access all these features

Anatidae · 29/09/2017 19:50

In my field (biochem/genetics/medical research) there is absolutely zero chance of being hired as a lecturer straight out of a PhD. None. Zilch.
Postdoc Is the way to go, you have about five years as a pp said. I decided to move out of academia - I had a good publication record in a well known lab (lab head was a Nobel laureate) but I couldn't take the insecurity of the short term contracts. We had a few big funding cuts in the financial crisis and I jumped ship to industry.
Don't discount other career paths - there's a weird attitude in academia that anything other than remaining there is a failure, and that's a shame.

Please
or
to access all these features

ArbitraryName · 29/09/2017 21:22

Even the totally exploitative zero hours teaching only posts tend to attract really incredible candidates. It's very tough indeed at the moment.

I got a permanent lectureship at a good university mid way through my PhD. I can't imagine I'd've gotten anywhere near a long list if I were applying for a lecturing post in that position now. It's only been a decade but it's definitely gotten much tougher to get a job.

Please
or
to access all these features

GiantSteps · 29/09/2017 21:40

Only a year post-doc? In my field (Humanities) were warning postgrads of anything up to 5 years of precarious academic employment, necessarily combined with a rent-paying job.

Are you applying for post-docs via Marie Sklodowska Curie, UKRC, and other schemes?

Please
or
to access all these features

GiantSteps · 29/09/2017 21:41

Pressed post too soon:

What's your teaching experience? Have you worked as a Teaching Fellow?

Please
or
to access all these features

HatTea · 03/10/2017 19:39

Thanks everyone for your suggestions and advice.

I haven't been applying for lectureship posts. I have been applying for research associate posts and research fellow posts. I do however have lectureship experience in HE and FE too.

I have a plan B in mind, but I am struggling with that too tbh. I think I need plan C :)

OP posts:
Please
or
to access all these features

try2hard · 03/10/2017 20:50

I think those kind of posts are far more likely to go to people lined up for it already. Maybe try a few lectureships!

Please
or
to access all these features

ArbitraryName · 03/10/2017 20:55

Have you tried lectureships in less prestigious universities? We have ridiculous staff turnover and are pretty much always hiring. And if we're not right now, we will be next month.

If you've got NHS experience, a PhD be a publication or two, you'd probably be in with a decent chance.

Please
or
to access all these features
Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Sign up to continue reading

Mumsnet's better when you're logged in. You can customise your experience and access way more features like messaging, watch and hide threads, voting and much more.

Already signed up?