Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Counting down to redundancy

I got my official redundancy letter yesterday.  After the obligatory half hour crying in the undergraduate toilets (they’ve got exams on, no-one uses them), I pulled myself together and started focusing my energies on WHAT THE HELL I’M GOING TO DO NEXT.  Since my rather broken and stupidly specialised career path has meant that there are now about 3 jobs in the UK that I could realistically do, this a task somewhat less satisfying than banging one’s head repeatedly against a brick wall for 6 hours. 
If anyone out there is thinking of doing a PhD, I would (a) strongly advise against it, and (b) suggest thinking about doing it in something really broad-reaching, possibly a bit news-worthy, and specifically not in sociology.  That is not where the smart money is at all.

Now obviously this hasn’t come as anything of a surprise, and I’ve been stalking my university’s job board for the last six months.  During which time precisely one job has come up that I wouldn’t be wasting my time on putting in an application.  Stupidly I didn’t apply for it as – ridiculously – I do actually like my job and want to finish the contract.  So yesterday I ramped this up a gear to broaden the search to anything vaguely commutable.  I use that term imaginatively, and in no sense complying with the boundaries of childcare.  Anyway, as luck would have it I did actually find some lectureships going at my old university!  Well that improved my mood no end, but a day later and having studied the job description I am back at banging head against brick wall territory.  They basically want someone at a post-doc salary with the experience of someone who’s been lecturing for 10 years.  To pretty much run the department, as far as I can make out.  Great.  Fab.  Perfect. Probably exactly what they are after in this instance is someone who took 6 years out to have children, arsed around with a bit of freelancing, & whose publication record looks like a bomb’s gone off in it.  Oh and did I mention the part-time commitment I can offer??

The irritating thing is that they will probably find this superhuman person too.  There is at least one in my office who fits that bill, although I’m pretty sure that he never sleeps and it goes without saying he has no family.  In fact, somehow I didn’t fall over with shock at all to find there was a job advertised at another university for a ‘non stipendiary research fellowship’.  That’s UNPAID folks, no matter how you dress it up with exciting prospects of desk space and (wow) computer use.  Yes, unpaid, because here at university-land we all enjoy our work so much that it would be rude to expect payment. 

As if this wasn’t in itself a thrilling enough opportunity, for ‘exceptional candidates’ there was the opportunity for contracts to be extended (although not beyond a year - oh no, because presumably they might then run into problems breaking all kinds of employment protection legislation.  You have to hope).  Woo to the hoo, non-stipendiary fellowships rock.  You kind of hope that when you sign up for a PhD that those years of living in abject poverty, being the bottom of the pecking order, and unable to talk to anyone about your research for fear that you will bore them to death, can be counterbalanced against some prospect of doing interesting research with a bunch like-minded lefties for the rest of your life.   Cue hollow laughter.

Clearly this blog has not been a bundle of laughs today, & is not even vaguely family related.   The alternative was me ranting about idiots clogging up my Facebook feed with racist rants.  I felt my existential angst had the slight edge, but it is very possible that there are just times of the month when it is ill-advised that I write.

So yeah, what the hell am I going to next?  No closer there.


  1. I'm really sorry to hear about the redundancy. I once toyed with the idea of a career in academia, until I looked into it further and realised that academics are often exploited horrendously. Years and years and years of study and research, only to end up with a job that (if you count the actual hours spent toiling away) works out as less than minimum wage. Of course, some people succeed and thrive, but as far as I could see they are in the minority. I'm so sorry you're having a hard time with all this.

    As for racist rants? De-friend them immediately! Horrid stuff.

  2. Thanks Nell, what subject were you in? You know you write far too well to be an academic!! Funnily enough, the thing I'm interested in working on more is the overtime people do in occupations ...

    As for the racists ... I constantly have a debate with myself about whether it's better to keep them there & subtly (or not so subtly!) fill their timelines with informed, compelling links the hope they fill see the light, & as you say, give up on them. I just hate the feeling that this kind of thing is going on behind my back & not countered, although I'm fully aware they're never likely to listen to me.