I’ve been really quiet on here lately, and have also been struggling to tell people about my post-PhD job life in general. So let me quell some rumours that seem to be going around about whether I am moving back to Newcastle, when I am moving back to Newcastle, and what I am moving back to Newcastle for!
In September 2019 I will be starting as a Lecturer in Communication Design at Northumbria University! It’s a full time, permanent position in what my mum calls my ‘dream university’ as I haven’t shut up about how great so many of the people who work there are for the last 3 or 4 years. There are still a couple of things that need to be ironed out, but I am absolutely delighted to be starting in a School and Department with so many caring, friendly, welcoming, smart, and thoughtful people.
But how did I even get here??
Before submitting my dissertation, I started working at Swansea University as a Research Officer – a weird role that I still don’t fully understand. I managed to land the job last summer in early June and started working down in Swansea in August 2018. Since it is a one-year fix term contract though, I never really stopped looking for jobs. It’s fantastic that I managed to snag a post-PhD job even before submitting my PhD, but the job wasn’t really what I wanted, and I was still trying to find a permanent position that I felt qualified for and that really fit what it was I was wanting to do.
So in October 2018, I was sitting on my sofa with my boyfriend sharing some of the frustrations I was having with fixed term contracts, precarity in academia as an ECR, and having to essentially live between two UK cities that are at opposite ends of the country (Swansea and Newcastle). Being the fabulous person he is, he listened to me attentively and built me up, and emphasised that our current long-distance situation was only temporary (I guess, thanks to the fixed term contract?). He opened a laptop and we started setting up job alerts for lots of Universities in the North East.
While we were setting up the notifications, and because I am an incredibly nosy person, I decided to have a look at Northumbria University’s current job listings. And there it was. An open position for a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Communication Design.
As far as I remember, this was a Wednesday and the deadline for the job was that Friday. Remembering back at the application I wrote for my current job and other jobs I had applied for simultaneously, I sighed when I saw the job after showing C; lamenting the fact I wouldn’t be able to put nearly enough work into the application to even be considered for an interview. It being an application for either a lecturer or senior lecturer position definitely contributed to my imposter syndrome in this particular instance! And besides, there was no point in me applying anyway as they’d surely pick someone with more experience than me, with a better funding and publication track record, or at least someone who had completed their PhD!
C, not being in academia, said that my thinking was nonsense and that I should apply anyway. It didn’t matter. If I didn’t apply I wasn’t going to get the interview, and if I did apply and didn’t get an interview at least I’d tried and practiced writing an application. He then also asked me the dreaded: what would a white, middle class, straight, white man do?
He was right.
So I started working on my application and had a draft of the whole thing done that evening. The next day I looked over it again, agonising over the language I used and making sure I really tailored my experience to the job description; using similar language to what they used and really studying the departments’ research and figuring out how my own research aligns with and builds on it.
I had an application ready to go within two days. We sent it off the next day and celebrated. A week went by and I didn’t hear back. And then a month passed. Then it was Christmas and New Years, and I still hadn’t heard anything. I just assumed I hadn’t made the cut. I was a little sad, but moved on and went looking for other ways I could move back to Newcastle and join this University. I was determined.
On the 22nd of February, though, I heard back! It seemed like a joke when I read the e-mail from HR inviting me to an interview the following Friday as I hadn’t heard anything from them since submitting my application in October the previous year (not even a confirmatory e-mail that my application had been received!). After getting over the initial disbelief and shock, I began to thoroughly prepare for my interview, bought myself a new shirt to wear with the one suit I own, booked some Annual Leave and my transport to Newcastle, and off I went! (I might write a post about all the prep. I did in the week running up to the interview and the work involved in having to negotiate going to a job interview half-way across the country another time – and I fully understand it was complicated enough for me to do this without having to figure out childcare!!)
I won’t go into detail of the interview process – it was very long, quite intimidating, but overall very interesting – except to say that I got a phone call the same evening, informally offering me the job. I didn’t know how to respond on the phone and just went quiet after saying thank you. The following week was filled with phone calls with some people I knew at the University as well as one of my supervisors to help me out with the negotiation process, everyone giving me slightly different bits of advice. Trying to navigate all the advice was difficult and confusing. I had never negotiated for a job before, and had never been confronted with the idea of actually having a permanent post in academia. I listened, thought a lot, wrote lots of notes, and also sent a few emails.
A couple of days later, I talked with the Head of School to ask a few questions before receiving an e-mail from HR with the formal offer for the job a couple of days later. It felt like it simultaneously happened at the same time while taking forever – it made little sense and I’m not sure quite how coherent I was in all these phone calls.
I was incredibly excited, but I also felt like I couldn’t really tell a lot of people about this fantastic development in my career until I had it all in writing. Until I had a contract. It wasn’t until March that I received my employment information from HR, and a a day later after reading through all the documents, I accepted the job. It’s happening. I got a permanent academic position.