Bit of an interesting week here at Piglet Towers as I think I have figured out what career path I want to take when I run screaming (squealing?) from the academy. This is pretty exciting, but I have been brought back to earth with a hefty thump as Profession X – as I shall be mysteriously referring to it – is one that requires no small amount of retraining and is rather competitive to get into. Eek. I feel moderately well prepared – it is actually the career I nearly went into as an undergraduate but bailed at the last minute, so have some of the background already. On the other hand I am *cough cough* years older than I when I was a tiny drunken first-year student so need to see what extra things I need to do now to have a chance.
This, of course, has made me realise how little preparation I did before embarking on my mighty foreshortened life of an academic. I did research for my PhD topic of course – as is reasonably standard in the UK social sciences I prepared the topic myself, found a supervisor and applied for funding alone. But that was it – all of the focus was on getting into the PhD program and getting it done, and once I was in it was assumed that I would of course mystically transform into an academic at the end. I, like many other post-academics, had no idea what it actually meant in terms of work, publishing, politics, teaching load, and so on. All I knew was that it would be Magical Dream Professor Land!!!11!! Maybe I would get a pony if I published enough!!!11!!
By contrast, this is what I have done in the past 7 days around Profession X.
– Looked up the admission criteria.
– Made an appointment with a university that offers Profession X conversions to talk about my chances.
– Found an online forum with other wannabes
After the meeting with admissions folk I’ll have more of an idea what I need to do, but I imagine it will involve work experience of various types, more research, and speaking with as many Professional X’s as I can. Imagine, though, if I had done this much research into becoming an academic – I wouldn’t have stayed after the end of my PhD, if I’d ever started it in the first place.
I know there are differences – going to into Profession X is a massive investment of my time, energy and money (thank-you David Willets and your amazing fee increase!) so of course it’s in my best interest to research it as much as possible. Also I am now much older than I was when I went into the PhD program (*sob*) so know more about how to get involved in work experience, research and so on. But on the other hand – where is all the equivalent material about what it means to become an academic? Where are the open days, the speakers, the easily accessible material for wannabe academics to test the waters and find out more about just what it means to enter a career which sucks so much time and energy and money out of you? Where is the goddamn professionalism?? Everything is focused on getting people into the Ponzi scheme of PhDs and postdocs rather than preparation for what comes after, mostly likely because what comes after is a world of temporary contracts and insecurity. GRRRRR.
Anyway – wish me luck because, as excited as I am about Profession X I am also scared about how hard it is to break into. Still, I am plucky and resourceful! Also the sun is still out, and I have Jurassic 5 fired up on the old music system. Tell me what you guys think – should there be more systematised ‘Here Be Dragons’ warnings for wannabe academics? Does this stuff already exist and I never came across it? And what else are your feel-good tunes for hot days?