Beyond Your Research Degree

Episode 3 - Gemma Edney, Graduation Coordinator at St George’s, The University of London

March 30, 2020

Welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast from the University of Exeter Doctoral College! The podcast about non-academic careers and all the opportunities available to you... beyond your research degree! In this episode PhD student Debbie Kinsey talks to Gemma Edney, a University of Exeter alumni. An experienced project manager and events manager, Gemma now works at St George's, The University of London. 


Music from ’Cheery Monday’ by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (

Podcast transcript


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Hello and welcome to the Beyond Your Research Degree podcast by the University of Exeter Doctoral College

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So I'm Gemma. I did my PhD in film studies finished last April.

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So April 2019 was when I was awarded. I submitted the September before that, so I sort of stopped the actual physical researching and writing 24/7.

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In September 2018, immediately after submitting, I got a job at the student information desk.

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Here I am organising graduation. Which sounds more stressful the more I think about it.

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But I actually think organising graduation is actually quite stressful.

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But so I did that.

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So I did that immediately after submitting completed my corrections while I was doing that, and then continued doing that for a little bit.

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I was looking for jobs here and there.

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The plan originally was academic jobs, so I was looking for those.

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There weren't very many. So and the more I looked at, to be honest, the less I wanted any of the jobs that did come up looking.

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So then in October last year, I decided to apply to the civil service fast stream scheme.

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And finally, it's the longest application process ever. But finally, I found out in February that I've been successful.

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So I'll be starting there in September, which is about the change of direction, but is, I think, a good move for me.

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So, yeah, that's kind of where I am in my journey at the moment.

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Yeah. So you were initially you working kind of in university, you know, you said.

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Well, yeah, initially looking for research type jobs but now decided to move outside.

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Yes. Yeah. So I worked throughout my PhD anyway, um,

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part time at the university and then that's sort of how I ended up with the job that I ended up with once I had submitted.

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I wasn't in a position I could once I'd finished, just do sort of a seminar here and there or like one or two seminars a week.

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I needed an actual job full, full time hours. I did.

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Originally, I was offered teaching in the year that I, I submitted, but it was only one seminar a week.

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And so I had to say no because I needed more than just one seminar a week and I

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wasn't able to take a full time job and also do a seminar a week because funnily enough,

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the university don't like to employ people or more than a full time contract. So.

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So I wasn't able to do that, which was a shame, because I do really I do miss teaching is one of the things I really miss.

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But I carried on looking. I was constantly looking for jobs.

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I was never under the impression that I was gonna do graduation organisation forever.

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That's not something that I thought was on my future plan, really.

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So I did carry on looking for jobs. But the more I looked to be honest, the more it's they were all fixed term.

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They were all part time. Some of them were fixed term and part-time. And it just wasn't something that I wanted.

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After doing four years of PhD, I was ready to just actually know where I was going and where I was gonna be and have a bit more stability.

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And it was just one of those things that gradually I came to the realisation that actually,

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although I would have loved to stay in academia, it wasn't the top of my priority anymore.

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And I think that's okay. I think that's fine to have come to that realisation.

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It took me a while to come to that to come to that realisation.

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But yeah, it's not something that I have no regrets about stopping looking for academic jobs.

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There was a point where I just anything came up I went, I didn't want that job.

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I just looking at the looking at the job description and looking out the work involved and things, that's not I don't think I want it.

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And when that just kept happening, I thought, yeah. I didn't want any of these jobs.

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So I started looking outside. And to begin with, I was a bit sort of I felt a bit lost in the.

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I had been aiming at this for so long and done this one path.

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And then I thought, OK, what am I going to do now? What do I even do?

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And so I look for things sort of within universities and I'm sort of more student support kind of roles and things.

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But again, there was just nothing that really struck me. I got there were a couple of jobs.

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I went for that I think I would have really enjoyed it, but I came second for all of them.

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Which was lovely that they told me that. And also awful that they told me that because I'd have rather come last and just been told, no, it's not so.

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But then I sort of thought, well, maybe I don't need to work at a University at all.

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Maybe all other things. And I actually started looking more at graduate schemes and thinking more.

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Is there anything that also like PhD I'm still a graduate.

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II can still apply. And there are various things there.

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And there are various schemes that actually sort of market themselves.

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at PhD graduates, as well as other graduates of other levels as well.

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And so I started sort of looking at much more widely than I had been before.

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And I actually heard about the civil service scheme on a train.

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Just people behind me were talking and I was really nice. So they were sort of just talking about their current roles and everything.

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And I was thinking, oh, like sounds interesting. Like what the scheme that they're on.

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And I had a look at it. And it's actually designed not just for fresh undergraduates that are leaving university

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but for a career changes and people are all different stages of their careers.

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And I quite liked that.

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It specifically says we are not just a graduate scheme and we're not just for 20 and 21 year olds that have just finished their degrees and things.

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So I sort of looked into it and to be honest, just that and an application on the off chance.

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And then, I mean, it's a very long process. So the longer I went into it, the more I said I actually really want this

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I want I want a place.

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And so, yeah, it was as soon as I sort of got more more involved in the process and through the application, the more I thought, yeah.

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I think this is a really good move for me,

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something that I think I can apply myself to and having a bit more experience beyond sort of having through my page.

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The experience I've got and through working elsewhere as well, I think we'll actually be really beneficial.

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So, yeah, there are absolutely no regrets on the journey I've taken to get to this point.

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But it just took me a little bit of time to come to come to the realisation of what I sort of wanted and needed.

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To be honest, this is for my own personal wellbeing.

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I think this is a really good decision. And ever since I've sort of had the plan of life.

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Now I know that I'm going somewhere else. I'm going off in this direction. Sort of felt almost lighter.

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Yeah, this is great. I haven't felt that for a while. So that's where.

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Good. This kind of thing where it's important to think that not just the things you enjoy, that you really enjoy teaching.

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So what kind of life you want. Yeah. And a lot of the academic opportunities and I like them around you and finding just didn't fit with the kind of life.

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Yeah, absolutely. And I'm like, I think there are people that can say, yeah,

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I'm happy to go through a few years of temporary contracts in the hope that I can then go on to a permanent one eventually.

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And that's great. And that is originally what I thought I would have to do.

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But the more I thought about it, the just the more I think I don't I don't want to have to.

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As soon as I go into a job, I start looking for another one, because that's pretty much all I have done.

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So throughout my PhD, I was on sort of temporary contracts anyway,

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which didn't matter because they were part time and I was always, always able to get another one.

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But then I was immediately looking for jobs as soon as I had finished and then immediately looking for other jobs.

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Once I got the one I was in and I was just done with the job search.

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If I'm honest, there's only so many applications I can start and then maybe fill out.

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And then the competition obviously is always so high.

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So just for my own for my own sake, I thought it's okay to have priorities the on going into a research job or an academic job.

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I still I've still continued to do some research when I have the time.

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I mean, having a full time job makes that less likely. But I've got an article coming out soon in a journal and things like that.

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I still really like my research. I haven't completely fallen out of love with everything I've done, but it's much more.

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I can do it on my own terms. There's no pressure or I can do what I want when I want.

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If someone likes it, they'll publish it. Great. But there's no sort of expectation that I have to get so many publications out.

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I have to get this experience in order to get this job. I might only have for six months.

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And that's having that knowledge as much.

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It's just so much calmer in my life. Yeah.

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And it sounds like looking at said you were feeling a bit lost when you made that decision.

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Like when. Sure. Went to. Yeah. Graduate schemes. Kind of gave you that structure to that.

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It did. Yeah. It was never it was never something I had even considered at all.

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I thought, no, I'll stay if I do. I'll keep looking for academic jobs.

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And if I don't get an academic job, I'll still look in sort of student support

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And it was only when I thought, why, why do I have this weird thing that I have to stay?

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Within a university, maybe I don't have to work at a university. It was only then.

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And obviously there are so many jobs and you have to try and structure it somehow.

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Then I sort of thought, well, maybe let's look at the schemes out there.

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And there are, as I said, there are some that do actually market themselves as PhD level.

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And they say that they'll give you like a salary increase if you've got a PhD over a bachelors or a masters, so that there are schemes out there.

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And I was when I discovered that, then I thought, oh, okay, well, maybe I can look at some of these.

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I mean, investment banking isn't what I'm actually interested in. So I didn't apply for quite a lot of them.

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But there are still schemes out there that value these.

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There are there's more resources, I think, for science PhDs than there are for humanities PhDs

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In terms of moving into industry or moving outside of universities.

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But there are schemes out there and there are there are people that have made the move, too.

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So, yeah, I think discovering that was was really good as a way of at least starting to structure my search.

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And then I had just a lucky train journey. So what was the process like?

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You said it was quite an involved process. Yeah. So it's a really involved process.

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So I sent the initial application in in October and then I had to go through two rounds of online tests,

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which are so it's not really verbal reasoning or anything, which is why I expected it to be.

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It's kind of they give you a scenario and you have to say which decision is more more valid or you have to sort of say what you would do,

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that kind of thing. And then if you pass that, there's a video interview,

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which is one of the strange experiences I've ever had because there wasn't a person on the other end.

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It's just a pre-recorded question, which then you have certain time to answer the question in and then off your recording goes.

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So I was sitting in my kitchen sort of looking at my wall, trying to answer, trying to answer questions was a very strange experience.

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But I did that. And then after that, there's an assessment centre where you actually meet people for the first time

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and you're with lots of other people that are also applying to the scheme.

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You go through various tasks. And and then after that, I waited for 10 weeks and then eventually found out the outcome because they have so

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many people that they have to they have to set marks for each of the different schemes,

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because within the within the whole fast stream scheme, there are fifteen individual streams that you apply for.

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So they have to sort of set pass marks and gradually narrow the bands and until they have the right number and things like that.

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So it takes a long time, but it was thankfully worth worth it in the.

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It has been it was a long process. But Handily, I found out that it was two days after my birthday, which was nice.

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And also the day before I had an interview for another job, which is fixed term until August.

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So that's just doing is doing graduation at another university in London.

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So that was it was quite. I applied just because it was it's more money than I was.

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I'm on at the moment. And I thought, well, why not? And then but I probably wouldn't have taken it because it's only fixed term until August.

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Without the guarantee that I'll have somewhere to go afterwards.

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But I then yeah, the next day I had the interview and I said, yes, I would take this role if asked, because I've got time, I've got somewhere to go.

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And so I say things kind of all fell into place,

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which was nice because before that things hadn't really felt like they were falling into place at all.

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But yes. So that kind of brought my leaving Exeter forward by quite a large, large amount of time, which I will obviously be sad to do

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I've been here for a really long time. But yeah, I think it's a good move for me to sort of just go.

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And for once, it's kind of I'm just putting myself first completely as a completely selfish decision that

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I'm just gonna leave and do something else for five months and then go and do something else.

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So it's yeah, it's good for me to have a bit of change of scenery and and work out work out what I'm good at again.

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Yeah. Did you find, say, during the process of applying anything, you applied things from your so p h d time.

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Yes. Anything learnt skills or how did you sort of transfer this sort of university academic speak I guess.

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Yeah. Different industries. So I mean I think being able to write well is something that I don't think you can

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under estimate writing applications and being able to talk about your experience from

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when you go to conferences and people say also you also tell me about you tell me

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about your research and you have to suddenly think of something that you hadn't.

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Considered and this really High-Powered person is asking you about you and you think you need to make yourself sound intelligent.

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That's really good for interview. So I'm sort of thinking on your feet about examples of things you've done is really helpful.

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The most helpful thing, though, I think, is just the general project management of doing a PhD.

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A PhD is a project and it goes on for a really long time.

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And you have to manage your time. You have to manage the individual tasks that make up the whole and knowing how to do that.

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And just that process is so helpful not just for applying and telling people that you're good at project management, but also for in the workplace.

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I would not be able to organise graduation without any kind of experience of project management.

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So it's things like that that I think people don't realise that you're not just go to writing articles and researching a very niche topic.

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You're also good at thinking more widely and planning really far ahead.

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Projects go on. These projects go on for years and you know where you are at any given time and can sort of even if not to other people, to yourself.

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You can always, you know,

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roughly when you think you might be finished and sort of you might tell you might tell people that it's a slightly different time.

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I know I did that. I think I would give a date and then in my head, maybe not that day.

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But that ability is just so helpful and is an example.

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that I give in interviews all the time. When people say, oh, tell me about how you manage your workload.

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Okay, let me tell you a story. Let me tell you all about my PhD

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So that is by far the thing I apply the most.

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And just in general, I think having a bit more experience of communicating with people, of having interviews,

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of applying for things, applying for grants or sort of travel scholarships, things like that.

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And just a bit more experience of how that process works in writing about the benefits of certain of certain ventures and just in general helps.

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I spoke to some people at the assessment centre for the Civil Service.

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And I mean, I was very flattered because to begin with, they said, what are you studying? I thought, oh, nice.

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And they said, you know, they'd found the interview really difficult because they weren't sure what to say.

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They didn't have any concrete examples for things and they weren't sure what to

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expect when in a one to one situation with an interview or anything like that.

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But as a student, you have one to one situations all the time with your supervisor.

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And I mean, I don't know about anyone else, but my supervisor used to ask me questions.

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I did not know the answers so that I had never I hadn't considered before then.

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And actually that was a real benefit that I had had that experience. I am quite good now at thinking on my feet.

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When someone asked me a question, I don't know the answer. But that's not something that everybody has.

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So it's it's those little things that actually can help in terms of applications and talking to people and communicating,

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which I don't think you think about very often when you're doing a PhD

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It's kind of thinking about these sort of general skill terms think about it Like what you're doing is actually project management.

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Yeah. Not just working on a PhD. It's this way. Yeah, exactly.

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Like, really useful generalisable skills. I think sometimes when people say if they I know that when I spoke to family

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who didn't know what a PhD was and I found it really hard to explain to them.

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And it's only sort of since finishing that I go it's a really big project and it

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takes three to four years and you have to plan each individual task and they go,

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oh, okay. But sort of while I was doing my PhD, I'd say, oh, it's like a big essay like that doesn't cover it at all.

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And, you know, trying to explain that, I'm sitting at my computer reading books and writing and people.

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Okay, I don't really understand what that is and how that counts as work. Yeah.

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So it is only sort of since finishing I have been able to explain my PhD in terms that aren't just academic.

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So kind of finding something to be useful if people thought about how to articulate what the individual which is generally just what is a PhD

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Yes. Is what it is. Exactly. And I think I don't think there's enough out there.

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I don't think people focus on these transferable skills much.

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There's a lot of emphasis on transferable skills, undergraduate level,

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because the range of subjects that people do, as I've asked, but I think there is a PhD level,

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there's less of an emphasis on it because there's an expectation that you'll go on to continue researching, even though so many people don't.

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That was another thing I felt when I. Was first coming to the realisation that I didn't think I wanted to stay in academia.

00:20:13,000 --> 00:20:18,000
And I was thinking, well, does this make me a failure? Am I now a failed academic? Is that what I'm going to be called?

00:20:18,000 --> 00:20:25,000
No. It was only when realising actually how many people I knew that had moved outside of academia.

00:20:25,000 --> 00:20:29,000
I know more people that have moved outside of academia than have stayed in it.

00:20:29,000 --> 00:20:38,000
And it was only when realising that realising that I didn't call them failed. Actually, it was it it was fine.

00:20:38,000 --> 00:20:43,000
But we do I think we need to have a bit more focus on the fact that lots of people

00:20:43,000 --> 00:20:50,000
don't continue in a university role or in a in a research based role after their PhD

00:20:50,000 --> 00:20:52,000
And that that's okay.

00:20:52,000 --> 00:21:04,000
And that a PhD is more than just a research degree is is a feat of product management and time management and managing your own workload

00:21:04,000 --> 00:21:13,000
and your time and managing to work independently while also having the stresses of the institution or trying to do some teaching.

00:21:13,000 --> 00:21:14,000
Or if.

00:21:14,000 --> 00:21:22,000
If you've got funding bodies that want to know exactly what you're doing and when, then it's there's so much more to it than just the actual thesis.

00:21:22,000 --> 00:21:28,000
Yeah. Like, I think sometimes it's couched in terms of being like, oh, this is research training, this is your training.

00:21:28,000 --> 00:21:32,000
But actually I'm pretty sure the majority of PhDs don't go on.

00:21:32,000 --> 00:21:39,000
Yeah. Become academics. Certainly the majority that I know aren't academics and some have.

00:21:39,000 --> 00:21:43,000
And that's great. Yeah. But lots haven't

00:21:43,000 --> 00:21:48,000
And they've gone into all kinds of different industries.

00:21:48,000 --> 00:21:53,000
And I think. Yeah. I think we need to talk about that just a bit more really.

00:21:53,000 --> 00:21:59,000
Because it was when I found myself Googling like, what happens if I don't go into academia with a PhD

00:21:59,000 --> 00:22:07,000
And then like there's a few blog posts and a few things saying, oh, you know, this is what your PhD actually means in terms of skills.

00:22:07,000 --> 00:22:12,000
And I went, oh my goodness, I have skills. I'm just writing about film studies.

00:22:12,000 --> 00:22:18,000
So which I knew, I knew I had skill film studies, but.

00:22:18,000 --> 00:22:23,000
But it's nice to actually have that. I have someone to say it's fine.

00:22:23,000 --> 00:22:30,000
Yeah. There are other jobs and other jobs that will value your experience as well.

00:22:30,000 --> 00:22:37,000
Yeah. That will value your experience. And they might like especially like say in your case, fit better with your life.

00:22:37,000 --> 00:22:42,000
Yeah. Like, yeah. I think it's okay to put yourself first,

00:22:42,000 --> 00:22:52,000
which is something that I didn't do during my PhD really at all and wasn't something that I was doing when I first started looking for jobs.

00:22:52,000 --> 00:23:02,000
And it was coming to the realisation that I had absolutely no desire to apply for a job that was called what was it called?

00:23:02,000 --> 00:23:13,000
It was called an unestablished teching fello. I like the fact that that job title even exists, made me go, oh, no, I don't think so.

00:23:13,000 --> 00:23:17,000
And I think it's okay to come to that conclusion, I think.

00:23:17,000 --> 00:23:20,000
But that's not what I want to say. Yeah.

00:23:20,000 --> 00:23:24,000
Like, I've got a partner, I'm ready to maybe buy a house,

00:23:24,000 --> 00:23:30,000
but actually plant down some roots somewhere rather than constantly wondering where I'm going to be next.

00:23:30,000 --> 00:23:38,000
So that's that's an okay realisation that I have come to.

00:23:38,000 --> 00:23:42,000
And yes, I do miss the teaching. The teaching is the part of it that I do miss.

00:23:42,000 --> 00:23:48,000
But there are so many in any of the jobs that I would have applied for.

00:23:48,000 --> 00:23:53,000
There was so much teaching, plus that it's never just teaching.

00:23:53,000 --> 00:23:59,000
And that's the same in any teaching profession. And that's not just universities that's teaching in general.

00:23:59,000 --> 00:24:06,000
And there are always parts of it. I went, oh yeah, I don't think I want that.

00:24:06,000 --> 00:24:11,000
But I'm going into the say the stream I'm very into in the civil service is HR.

00:24:11,000 --> 00:24:14,000
So it's still really people focussed. And I'm gonna be training,

00:24:14,000 --> 00:24:22,000
I'm going to be teaching people things and I can use my skills in those ways rather than rather than teaching undergraduates specifically.

00:24:22,000 --> 00:24:27,000
Yeah. Is again, thinking about it, the skills and the things you enjoy in broader terms saying, yeah,

00:24:27,000 --> 00:24:32,000
teaching is not just in schools and university yet it's also training, you know, everywhere.

00:24:32,000 --> 00:24:39,000
Really. Yeah. And it was sort of when I was thinking about that and I was thinking, yeah, I want to work with people.

00:24:39,000 --> 00:24:46,000
Definitely I want and I would love to be able to have some kind of teaching role in that.

00:24:46,000 --> 00:24:53,000
But I don't want to be a school teacher. I know lots of school teachers and I think it's admirable, but it's not something I could ever do.

00:24:53,000 --> 00:25:01,000
So and I think, oh, well, what am I going to do then? And then I was thinking, well, actually, I've gone to training, such as in my job.

00:25:01,000 --> 00:25:05,000
So people run those. That's that's a thing that people do.

00:25:05,000 --> 00:25:10,000
And yeah. So it was coming to the conclusions. Really?

00:25:10,000 --> 00:25:12,000
I just needed to start thinking outside the box a bit more.

00:25:12,000 --> 00:25:19,000
And there aren't just certain jobs that you have to go in to that there's all kinds of all kinds of roles that

00:25:19,000 --> 00:25:26,000
you can fulfil and still work with people and still train people and have pass on knowledge and things like that.

00:25:26,000 --> 00:25:36,000
So, yeah, that's. It's been a long time coming, but it's realisations that I gradually made over sort of the last year.

00:25:36,000 --> 00:25:46,000
Yeah. And if, say, someone else, or even just know your past self kind of in the middle of their PhD trying to figure out what they want to do next.

00:25:46,000 --> 00:25:54,000
Is there any kind of experience you can recommend them getting or anything that you think would be helpful for them to think that would do?

00:25:54,000 --> 00:25:58,000
I think just thinking about overall what you'd like from a job.

00:25:58,000 --> 00:26:08,000
So I'm in very broad terms, so I'd like to be able to manage someone or I'm not interested in management,

00:26:08,000 --> 00:26:12,000
but I would like to work with people or in some kind of training capacity.

00:26:12,000 --> 00:26:18,000
So very broad terms that on are neither academic nor non academic.

00:26:18,000 --> 00:26:27,000
First of all, just to give you a better idea of any kind of sector that you might be able to go in, cause I certainly to begin with was very limiting.

00:26:27,000 --> 00:26:34,000
I was I limited myself to sort of higher education. It's a sector I feel really strongly about.

00:26:34,000 --> 00:26:36,000
And so I thought, yeah, fine, higher education.

00:26:36,000 --> 00:26:45,000
But there are so many different roles within higher education that you still need to have sort of an idea of what you want to do.

00:26:45,000 --> 00:26:49,000
And I think it's okay to be choosy about jobs.

00:26:49,000 --> 00:26:54,000
There was a period of time where I sort of just applied for anything I thought I was vaguely qualified for.

00:26:54,000 --> 00:26:58,000
But then I thought, actually, would I want this job at all? And I really thought about it.

00:26:58,000 --> 00:27:07,000
The answer was no. So having an idea of at least the kind of role you want and then having a look at what's out there and thinking,

00:27:07,000 --> 00:27:13,000
okay, so I want to work with people, well, that can mean what kind of people do I want to work with?

00:27:13,000 --> 00:27:17,000
And then that can point down all kinds of different roads that sort of aren't what you expected.

00:27:17,000 --> 00:27:22,000
I certainly three years ago would never have said that I was gonna go into H.R. and the civil service.

00:27:22,000 --> 00:27:30,000
That's not something that I had ever considered, but sort of just don't feel like you need to limit yourself.

00:27:30,000 --> 00:27:35,000
And thinking in those broad terms can help that, I think.

00:27:35,000 --> 00:27:41,000
But it can be a it can be a scary place to try and just go. I need a job.

00:27:41,000 --> 00:27:54,000
I don't know where I am. So, yes, I resisted the urge at one point just to sort of send out a CV and say needs job wll, travel.

00:27:54,000 --> 00:28:01,000
But yeah, thinking about that in more broad terms and then being able to pinpoint your sort of top five.

00:28:01,000 --> 00:28:07,000
So I wanted a permanent job or at least something that would lead to a permanent job.

00:28:07,000 --> 00:28:12,000
And that was really high up on my list of priorities. And then as soon as you've got those priorities,

00:28:12,000 --> 00:28:20,000
you know sort of what jobs you can apply for and what jobs really aren't worth the application process,

00:28:20,000 --> 00:28:26,000
because often, especially with academic jobs, I found I was putting my absolute all into an application only to be turned down.

00:28:26,000 --> 00:28:32,000
And there are only so many rejections you can take before you start taking it personally.

00:28:32,000 --> 00:28:38,000
So I think and on all of those, I have seen no doubt that really my application,

00:28:38,000 --> 00:28:43,000
if you read if you read between the lines, you could see that it was not the job that I wanted.

00:28:43,000 --> 00:28:49,000
And churning out applications will do that sort of you'll become very generic.

00:28:49,000 --> 00:28:55,000
So having those sort of top five things that you're looking for that you won't compromise on.

00:28:55,000 --> 00:28:59,000
So I want a permanent job. I want to work with people.

00:28:59,000 --> 00:29:05,000
To be honest, they were my top two things. I wasn't really that fussed after that.

00:29:05,000 --> 00:29:13,000
But at least something, at least some kind of priority will then help you draw your line as to what you apply for and what you do.

00:29:13,000 --> 00:29:18,000
Yeah. So just spending some time really reflecting on what matters to them as well.

00:29:18,000 --> 00:29:22,000
Yet priorities and and thinking about whether you stay in academia or not.

00:29:22,000 --> 00:29:26,000
Like, where do those priotities fit in. Yeah, absolutely.

00:29:26,000 --> 00:29:34,000
And I mean, to begin with, one of my priorities was I want to be able to carry on my research.

00:29:34,000 --> 00:29:41,000
And flexible working options are certainly that that covers that.

00:29:41,000 --> 00:29:46,000
I have no desire to completely give up research altogether.

00:29:46,000 --> 00:29:52,000
I've spent so long researching and it's part of what I do. And I think it's part of me as a person.

00:29:52,000 --> 00:30:02,000
So I have no desire to completely stop. But the ability to do it in my own time and research exactly what I want when sort of inspiration

00:30:02,000 --> 00:30:08,000
strikes is I think will be better for my research as a whole and better for me and say.

00:30:08,000 --> 00:30:13,000
A flexible working option is always better.

00:30:13,000 --> 00:30:19,000
So I at the beginning of this year, in my current role, had flexible working, approved where I worked.

00:30:19,000 --> 00:30:27,000
Condensed hours. They worked longer, longer hours on four days and then had a day off each week, which meant that I could do whatever I wanted.

00:30:27,000 --> 00:30:31,000
I didn't have to do research. There were days I did not.

00:30:31,000 --> 00:30:38,000
But then there were also days that I sort of sat down with my computer again and got my academic head back on and.

00:30:38,000 --> 00:30:45,000
And I've got an article coming out hopefully soon, depending on whether they accept my recent corrections.

00:30:45,000 --> 00:30:51,000
But yeah. So that's that's something that I've been able to keep hold of.

00:30:51,000 --> 00:30:59,000
And and sort of keeps part of my academic identity in a way, because it is an important part of me.

00:30:59,000 --> 00:31:04,000
And it's not something that I haven't. As I say, I haven't grown to hate my research.

00:31:04,000 --> 00:31:13,000
That's not what's happened at all. But those priorities have sort of helped change the way I look at the job search in general.

00:31:13,000 --> 00:31:18,000
Yeah. So kind of spending some time reflecting on your priorities.

00:31:18,000 --> 00:31:26,000
And then also revisiting them in case they do. Yeah. Like, originally, your priority was to get an academic job that kind of shifted and then.

00:31:26,000 --> 00:31:29,000
Yeah. Thinking about how you can integrate all these different things.

00:31:29,000 --> 00:31:33,000
So it's not like if you do still want to research, you won't necessarily have to just shut a door.

00:31:33,000 --> 00:31:41,000
Yeah. Absolutely. No one. I don't know anyone, not even academics who only research for their entire time.

00:31:41,000 --> 00:31:51,000
And then they go. This is my researching time and that's it. So sort of you don't you don't have to close doors to anywhere.

00:31:51,000 --> 00:31:58,000
I think there's absolutely nothing that says that you have to be a lecturer at a university in order to be published as an academic.

00:31:58,000 --> 00:32:03,000
So it's a there's you shouldn't limit yourself.

00:32:03,000 --> 00:32:13,000
I don't think. It's okay to say I'd like to be sort of a casual research and do it as a hobby rather than rather than do it as my only job, I think.

00:32:13,000 --> 00:32:18,000
I think in many ways I would be better as a casual researcher.

00:32:18,000 --> 00:32:28,000
So, yeah, I think just keeping being mindful of what you want and what your initial reactions are two things.

00:32:28,000 --> 00:32:34,000
Certainly when I started realising I was looking at jobs and going, there's a job that I could apply for.

00:32:34,000 --> 00:32:36,000
Do I really want this job?

00:32:36,000 --> 00:32:42,000
And suddenly realising that I was hesitating so much more on job applications and going, maybe I should listen to myself a bit more.

00:32:42,000 --> 00:32:48,000
I clearly don't want this job. Let's not spend three days working on an application for it and sort of just.

00:32:48,000 --> 00:32:52,000
Yeah, being aware of what your own gut feelings are about things,

00:32:52,000 --> 00:33:03,000
because I started realising that actually being happy in what ever job I was doing was actually much more important to me than the job itself.

00:33:03,000 --> 00:33:10,000
And it has made such a difference since having something fall into place.

00:33:10,000 --> 00:33:17,000
I have been like a different person and everyone has noticed.

00:33:17,000 --> 00:33:28,000
And I will be so sad to leave Exeter and I don't know what I'm going to do when I actually have to leave because I will have to probably be prised away.

00:33:28,000 --> 00:33:35,000
But it's it's good to stretch out of it and go in a different direction sometimes.

00:33:35,000 --> 00:33:40,000
That's what people need. Sometimes I think it's okay to have you can feel both these things.

00:33:40,000 --> 00:33:44,000
You can feel a desire to move to something else and still feel sad. Yeah.

00:33:44,000 --> 00:33:48,000
It's not like, oh, you should only look elsewhere if absolutely hate it.

00:33:48,000 --> 00:33:59,000
Yeah. I think was the thing. You don't have to sort of taking a change of direction doesn't have to be out of loathing for what you currently have.

00:33:59,000 --> 00:34:06,000
It can just be, you know. Well, I think it would be really great if I did this for a bit, and that's fine.

00:34:06,000 --> 00:34:13,000
But I don't think I don't think we really talk about any directions in terms of when people are doing a PhD

00:34:13,000 --> 00:34:21,000
It's kind of. Finish your thesis and then all after that, you'll go into a researching post, which is not the case.

00:34:21,000 --> 00:34:28,000
It's not as easy for anyone, but it's kind of the expected trajectory.

00:34:28,000 --> 00:34:34,000
And yeah, I think no one ever sort of mentions that sometimes people don't want to do that, and that's fine.

00:34:34,000 --> 00:34:40,000
And maybe we can maybe we can talk a little bit more about what people might do if they

00:34:40,000 --> 00:34:44,000
decide they don't want to go into a  PhD can be used as a trial at the end of the day.

00:34:44,000 --> 00:34:55,000
If you don't if you decide at the end of it that you don't like the process of researching, then you don't have to stay in research.

00:34:55,000 --> 00:35:01,000
And you said you worked part time alongside doing a part-time PhD

00:35:01,000 --> 00:35:09,000
Did doing that help at all with you? Kind of. I think it kind of helped me.

00:35:09,000 --> 00:35:20,000
Come to the realisations that there was other work that existed and kind of helped keep me grounded in the real world as well as in academia.

00:35:20,000 --> 00:35:31,000
There were certainly times when it was hard to juggle my two my two identities of academic and not academic.

00:35:31,000 --> 00:35:38,000
But I think it did help to a certain extent that I thought, well, I've been doing this throughout my PhD anyway.

00:35:38,000 --> 00:35:41,000
There's clearly nothing wrong with doing the two.

00:35:41,000 --> 00:35:50,000
So why can't I do the two forever? And just because my PhD is finished, it didn't mean that my interest in research finished.

00:35:50,000 --> 00:35:59,000
But it certainly made me more aware of the fact that there are other roles that I am suited to.

00:35:59,000 --> 00:36:03,000
I absolutely loved all of the all of the temporary jobs I did during my PhD

00:36:03,000 --> 00:36:10,000
There was nothing that I thought I never doing with ever again. And so it did help to a certain extent.

00:36:10,000 --> 00:36:16,000
There was also, I think, the fact that I was working and then I needed a full time job.

00:36:16,000 --> 00:36:23,000
Obviously, there was left. I had less time to think about whether I would go into a teaching post where research pays.

00:36:23,000 --> 00:36:28,000
There wasn't anything that was immediately available as soon as I finish my PhD

00:36:28,000 --> 00:36:32,000
And therefore, it was going to be non academic. And I knew that and that was fine.

00:36:32,000 --> 00:36:38,000
I still continue to look for academic jobs, but it was certainly quicker in that immediate period.

00:36:38,000 --> 00:36:42,000
I didn't have sort of any time at all. I didn't have months of going.

00:36:42,000 --> 00:36:47,000
OK, well, I've got this very small amounts of teaching.

00:36:47,000 --> 00:36:52,000
Will it maybe go anywhere else? Like, could I try and extend it in any way,

00:36:52,000 --> 00:36:59,000
which I know that I know people that that they've had to do that process where they've had sort of two seminars a week or a few hours teaching a week.

00:36:59,000 --> 00:37:02,000
And that's been fine for a little bit. And then they've got to the point where they've gone.

00:37:02,000 --> 00:37:06,000
Well, now I need something more than that. But I don't know if I'm gonna be offered it.

00:37:06,000 --> 00:37:14,000
And I don't know if if there's a process for it. So my my sort of immediate cut was very I was much quicker.

00:37:14,000 --> 00:37:19,000
I said, well, I need a full time job. There isn't currently one available. There's one here.

00:37:19,000 --> 00:37:30,000
And that's where I went. But again, it's it's still my skills hasn't changed because I've left academia.

00:37:30,000 --> 00:37:33,000
I am still the exact same person I was when I was doing my PhD

00:37:33,000 --> 00:37:40,000
And I think that took me a little while to realise that actually doing a non-academic job didn't make me a different person.

00:37:40,000 --> 00:37:49,000
I was still a doctor and I still have that vocation and I'm still using stuff from doing a PhD

00:37:49,000 --> 00:37:55,000
So, yeah, that took me a little bit longer. The acknowledgement of the non-academic world was quick,

00:37:55,000 --> 00:38:01,000
but the acknowledgement that I wasn't a different person in their world was quite a long time, really.

00:38:01,000 --> 00:38:04,000
Then that came. That came afterwards.

00:38:04,000 --> 00:38:11,000
So kind of thinking about your identity as an academic and what it means if you're not in academia and your interests and skills.

00:38:11,000 --> 00:38:17,000
And I guess a bit like you were saying before, you have you develop all these generalisable massive generalisable skills in a PhD

00:38:17,000 --> 00:38:22,000
which aren't necessarily always talked about as much they should be. And I guess the same goes for your identity.

00:38:22,000 --> 00:38:25,000
Yes. Like, you are just a human.

00:38:25,000 --> 00:38:34,000
Yes, exactly. And sort of I sort of put myself in a box of PhD these students, for such a long time and became.

00:38:34,000 --> 00:38:39,000
By the end of my PhD So good at trying to explain what that meant.

00:38:39,000 --> 00:38:48,000
And trying to justify the fact that it is a job doing a PhD, because so many people don't understand that actually doing PhD is a job.

00:38:48,000 --> 00:38:54,000
And it's it can sometimes be draining, saying, yes, I'm a student, but I'm also I'm not really a student.

00:38:54,000 --> 00:38:58,000
Well, you think I'm saying when I say I'm a student is not what I am.

00:38:58,000 --> 00:39:02,000
And sort of put a I had myself I am a PhD student.

00:39:02,000 --> 00:39:07,000
That is what I am. This is what I do on a day to day basis.

00:39:07,000 --> 00:39:11,000
Sometimes outside of that, I also go and work and do all of these other things.

00:39:11,000 --> 00:39:14,000
But in my head, that was it was just two separate things.

00:39:14,000 --> 00:39:21,000
It was two separate completely two separate roles that I did when no, I was still the same person in both of those roles.

00:39:21,000 --> 00:39:26,000
And it's just that I did research and one of them and I didn't do research at another.

00:39:26,000 --> 00:39:32,000
But I still put I've managed and I still taught people how to do things.

00:39:32,000 --> 00:39:40,000
It was just not teaching students about film. It was teaching staff about systems.

00:39:40,000 --> 00:39:47,000
You know, it's the same skill and it's still I use the same skills that I did for my PhD for every other role.

00:39:47,000 --> 00:39:57,000
But I haven't I hadn't even considered that that was the case while I was doing my PhD which sounds really silly in hindsight.

00:39:57,000 --> 00:40:02,000
Of course, I wasn't literally two different people. I can feel like that sometimes.

00:40:02,000 --> 00:40:10,000
I think that you can be so involved in your PhD project that it's kind of like looking through a tunnel.

00:40:10,000 --> 00:40:13,000
And when you're in that tunnel, there's nothing else.

00:40:13,000 --> 00:40:22,000
You're not. You're not outside of it in any way. And everyone that even sort of mentions your PhD or comes into that tunnel with you would never leave.

00:40:22,000 --> 00:40:27,000
It was like that's that's the only context in which you in which you refer to them.

00:40:27,000 --> 00:40:39,000
But that's not that's not the case. And it's once I realised that maybe I could use the skills I was using during my PhD for other things.

00:40:39,000 --> 00:40:46,000
I became a lot more enlightened in my own job search and sort of thinking about what I wanted and

00:40:46,000 --> 00:40:50,000
realising that I could use it to my advantage rather than thinking about myself as a failed academic,

00:40:50,000 --> 00:40:54,000
which is for a while. Why? So I thought, wow. So yeah.

00:40:54,000 --> 00:40:58,000
So it's kind of thinking about what your priorities are in general.

00:40:58,000 --> 00:41:03,000
And then also thinking about what skills you actually do have from your PhD

00:41:03,000 --> 00:41:06,000
kind of decompartmentalising it. Yeah.

00:41:06,000 --> 00:41:12,000
PhD life to actually even though for you you were doing it literally at the same time it still was like this.

00:41:12,000 --> 00:41:19,000
Yeah. And I said things are kind of pointing out how you think about what you're doing and how that fits your priorities and what jobs there.

00:41:19,000 --> 00:41:25,000
Yeah, absolutely. And yeah decompartmentalising is exactly why I would say because I had,

00:41:25,000 --> 00:41:33,000
I had completely compartmentalised my life into little boxes that sort of okay today I'm putting on this hat and then I will

00:41:33,000 --> 00:41:39,000
put on another hat and then I'll go home and I might put on another hat because no one wants to talk about the PhD all the time.

00:41:39,000 --> 00:41:47,000
So it's realising that actually maybe you can just wear one hat and you're different things with that.

00:41:47,000 --> 00:41:58,000
So it is. Yeah, definitely part of my journey especially and has been very helpful in sort of the last

00:41:58,000 --> 00:42:03,000
year where I've come to terms with with what I originally had deemed as failure.

00:42:03,000 --> 00:42:11,000
And now I have no regrets whatsoever. So now you wouldn't call it academic failure?

00:42:11,000 --> 00:42:14,000
No. Something else is there? No.

00:42:14,000 --> 00:42:24,000
I mean, someone I know did say I did say to me that there are lots of people in the civil service who are in academic rehab.

00:42:24,000 --> 00:42:33,000
But I didn't think I. I don't think I want to call it rehab, because that makes academia sound even worse than I even think it is.

00:42:33,000 --> 00:42:38,000
So I don't think I mean, I don't need to go into rehab for academia.

00:42:38,000 --> 00:42:42,000
But no, I don't know if there's a word. A word for.

00:42:42,000 --> 00:42:51,000
But just there is this there is this idea that if you don't go into an academic job, that you have somehow failed at academia.

00:42:51,000 --> 00:43:00,000
I mean, you can't fail at academia. That's not a thing. And everyone has their own has their own journeys and their own priorities in life.

00:43:00,000 --> 00:43:03,000
And I think as long as you have found out what yours are.

00:43:03,000 --> 00:43:07,000
And it might be that your priority is getting the academic job.

00:43:07,000 --> 00:43:14,000
And that's fine. That's there's nothing wrong with that either. But if it's not your priority, that is also okay.

00:43:14,000 --> 00:43:19,000
And we although there won't be people around that tell you that that's okay.

00:43:19,000 --> 00:43:29,000
Is okay. And having at least having an idea of what your priorities are is just so it's just so important.

00:43:29,000 --> 00:43:37,000
Because for for years my priority was finishing my PhD and that was really all I thought about for the whole time.

00:43:37,000 --> 00:43:40,000
And then when I eventually finished it, I went, well, what now?

00:43:40,000 --> 00:43:50,000
What do I do? And there's the weird interim period anyway, when you submit and then you have nothing to do because you can't read it straight away.

00:43:50,000 --> 00:43:59,000
Why? I don't know anyone that would do that to themselves. And if if they were, I would strongly recommend not doing it.

00:43:59,000 --> 00:44:04,000
But there's sort of that weird time where you have literally nothing to do.

00:44:04,000 --> 00:44:13,000
Until then, you prepare for the viva. And then you invariably get corrections today, which that was.

00:44:13,000 --> 00:44:18,000
It was a hard time trying to complete the corrections while also in a full time job.

00:44:18,000 --> 00:44:21,000
But I did it and that was fine.

00:44:21,000 --> 00:44:28,000
Luckily, my corrections were only minor, so I was able to do it sort of of an evening over the course of a couple of weeks.

00:44:28,000 --> 00:44:33,000
And. And that was all fine. And then it kind of all well then just ended.

00:44:33,000 --> 00:44:37,000
I thought, well, is that it? Now, why am I not an academic anymore?

00:44:37,000 --> 00:44:40,000
And the answer is no.

00:44:40,000 --> 00:44:52,000
I am still very much an academic in that I like to do research and I still classed myself as academically minded if there is such a thing.

00:44:52,000 --> 00:45:00,000
But I'm just not working in academia and I'm much happier for it, I think.

00:45:00,000 --> 00:45:16,431
And that's it for this episode. Join us next time when we'll be talking to another researcher about that career beyond their research degree.


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