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Post-PhD Pathways


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The PhD ‘journey' can be rewarding, gruelling, stimulating, terrifying, and a great privilege all at once, but finishing is also often just the beginning of the next chapter. Where do you go next? In this talk I discuss post-PhD pathways with a particular focus on academic careers. PhD graduates are increasingly moving into a wide range of fields and industries, but I will focus my attention here on the academic pathway. This talk is based on my own experience as a Griffith graduate navigating the academic job market over the past five years, developing a post-PhD research agenda, entering into the competitive grant space, and developing a profile in my discipline. In this way my talk will be partly a personal reflection, but contextualised through a broader discussion of the state of academic labour in higher education and a critical consideration of academic publishing and grant culture.

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Post-PhD Pathways

  1. 1. Post-PhD Pathways OR: You’ve done the thing, so what’s next? Brady Robards University of Tasmania @bradyjay Griffith Centre for Cultural Research HDR Summer School – November, 2015
  2. 2. PLAN • Help frame the day • Conferences • Publishing • Social media + the ‘public intellectual’ • Share my own experiences as a Griffith graduate + ECR • Applying for academic jobs • Developing a post-PhD research agenda • Challenges and opportunities around contemporary academic labour
  3. 3. 1. Telling children you’re in the 25th grade. As curated by Buzzfeed’s Jessica Misener: 25 Deeply Painful PhD Student Problems (Besides Your Thesis)
  4. 4. 3. Realizing your vocabulary is permanently scattered with words like “problematic” and “ontological” and “hegemony.”
  5. 5. 5. Going to parties and everyone’s just standing around talking about their research.
  6. 6. 8. When someone claims that being in a doctoral program isn’t “the same thing as having a real job”:
  7. 7. 11. …and feeling ultra-guilty anytime you try to relax.
  8. 8. 12. Finding an old paper you wrote your first year of grad school:
  9. 9. 17. Feeling some degree of “impostor syndrome” at least once a day.
  10. 10. 21. Grading your undergrads’ papers:
  11. 11. 22. When someone asks how “writing” is going:
  12. 12. 25. When ANYONE asks you what your plan is after you graduate:
  13. 13. WHAT DO PHD STUDENTS DO WHEN THEY GRADUATE? (Mewburn 2013 – • Perpetual and ongoing state of crisis? (Kendall 2002) • Oversupply • Elite vs ‘non-elite’ institutions • The PhD as a pathway to research and/or teaching but not much else • 2003: 8% of research degree graduates were ‘unemployed’, although 23% were seeking other work (Mewburn 2013) • My pathway is (mostly) an academic one, but this is not the only post-PhD pathway…
  14. 14. SOCIALSCIENCES - 2015
  15. 15. HUMANITIES - 2015
  16. 16. MY PATHWAY PhD/Level A Professional Level B • 2008 – 2012 (4 years FTE) • Tutoring • RA work • Guest lectures • Acting convenor • 2011: Level A contract (FT) • QIBT • 2012 – 2013 • Student Advisor • Non-academic, but paid the bills • Retained position and affiliation with Griffith • Continued to work on publications/projects in spare time • Excellent mentors • 2013 – current • 40/40/20; continuing/tenurable • RPEs • 1 HERDC point/yr • HDR supervision • $7k/yr • 3 unit teaching rotation • 25 EFTSU/sem Griffith Griffith UTas
  18. 18. POST-PHD RESEARCH AGENDA Undergraduate Honours/Masters PhD Post-PhD
  20. 20. STEPPING BACK: DURING THE PHD On saying yes to (almost) everything… • Publishing • Four journal articles + one article and one chapter on the way • Contributed to a textbook, Think Sociology • Co-edited a special issue and a book • Book reviews • Peer reviewing • Blogging • Teaching • Taught into ten different courses (all levels) • + guest lectures (mostly paid) • Applied for teaching awards • Service: Committees (HDR rep, symposia, professional associations, reviewing) • Conferences  networking • Mentors • Web presence
  21. 21. SELECTION CRITERIA + An emerging track record of applications for external research funds (grants, fellowships, project funding) Find the selection criteria for the kind of jobs you want to apply for and start thinking about how you could respond to them. Ask people for their job applications.
  22. 22. ‘RESEARCH PERFORMANCE EXPECTATIONS’  Assessed in 3-5 year windows
  23. 23. GRANT CULTURE • Australian Research Council (ARC) • Discovery • Linkage • DECRA • 5 years post-PhD • 2 shots • Find alternate funding bodies • Get advice from research office/research support staff • Internal grants to ‘build capacity’ • Proactively partner with senior colleagues and mentors 2016 1220 200 16.4%
  24. 24. MEASURING SUCCESS? • Completion time • Done is better than perfect • The PhD as a licence to apply for jobs • BUT ALSO a time to be protected and relished as one of the few times you will have to focus on your own research for a sustained period of time • Publications • Quantity + quality • Downloads/views • Citations • Impact (methodological, theoretical, etc.) • Altmetrics (tweets, shares, etc.) • Developing networks (peers, mentors, collaborators, co-authors) • Engaging with the media (radio/newspaper/TV interviews) • Teaching might represent the biggest and most important ‘impact’ most academics can hope to have
  25. 25. MY ‘SHADOW CV’ • What my CV says: 9 journal articles over the past 5 years, with 2 under review, and another 6 in preparation. • Shadow CV: A string of rejections, failed collaborations, and half-written articles • What my CV says: 4 books • Shadow CV: My institution doesn’t ‘count’ any of them as they are edited books (x2) or classified as textbooks (x2 – I’m appealing one!) • What my CV says: A continuing, full-time Level B academic job at a solid mid- range university with a strong sociology program, straight out of my PhD. • Shadow CV: 10 failed job applications, short-listed for two; moving away from my friends and family to a place where I knew no-one, and had to build a new life. • What my CV says: $560k of external + $15k of internal research funding over the past 2.5 years • Shadow CV: The bulk of it was by chance, and part of it involves evaluation work that is very time intensive. Inspired by Devoney Looser (2015) in The Chronicle of Higher Ed
  27. 27. BUT not a pushover
  28. 28. THE CHALLENGE • Academic pathways appear to be increasingly fraught, non-linear and involve at least some ‘treading water’ • Exploitation, casualisation, and short-term contracts • Four essential elements to address these challenges: • Planning, resilience, tenacity, and kindness
  29. 29. PREPARE FOR VERSATILITY Take stock of the skills you develop during a PhD, and learn to translate them into different position descriptions and selection criteria: • Research • Literature reviews - translating complex existing research into accessible language • Methods (qual, quant, recruitment, ethics) • Project management • Writing and editing • Grant/tender applications • Identifying funding organisations • Writing persuasively • Responding to criteria  BUT: It’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize (Mullins & Kiley 2002)
  30. 30. FORGING NEW PATHWAYS • While we must continue to confront a range of challenges in negotiating what comes after the PhD (personal, institutional, structural) there is cause for optimism… • Develop your own measures of success • An academic career can be incredibly rewarding, but those rewards do not always have to be found in conventional academic positions • In the Humanities and Social Sciences, we are uniquely positioned to contribute to a range of discussions and industries outside academia • Other pathways today and tomorrow: Jodi, Catherine, David, Indigo
  31. 31. FURTHER READING • - Inger Mewburn (ANU) • - Tseen Khoo + Jonathan O’Donnell (RMIT) + • ‘It’s a PhD, not a Nobel Prize’ (Mullins & Kiley 2002) • ‘Me and my Shadow CV’ (Looser 2015) - QUESTIONS/DISCUSSION • Please be open/honest with your own uncertainties/anxieties/frustration s