Friday, September 28, 2012

Yep, academia still sucks.

With all the angst and whingeing about my current job, I was slipping back into nostalgia, imagining what my life would have been like if I had landed that much sought-after permanent academic position. Just when my wallowing in self-pity reached and all-time nadir, I saw an academic job posted that was a) in my field and b) in my home town.

"WTF??? There must be a catch" I thought, and turned my back on the siren call.

Later, I started thinking "hmm...maybe that's the answer to my current doldrums"

Then, the clincher - I make the phone call to relevant wanky-pants Professor, who carefully avoided answering any questions I asked, but did slip in to conversation that there was someone already doing the role, but for one reason and another they had to advertise.

To translate, this actually means: "You haven't got a hope in hell".

That's ok, because I know the person who has been doing the job, and they definitely deserve to keep it. I wish them all the best and keep my fingers crossed that the Department does the right thing by them and actually gives them their own job back. Sincerely, I do hope that for this one person who has worked so hard to do the academic thing, that they  get recognised for the hard work that they do and live happily ever after.

Sadly, I also know that there is a not inconsiderable risk that some stellar international superstar with a ludicrous track record you won't believe may in fact be so despearate themselves for any kind of position that they would be prepared to move to soemwhere they have no interest in being simply for the sake of their career. In which case, the current person who has been doing an EXCELLENT job will be out on their arse, without a backward glace, because there is no way in hell they would have the track-record, seniority etc to match.  

When I got off the phone to Professor Wanky-Pants I was actually shaking, sweating and quite pissed off.

I know that this whole advertising a position that someone is already doing is quite common in publicly funded institutions, but what really pisses me off about the whole academic process, is that the person already doing the job could so easily be out on their arse because of the woeful international job market. Through no fault of their own, they will be edged out of a posiiton that has been presumably working for them ok, because someone who is much more senior will be even more desperate.

Yet again, all of this just confirms for me that getting out of academia is a good thing. I am ok. I am earning a living wage and I am off that awfully desperate treadmill. Professor Wanky-Pants has done me a totally unintentional favour and reconfirmed for me that I am, in fact, not missing anything by leaving.


  1. Ahhh yes, the 'We have to advertise the post' even when someone else has been doing the job fairly well for a while and has even proven that they can do the job. I do have sympathy for the person in the role who then has to prove themselves through interview and yet at the same time I sympathise with the long list of others who will apply and if they don't match up to the extraordinary status that you've mentioned (but still might have lots to offer, like the person in the role) they won't get a look in and their application will get thrown in the bin. So if the extraordinary one doesn't come along, all the others will feel pretty awful that for some funny reason they didn't get shortlisted - yes, it must be because they just aren't good enough, while the one in post, who no one knows about, gets in - 'it was a fix', the other hopefuls might hear some time later on when they're hear the gossip at a conference. So I feel for several parties here: the temp hopeful one in post, the many many good hopeful applicants who will get the shaft, and the deserved 'star' who has waited so long for the golden opportunity. The whole problem boils down the fact that there are so few posts out there for too many good/great candidates. You are so right in saying that you are not missing anything by leaving. Keep reminding yourself of this when experiencing those low moments.

    1. Exactly. There are so few opportunities available and no-one ever mentions this until long after that PhD has been finished...

  2. Hi Dr., I'm a new subscriber to your blog. The posts I've read so far really resonate with me. I just want to say that, like you, I jumped ship from research and have a normal 9-5 job.

    I am still in contact with other post-Docs and PhDs, and it's depressing hearing their stories as they float between casual teaching jobs here and there. I even see articles in the news, and even, pointing out just how sad the job situation is for PhDs. Worse still, most research jobs are in fields that are universal to all countries, and face the risk of being outsourced to cheaper labour forces in countries that have boosted their university grad numbers in recent decades, such as China and Indea. We will rarely see jobs of accountants and lawyers being outsourced, since they are highly specialised in locals, but science and technology is.

    Of course, I do feel from time to time that I could be getting more satisfaction at work, but I'm now able to do things like negotiate loans with my bank. The banks just aren't interested in doing business with my research friends, who are mostly nomadic anyway. Sure work is mundane, but I am happy to secure my future, and I've never looked back.

    I'm off to read your archives now. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    1. Hi Fiona,

      I am always pleased to hear from other people who have jumped ship and survived :)

  3. I have a PhD in Science and knew right from beginning it is not going to help me find a job. But I still went ahead and got my PhD. Why? I dont know. Wasted years doing something that is not rewarding. I saved no money even though I was paid phd stipend like everybody else. Somewhere during my phd, I did learn programming and became very good at it. I became a programmer and earned like some 75K a year and was happy with money. But I was not happy cos. I was working with people who had very little or no education at all. Somehow I felt out of place. This is what a phD did to me. Maybe if I did not do phd and started working right after my masters like many of my friends did, I wouldn't have regretted much I guess. Anyway point is, I did learn some skills and have backup so I do not have to wait endlessly for that academic position that I will never get. I do not have any publications either. So no point. But I like this blog and am happy to see other people like me. thanks for creating the blog