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Today is the 6th anniversary of my #PhD viva. I note it in some way every year. This year is a little different. Over recent months I've been facing up to the fact that I may not be able to stay in academia for the 7th anniversary. This is a thread on why.
Before starting on this though, a few thoughts first. As a white middle-class man I have never had to deal with any number of issues or obstacles that many of my friends, colleagues, or peers have. I can only imagine how hard it must be to deal with systemic obstructions too /2
Probably the last thing academia needs is another person who looks like me. That doesn't mean I want to leave, but we need to acknowledge the heavily uneven playing field that is in effect. If departments are already populated with people who look like me; it's time to ask why /3
Also when I've seen threads like this from others you often get a lot of replies along the lines of; 'stick at it' & 'it'll be totally worth it'. I appreciate those supportive sentiments but they do cause problems. I'm not sure that framing it as an endurance test is healthy 4/
Also, as I'll discuss shortly there are natural cutoff points and constructed deadlines in academia that may well propel me out of the door whether I want to leave or not. However, this isn't 100% the end. I'm hugely grateful to many friends, colleagues, & mentors ... 5/
... who have been suggesting solutions, looking at CVs etc. So many of the people in academia are genuinely supportive and kind and show the best face of the field. In addition I really don't want this to be a thread of 'boo-hoo give me job' (I mean if you want to go ahead)...6/
... instead I just want to talk about my experience and how I see this possibly going from here on out. At the moment I see the potential cutoff point for me in academia at around 30th March next year as it's when my #StarWars book is due to be submitted...
The real cutoff might be November time. #ECRs get told a lot about what to do to crack academia and sometimes it's conflicting advice but much of it nowadays is framed with a view to the REF. We have to publish in set time windows in order to get a shot at a job. 8/
If all goes according to plan, by the Nov 2020 REF cut off I will have published:
3 monographs
3 peer-reviewed articles in different journals
4 chapters in edited collections

I'll also have 2 potential 'impact case studies'.

I can't get job interviews. 9/
This isn't stated as an attempt to blow my own trumpet; I just want to lay the situation bare. I recently applied to a job that had 700 applicants. I am not and never will be smarter than 700 other people in the field. 10/
When the REF window closes in November of next year those publications will be rendered inadmissible for the next REF and I'll start again at 0 with no institutional support. It will not be possible for me to do these things again after that cutoff. I'll have to leave. 11/
I have lost count of the number of job applications I've made of the past 6 years, but I know how many proper interviews I've had. 2 for teaching positions (got them both) and 3 for research positions (got none). I freely acknowledge that maybe my applications aren't great... 12/
That being said I've checked them with colleagues and they don't flag up problems. Apparently I interview very well (which is a relief as a lot of pressure ends up on those interviews) but, alas, here we are. In July I'll be totally unemployed for the 1st time since 2014. 13/
I can probably hold out to finish my 3rd book but after that; no. I can't justify 'hanging on' for something that may never transpire. Certainly not when I can't likely be a competitive candidate again. 14/
We should also acknowledge that perhaps my areas of research were, strategically, not the smartest. #FWW allied relations is fine, but computer games and #StarWars? It's very geeky, and very me, but maybe academia doesn't want it. Although people seemed to have enjoyed it. 15/
Various bits of my work haven't been out long enough to get proper reviews yet so I've no idea if people read them & enjoy them. I hope they do. I enjoyed writing them all. I love being an academic; I waited a long time for this to happen. Leaving will make me very sad. 16/
But I also don't want to overly discourage the scholars coming up behind me. Yes it has been very hard for me; but it might not be for you. Someone has to get these jobs. I'm also aware that academia has an #ECR logjam. At what point does it become best to step aside? 17/
Just in my field(s) there are amazing scholars either planning or finishing their phds like @SilkNatasha, @KasiaTee, @nielsen_holly, @juliarsct, & @SofyaDAnisimova (you should all follow them). I don't want to be an extra obstacle they face in getting jobs 18/
So I'll hold on until March-ish. There are things that may transpire and give me the career I want. But if not; then decisions will have to be made. As of yet I have no idea what else I could move into (open to suggestions). 19/
If I do have to leave then submitting a book on 'History and Politics in the Star Wars Universe' and then heading for the door will be a suitably 'me' way of going. But I will miss academia for all of it's staggering flaws and faults because this was my dream. end/
Actually just to add some extra thoughts here. Seeing other people get jobs has never been a moment of stark jealousy for me but more of actual encouragement. I like to see my friends succeed as it does give further hope for those still trying. 20/
The PhD cohort I was part of at @HistoryatSussex had a remarkable success rate of getting academic jobs. Not everyone wanted one but I would never begrudge my friends their positions. If you get a job; tell people. It can give hope. 21/
For me there have been sliding doors moments along the way. Me and several colleagues had a funding bid given the full marks but no money last year. That would've been a 2 year postdoc on my dream topic. C'est la guerre. 22/
Instead last year across 10-12 weeks in Oct-Dec I think I did about 220 hours of teaching at 3 different institutions. It left me exhausted, ill, and sad. I would not do such a thing again. This is partly my motivation for setting an end point. 23/
Whilst I want this I don't want it enough to kill myself for it. Nor can I really keep my life on hold indefinitely. I'll be 36 this year. Hardly ancient but still waiting for any form of stable life to begin. I don't want to still be doing temporary limbo jobs in my 40s. 24/
So when I go (if it is next March) I want it to be my own decision after giving this as good a go as I can. But if between now and then you ask me to do a thing and I say 'no' this might be why. I don't want to tie myself into academia whilst also being kicked out. 25/
That's not to say you shouldn't ask. I do enjoy this stuff after all. But not indefinitely. And not like this. RealEnd/
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