Jo van Every

Since completing a PhD in Sociology, Jo runs a coaching and academic research development consultancy. She believes that you should be able to earn a living doing something you love – and that most academics love research.

"I was awarded a doctorate in sociology at the University of Essex in Colchester in 1994. The title of the study was ‘Anti-Sexist Living Arrangements: A Feminist Research Project.’ Following this I held a faculty appointment at the University of Birmingham and became Deputy Head of Social Sciences. My doctoral thesis was published as a book, and I also published several articles and book chapters that drew on that material. I had good teaching reviews! After taking six months off for maternity leave in 1997, I realised that I wasn’t enjoying the work, and I began to explore doing something different.

"I came back to Canada in 2003 and worked for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for a couple of years. First as a programme officer with the standard research grants programme, and then as a policy analyst. That experience gave me an insight into both the politics of research funding and how a funding agency works. Since April 2005, I’ve been bringing insights from all of those experiences to my own independent research facilitation practice, helping social science and humanities academics achieve their research goals. Looking back on my academic career knowing what I know now, I certainly would have done things differently!

"My business was set up to address some of the barriers and frustrations I encountered when I started working in academia following my doctorate. I realise that starting an academic career can be very overwhelming. I specifically remember that no-one really tells you what the expectations are, whether you have met them or far exceeded them. Even worse, you get conflicting advice about what’s expected. You feel like it doesn’t matter how hard you work, you’ll have missed something important. Often, your superiors will let you know the expectations about four years after you could have really used that information. I was putting together a promotion portfolio before I found out that the committee would be looking for a ’trajectory’ in my research!

"Now based in Ontario, Canada, I have been running a coaching and academic research development consultancy since 2005. I offer targeted support to individuals with their academic career development. My experience of teaching and research within the university sector provided me with lots of experience of writing grant applications, drafting papers, getting published, and the strategic direction and policies of a social science research department and faculty. These are just some of the areas which my consultancy covers. I believe that you should be able to earn a living doing something you love – and that most academics love research.

"I do really love what I do. I get to listen to people talk about interesting research projects and help them figure out how to get funding for them. I’m now trying to expand my business beyond helping people with grants to a kind of career coaching. I’m coaching one person through an academic job search and it’s just fascinating what he does – his subject is magic, and I am helping him reconnect with his passion for teaching.

"The PhD basically enabled me to have an academic career, and experiences and insights into how an academic career works, that I have parlayed into a business supporting academics. Having worked as Deputy Head of Social Sciences, with involvement in budgetary processes and the restructuring of the Department of Cultural Studies and Sociology in 2002, also made a difference. Besides this I have strong conceptual and analytical skills that enable me to see connections and develop innovative solutions to overcome roadblocks or develop new directions. My outgoing nature, strong communication skills, and ability to understand diverse occupational cultures provide a strong basis for successful knowledge entrepreneurship.

"I would say to people thinking of starting a business not to be put off by the usual caution that it requires ‘really long hours’. It's not that running a business is easy – but it can be made manageable."