"I suppose I see career as employment that takes you in a direction – preferably across or upwards. It’s not just a job..."
"I did my BA in history before moving to study my masters and doctorate. Deciding to do a doctorate is the most active decision I’ve ever made. I was really certain I wanted to do that, and didn’t care where I did it as long as I could study the topic I was interested in. My doctorate was really important to me, but I am not sure how much of this was personal satisfaction rather than thinking it would take me somewhere. I suppose I see career as employment that takes you in a direction – preferably across or upwards. It’s not just a job.
"Finishing my PhD was hard emotionally, but I was lucky to get two research jobs on projects that I found really interesting. I still hanker after doing my own project though. I generally felt ambiguous about most of the jobs I did until I actually started doing them – and, thereafter, generally I have enjoyed them.
"Deciding to have a family was a key turning point in my career, as I realised that I did not want to work full-time and be a parent. Since then I’ve taken a variety of part-time jobs in teaching and research to fit in with my family commitments. I tend to hang on to every job as long as I can so that, when one does fall through, I still have some others to fall back on. My doctoral supervisor has been really important to me, and he kept on finding jobs for me when I was unemployed and when I started a family. My partner is also key, not only because he is in the same profession and discipline and can therefore give me advice, but he has supported me financially since we had children. Without this support, I would have either had to become a full-time academic or found a part-time job outside academia.
"I love doing research and so I haven’t abandoned hope of doing some more yet. I have been flexible in order to keep working in research, so I have worked on non-historical research projects, which I took on because I was unemployed or because it offered a way out of being a ‘full-time’ mother. As a preference I would rather do history – but I accepted the jobs on the basis that it was research, I could do it, and they were paying me. I also like working in adult education, and could do this if there was a possibility of a proper contract.
"I haven’t ever really created a career plan, but I know that if I am to get on in academia I need to publish more and write a book. Doing more research applications would be a good plan, but this is hampered a bit by not having the right kind of contract, by the lack of pay, and by the extensive time required to write funding applications. So balancing paid and unpaid work (when the latter is more likely to get me somewhere in the end) is not something I’ve really managed.
"There were a couple of job interviews which I did not take very seriously because they would have meant me living apart from my partner at a time when we were planning to have children. There are other jobs I could have gone for, but we really need one parent to work in or close to the place we live. We could move, but the jobs were never long enough to warrant the upheaval. I don’t want the children to move schools unless the job is really worth it. The trouble with most research posts is that they are short and full-time."