"If any of my family had been to university, I might not have had so many illusions about academia – and I might have been less motivated to persist in them..."
"I originally wanted to become a vet, but I changed my mind and applied to do a degree in English at Oxford – despite having dropped the subject at 16. Going to university has been the biggest influence on my career, as I was the first person to go to university in my family. If any of my family had been to university, I might not have had so many illusions about academia – and I might have been less motivated to persist in them. My school English teacher and my undergraduate tutors have been key to my career – largely because they exemplified the possibility of a life of inquiry and perpetual learning, which I found intoxicating (it still gets me out of bed).
"I completed my BA and embarked on a doctorate. Before I had completed my doctorate, my mother sent me an advert for a job as a lecturer – and I still don’t know why I applied (I should have been writing a chapter of my doctorate). However, I was appointed to the lectureship. I had taught as a doctoral student (far too much), but the transition to a full-time role in a different institution was difficult – not least because I was still a ‘student’, and my doctorate was a long way off completion. Lecturing slowed down the completion of my doctorate, but it got done eventually.
"I have never created a career plan – even appraisal strikes me as dauntingly structured. Perhaps I shelter within the abstract model, and known-to-me examples, of the career which summits with cathedration (getting a chair). I’ve never really explored alternative career options, but I once talked to a university registrar about the consequences of taking an MBA in higher education, which I was interested in pursuing for intellectual reasons.
"I think that the difficulties I’ve faced in my career have been ‘self-made’ – a lack of confidence in my research findings and their significance, a lack of focus and persistence in pursuing projects to completion. I’m still working on this, but not with definitive success. You get used to some of the stresses – acting out in public still bothers me – but intellectual effort is as tough and exposing as it is invigorating and stimulating, and other people are as damaging as they are giving.
"I think I reject opportunities all the time – rarely through a definitive process of decision-making, more often by allowing them to lapse. If I had pursued publication more doggedly, I might have a bit more money and a few more conference invites. But I am glad I read the books I did – and quite glad I didn’t write the books I didn’t write.
"I have worked at this university ever since I came here during my doctorate. I have recently taken up Academic Director for the College of Arts, Humanities and Law. At the moment, I don’t know whether taking on this role will be a new turning point in my career..."