career change

Life as a research assistant

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Just to introduce myself, I am currently a Research Assistant at Newcastle University Business School. I joined the world of academia in May 2011, having previously worked in commercial (public sector) research and consultancy for the last 10 years ish. More about that another time, but my experiences may be of interest to others, hence sharing through this blog. 

Part one of my experience has been to quickly get reacquainted with academic literature, learn qualitative data management software (NVivo), and remember how time-consuming and slow the process of transcription is. Part two has been to understand the place of research in the university context, understand my place within it and figure out a new career path.

It’s this last element which has been much on my mind recently, and taken time to understand (not sure I’m there yet). Things I know for sure- 1) PhD is a must if I want to become a lecturer 2) getting work published is vitally important 3) getting work published in the right places is vitally important (3* and 4* journals). Things I still don’t know- 1) how to get PhD funding for a topic that both interests me and interests the funders 2) how to respond to multiple reviewers who may disagree 3) why some journals are considered a higher star rating than others and what difference this really makes.

My current position is managing a short term contract, hourly paid seminar work, and paying the bills. Despite this juggling, things are going well so far! More to follow, if you’re interested. Comments, advice, tough love welcome.


The university – an employer with a diverse range of vacancies

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Below is an advert for a job currently being advertised at Newcastle University. It is the sort of role that experienced researchers wanting to move away from research, but perhaps wanting to utilise their sector knowledge and broader skills would find interesting.
It requires a high level of organisational and management skills but many researchers will have developed these by taking on responsibility for running a lab and staff management. It is a good example of a job in the university sector, with an open ended contract, that values your research experience but allows you to take on a different set of responsibilities from academic research.
To find out more about jobs like this use – keep your search criteria as open as possible – you are doing research after all!
Institute Manager, Institute of Human Genetics, Newcastle University
Salary:  Up to £38,951, rising to £43,840
Closing Date: 18 November 2010
Based in the Institute of Human Genetics at the International Centre for Life, your role will be to provide a comprehensive professional support service to the Institute Director in order to meet the objectives of the Institute. The main responsibilities are to implement and maintain efficient support structures within the Institute, contribute to Institute strategic planning, manage the Institute budget, provide management information, support research funding applications and provide project management support. You should be educated to degree level or equivalent and have significant recent administrative experience in a management role within a higher education establishment or other large organisation. Experience in managing staff and budget/project management is essential as is the need for excellent interpersonal and communication skills across a variety of media. It is desirable that you would also have experience of HE research environment and issues related to funding agencies and their operation, health and safety requirements and legislation and NHS/University interaction and the role of clinical academics. Informal enquires about the post may be made to the Director of the Institute, Professor Patrick Chinnery, who may be contacted through his PA, Lynn Reed ( ).Information about the Institute may be found at

Interviews to be held on 10th December 2010

Job Ref: A784A (IHG)

Further job details available here.

Job seeking in a recession

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I have read a number of articles recently that report how demoralised people are who are entering the job market – whether they are new PhD graduates leaving university or experienced researchers looking for a new post or career change. Job seekers report that there are no jobs available and where there are jobs, competition is fierce (even more so than usual). What is interesting in these articles, is a discussion around the issue that much of this perception seems to be coming from media reports of the job market, rather than actual experience.

In reality, some employers are reporting that applications for posts are down – with people assuming they have no chance and ruling themselves out. University careers services are reporting lower numbers of  job seekers at job fairs than in previous years.

I’m not suggesting that the job market is flourishing but perhaps there is more opportunity out there than you might think – especially if others are holding back. Have you talked yourself out of applying for something, or even thinking about your next move, because you think the marketplace is bleak? If so, where has this idea come from?

I’d be interested to know what your own experiences of this are, as well as those of your friends and colleagues.

Any thoughts or comments?


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When I tell people I’m a writer, they ask me what my novel is about and if I have a publisher.  When I tell people I’m doing a PhD in creative writing, I’m usually asked how a creative discipline functions within a traditionally academic environment.  Actually, people usually ask if I think creative writing can be taught.  For my answer, read this recent article in the Guardian Review by Rachel Cusk and pretend I’m there, reading it out loud and passing it off as my own words.

As a writer, there’s a clear – albeit financially unrealistic – career path: write a book then publish it.  Repeat ad infinitum.  As a creative practise-based academic, the boundaries over what I’m writing and why I’m writing it are much less clear, as are my thoughts about where I want to go next, and how I want to get there.

My PhD has prepared me for a career in academia but, having gone straight from my undergraduate MA Hons in English Literature at St Andrews University to an MLitt in SELLL here at Newcastle University, and then staying on for a Creative Writing PhD,  I feel like I’m due a break from foot-notes.

So, for the first time since I started my PhD, I’m looking around the recession-scarred landscape to see what jobs both interested in and qualified for and trying to work out what I want to do once I’ve submitted my thesis

Over the next twelve months I’ll be finishing the writing-up process, going through my viva, and looking for paid employment.  I’ll be blogging here regularly about the ups and downs of career hunting as a writer and a researcher, and what I’m doing in terms of professional development.

Viccy Adams is a final year Creative Writing PhD student at Newcastle University, funded by the AHRC.  Her research examines the intersections between single-author short story collections and novels, with a particular focus on the contemporary British publishing industry. 

Fab job opportunity!!

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Calling all Arts, Humanities and Cultural PhDs! Check out this great opportunity to work for Arts Research Digest

Printing Guttenberg style

Arts Research Digest provides a unique overview of current research in the arts, media and cultural sectors worldwide. Their mission is to facilitate and promote the exchange of research and ideas between local and national cultural sectors in the UK and all over the world.

Arts Research Digest is published six times a year and they are currently looking for an online copy writer and editor to cover maternity leave!

If you think this is something you would like to do or is the kind of work experience that could kick start your career please email all enquiries to

Making the most of

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Many of you will be familiar with – it advertises job vacancies in the HE sector. But there is more to it than that! Have you looked at the ‘Career Development’ section for example? It includes a salary checker, case studies and top tips, as well as an extensive range of useful articles. These cover a diverse range of topics – relevant to you whether you want a move out of academia or are aiming to progress your career within it.  So whether you want to read about the skills required to present a paper at an academic conference, know what to include in a personal statement, consider using social networking as part of your professional life or look at new career ideas, you should find something here to interest you.

If that’s not enough for you – you can even rate the articles – happy reading!