Friday, 2 October 2015

How To Be an Academic

I began this blog as a newly graduated MSc student (Master of science! How exciting!), fresh-faced and enthusiastic about a life in academia. Soon it will be time to write papers! Publish books! Right? Back then I had a feeling I had either missed a memo somewhere about the steps a person takes to make this career work, or that there were no memos.

I'm more certain now - there are no memos.

I've realized that the bumbling feeling of not knowing the 'next step' continues. But what also starts is an acceptance that this is the way the path wends for most people. And maybe that makes it a little better. I had thought before that if I documented the minute steps that went along with making a career in humanities/social sciences research, I could create that step-by-step pamphlet that another confused student could use to find their way a little more confidently - so for example they would know early on that technical skills need to be hoovered up quickly or else you pigeon-hole yourself into a corner where you're holding your degree in one hand and your CV in the other, and fear that you will not have anything to offer a research team.

It hasn't worked that way, as my patchwork of posts from 2013 show. But looking back on the posts and their topics, and more importantly what I wasn't writing about - has made me reflect on how things have changed so quickly. I found a research question that I am passionate about. I started a PhD. With colleagues I started a Palaeotechnology society. I've networked and felt I 'belonged' in a community of researchers. I've learned to knap flint and can fletch an arrow. I've even run an experiment and collected data! And now, as the third year of my PhD begins, and the 'afterwards' looms, I realize that the next step from here is as opaque as the last was. The word 'post-doc' is as impenetrable as 'PhD' was three years ago.

I've found my way so far, but don't quite know how. And if this is a similar experience that others have, it might be why there is no memo.

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