Last Autumn I graduated from student to staff. Well I use the word graduated in its most relaxed sense; I haven’t graduated yet although I am looking to submit my PhD in the Spring so it’s certainly on the horizon. But I have left the safety of the student setting and moved into the real world of paid research.
And…it’s not entirely that different.
I was lucky enough to have a funded PhD and so received a student stipend each month over the past three years, enough to pay my childcare and travel but alas not enough to cover the mortgage or feed the kids (hence why I also undertook freelance work alongside. My children are well fed and sheltered!)
So in a way, my PhD felt like being paid to research, to focus on a subject that I really enjoyed. However, throughout the past year have been conscious of ‘what’s next?’ and that is guaranteed to be the first question of every family member, friend, neighbour, casual acquaintance when you mentioned you’re studying. Where would I go? Where was there work? Was I destined to be Dr shop floor assistant in a supermarket (no offence intended to any supermarket employees, I actually applied for a job in a well known store a few years ago, post-MSc and pre-PhD but didn’t event make it to interview stage, they didn’t want me……)
I also stay in a fairly rural area in the North of Scotland; far from the academia hubs of the central belt and even too far for a pain-free regular commute to Aberdeen. Research opportunities have not been high on the list of potential jobs…until recently. I closely followed the building relationship between Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Glasgow School of Art and regularly stalked any public events they hosted, poured over the website and potential job opening and spoke to any and every person I knew with a contact there! Nothing like being proactive in the seek of work!
A few exciting posts came up about six months too early for me, I really wanted to complete my PhD (or the majority of it before I began working full-time) and so I was delighted to see a research fellow post advertised a couple of months before my funded PhD period ended. I had a lovely interview experience and I got the job.
So I have now become a research fellow. I have a job, an actual job where I get to do research. I get to explore design in new and interesting ways. I get to meet new people, to engage them in research, to learn and to have an impact on a part of their lives. Every day. And get paid for it. Is this the real world? Yes? Well I’m living it and loving it too.