How did you move into your current role?
I moved from that role to a science museum where I had a job as, the word in heritage that you use, is an 'abler' or 'interpreter.' It's someone who moves around the galleries in a museum enabling and facilitating access to visitors. It was a science museum so I had to draw heavily from my background from before I went back to university as a mature student because my undergraduate degree and PhD are in the arts. From there I applied for this job and that's a big jump, from being a gallery enabler to being a curator in charge of a big collection of books, a big large library and a silver collection but it was precisely because of the skills my PhD had given me that they were interested in me for my current role. The writing, the communication skills, the presentation skills and they were very interested in the heritage skills I picked up in the previous two roles.
Where did you see the job advertised and how did you go about applying for it?
I saw the job advertised on the University of Leicester's museum department job desk.
So had you been scouring…?
I had been looking, yes but for jobs in heritage, the University of Leicester, their museum department has an international jobs desk which is very very useful. Anything from volunteering in Scotland to the curator of an enormous museum in the States or Australia might be on there; it's a very very good website. And, yes, I'd been looking and then I found this post and to be honest I'm in quite a specialised area and from the moment I read the job description I knew I'd got the skills and the experience that they wanted. This role is in the same specialised area that the very first role I had in heritage was too. But I did ring up, making formal enquiries and just to check out whether I perhaps was what they were looking for, make sure there was a fit between their job description and what skills and experience I'd got.
How high up on your CV did your PhD appear? I suppose what I mean is, was that the thing that you were parading more than your experience in heritage?
Yes because on my CV I've got my educational history first and that goes in reverse chronological order so yes the PhD would have been there and besides that my name is on my CV as doctor so I use the title doctor on my CV.
Can you tell me about the interview experience for that particular job?
It was quite demanding, a lot more demanding than I thought it was going to be. I had an interview first with my predecessor, the previous librarian and curator here, who was Oxford educated and was actually a librarian by training, she did her librarian training at the Bodleian library in Oxford. She was educated at one of the women's colleges in Oxford but English literature was her background the same as mine. That was very fortunate because straight away we realised that we'd got something quite important in common, I think. The first interview was with her and the business relations manager. Now the business relations manager, a lot of her role prior to my arrival here had been working with community groups and local schools and things like that and the reason why she interviewed me was because I was going to be taking over that aspect of her role. Then I had a second interview with the business relations manager again and the chief executive of the organisation which was a very demanding interview, very. He asked some very searching, quite difficult questions and I think in his mind he'd got quite a fixed idea of the actual personality he wanted in this job. I think that was what he was trying to drive at with the difficult questions that he asked.
Can you remember what kind of questions he asked?
He asked me to talk bout myself, so I started from O-levels. Now I'm forty nine this year so that's going back far enough I would have thought but I thought he meant talk about yourself in terms of your educational history and I started to say well I went to grammar school in blah blah and he said no, no, no, no, no, he said I want you to talk about you, about you, I remember him saying, he said you, your family, what were you like when you were a child, he said, take me back to when you were three years old. I'd never been interviewed like that ever before and it quite wrong-footed me. I came out of the interview and remember thinking 'I don't think he liked me very much and I don't think I'm going to get the job' but they rang and offered it to me the next morning.
What did they make of your having a PhD?
They were very impressed. In academia, in a higher education institution amongst lecturing staff and research staff, everyone's got a PhD so its value is detracted. Once you're in the outside world, obviously I'm talking about an arts PhD, it seems to be quite an unusual thing and people are impressed by it. I think and if you take the trouble to explain to a prospective employer they'll listen at interview. Obviously keep it quite short, exactly what a PhD entails. It's amazing how many people don't understand or know and when you tell someone it's a large scale project for which you've had forty, fifty thousand pounds worth of funding to conduct and it took you five years and you've had to manage your time and you've had to manage your budget and all of those things which you do when you're doing your PhD. And you manage some part-time teaching and running a series of seminars, how can employers fail to be impressed? How can they? It gives you all the skills that they would want in prospective employees, I think.