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Nick - finishing up and moving on
Name: Nick
PhD discipline: English Literature
Area(s) of work: civil service; tax consultant; accountancy; film and fiction writing, university teaching
Year of graduation: 1995
Date of Interview: 29/05/2008

Now Playing: Nick - finishing up and moving on
Nick talks through the chronology of finishing his PhD, finding temporary teaching posts, applying for jobs and finally securing a permanent contract.

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When were you starting to apply for jobs during your PhD?

I was kind of naïve in that respect in that I thought I would just get a job after doing my PhD, I thought that's what people did. And I guess a lot of people do still think that. I applied – there were lots of jobs coming up in the paper and I wrote to everybody from Aberdeen to Cork and Co. Kildare and a couple in the United States and stuff and I wasn't getting anywhere. Mostly because I had a few interviews but I was going for jobs with 24 year old guys who had their life in front of them and had just finished PhDs and had the same - you know - background as me but they were much younger than I was.

But I always thought it would happen, I just knew it was another string to my bow and just the films and the books became that – I had really known that at the time, I had an inkling that it would be beneficial.

Did you have much teaching and publications under your belt?

I had about two or three modules of teaching. I had that one publication that I did from that conference (….) and then Oxford University Press were very keen on my PhD thesis which I never published because I ran out of time, I had too many things to do after that, writing films and stuff like that and it just never got – in fact its that tatty bound thing sitting there, its a reading copy. I just started attending conferences and making my profile as high as I possibly could.

At what stage, all the way through?

Just as I finished my PhD, just as I finished it.

Will you talk me through that period of transition between finishing the PhD and what came afterwards?

Yeah I finished my PhD and I thought well I'll wait for the viva now and but I didn't have any job, I didn't have any money at that stage. By this stage I had a one year old daughter and so I had just turned 40 and I thought I've got another 25 years to work and organise that so then it was just a question of saying 'okay how am I going to do this?' And I applied for lots of jobs prior to completing my PhD, all through summer adverts and things that were coming along, and I wasn't quite finished at that stage. Any job that came up I would apply for, go for interviews and that kind of thing and then just as I handed it in, the day I handed it in, I went to the library and got the addresses of half a dozen institutions out of the – there was a collection of addresses in the library somewhere and sat and noted them all down in my little red book. Went home, typed up the same letter to every single one of them and just put them all in an envelope and said 'I'm available'.

For lecturing?

For lecturing, yeah. You know, with the opportunity that I could then look for jobs while I was at least in an institution. And I did and I applied and I got offered jobs as well but at this stage I didn't want to go to Leeds, I didn't want to go to Dundee and places where I had opportunities to go to. So I ended up getting a foot here and staying here. They knew I was applying for jobs as well which was partly – they kind of moved in quickly and said 'look we'd like you to stay' and I said 'okay I'll stay'.

Yeah I wrote two letters to two different parts of this faculty, one of the things that I thought was that I could spread myself a bit thinner, so there was cultural studies here, and there was also English here, and there was film studies here and I thought 'well, I've written 15 films you know, give me a job' and so I chose two or three people in the same institutions really, I looked for who's running Cultural Studies here, and I found out who was running that so I sent a letter straight down. I thought whose head of English and I wrote a letter straight to the head of English and cos it's easy to find out you know, you phone up and say whose head of English there – and they tell you. I wrote to them direct, so the two people concerned both in different departments within a – it was then a school of cultural studies at the time, and they both replied at the same time, and it turns out they both had a spot but it was the same job that had gone, the same person was teaching over and they said could you come down. And I said 'yeah, okay'. So I met them both

For an interview?

No I met them for coffee in the senior common room and they said 'so this is the module we want you want to teach?' and I said 'yeah, I could do that, I've been teaching this, teaching Gothic fiction and that kind of thing, just finished doing the module on that' so said 'well that's great, and then this other one – Victorian Popular Culture' he said 'could you do this?' and I said 'yeah' I said 'start with things 'chilling shockers' and penny dreadfuls and by the time I've caught up on that I would start working on music hall and stuff, and they said 'oh, sounds great' and I'm basking it. I hadn't a clue what Victorian popular culture was going to be. But then you see I'd done 19th century fiction, I'd taught it, I understood how fiction worked, how Dickens worked how Oscar Wilde and theatre and melodrama worked, and Victorian popular culture and music hall and I understood how all that kind of stuff worked so I thought well it can't be too difficult to put a module together and if I can get the first six weeks done then I can mug up for the next six weeks. So yeah bravado and the usual trick, actually, when somebody says 'can you do something' you first answer 'yes' and then what you do then when you have to turn up is my honest answer. My PhD students said to me 'somebody's offered me a job at Southampton University to teach children's literature over twelve weeks, do you think I can do it?' I said 'I hope you said yes cos you've got six weeks to work out your programme.' And he said 'okay then' - so say 'yeah, why not'.

So that first position was at this institution?


Did you apply for any other jobs while you were here?

Yeah. I mean I was hourly paid and I needed a full time job and I had one child and another child on the way, and it is pensionable employment and these normal things that people have and so one or two jobs came up and I have to confess as well I let absolutely everything – you know I was applying. So I said to them, I said to the Head of English you know 'this job's come up in Leeds and I'm going to apply for it' and he says 'oh what's wrong?' and I said 'I need a full-time job, I need pensionable employment and that kind of thing, so you just let everybody know that you're not going to be here for ever, unless they give you a job. And so then they finally decided, then they were talking about putting the MA together and I got the MA through the validation process, that always helps if you become part of a team. And then you become – I became an integral part of the MA and then it turns out I was going to be running an MA that was recruiting next year and I was on an hourly paid contract so they said 'well, we've got to do something about this.' So, I was fishing all the time. I would say 'will you give me a reference for this job?' Just let everybody know that – 'of course I'm happy here but, hey, I need a better job.'

So eventually you got your permanent contract?


And how long would you say it was between finishing the PhD and getting the permanent contract?

Six months. I mean yeah it was six months. I taught for a whole – I taught from January through to the May and then had a lot of marking, looked at bits and pieces and had this MA validation coming up and I said 'I'm not doing any of it because you've stopped paying me. At the end of May, you pay me for teaching' and they said 'well, we'll pay you to the end of August then' and I said 'okay then I'll stay and I'll do the MA validation and stuff', then come the end of August they offered me a year's contract and I said 'no, I don't want it. I'll stay hourly paid. And they said well surely it will give you more security' and I said 'no, I don't want it, it will just tie me in for another year.' I said 'I don't want a years' rolling contract', I said 'you know, I'm not a young man, I'm not stupid either so make up your mind' basically. So they made their mind up.

But, you can say that to people, I mean, because when you're 24 it's harder to say to somebody 'no I'm not going to take another year's rolling contract'. I just said 'no, I'm going to find something else.'

What age were you at this stage when you get the permanent contract?

I was 40. I was 40 when I finished my PhD, I was 40 in December, submitted it in January and this is August and they offered me a year's contract in August and I said no. Its no good to me, I don't want it.

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