Finally, finally, after far too long being unemployed, I have a job!
I've been unemployed for quite a long time. I submitted my PhD thesis in November 2013 and started applying for jobs. Because I hadn't yet had my viva I was limited in the jobs I could apply for, as I hadn't yet passed my PhD. My viva was in March, I passed with minor corrections and eventually had the whole thing signed off and issued with a certificate in July. During the first half of 2014 I was working on my viva prep and then my corrections, invigilating at a local school and applying for a handful of jobs but always bearing in mind that I needed to spend quite a bit of time in Durham and get my PhD finally finished, which did constrain me slightly. Oh, and I had jury service to do too.
When my PhD was all signed off the job applications started in earnest. I applied for jobs in East Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex and London. I applied to jobs which were a ten minute walk from my flat to jobs which would be two hours of travelling each way. I applied for jobs which required a PhD and jobs which didn't require a PhD and all sorts of jobs in between. I applied for full time jobs, part time jobs, permanent contracts, temporary contracts and maternity leave cover. I applied for jobs with universities, charities, local councils, schools, and general organisations. I registered with recruitment agencies. I did quite a lot of invigilating and admin work at the school, but this was only ever a few hours here and there (although I am very grateful they offered me hours whenever they could!).
I had six interviews, which I'll write about in another blog post. The usual feedback I got was that I would be very good in the role, however another candidate has more experience so that's why I wasn't selected.
In the meantime, my savings were dwindling (because Ben and I have a joint tenancy agreement and he earns over £15,000 a year I wasn't entitled to Job Seeker's Allowance) and I felt a bit like a housewife, staying at home during the day whilst my partner went out to earn a living. I tried to use my time as wisely as possible, applying for jobs, cooking and cleaning, reading, doing lots of stuff for Brownies and Post Pals, but it was hard. I'm so used to being busy, working towards goals and feeling worthwhile, that not doing these things did make me sad. Add in being rejected after an interview or companies who don't even acknowledge your application form, and it was tough.
I'm naturally a very happy, optimistic person and I have always tried to remain positive and to keep smiling - I've had the support of Ben and my family and I've tried to ensure I've used my time wisely - I've improved my knitting skills, I've read a great deal, I've done voluntary work, I've not just sat on the sofa and watched day time TV (well, I watched television whilst knitting, but that's not the point!). But it is hard to be rejected, it is hard not being able to plan anything as I didn't know when I'd have an income and the freedom to be able to do things again. It is especially hard being rejected because I didn't have experience - how am I supposed to gain experience if no one will employ me?!
Thankfully, an employer has seen the potential in me! I had an interview at the end of March at a university here in the south, for a research position using all the skills I developed during my PhD. Quite frankly, the job sounded perfect for me. Much as I wanted a job, any job, I particularly wanted this one.
I had a phone call a few days later to say the first choice candidate had accepted the job, but only wanted part time hours, so they could offer another candidate part time hours too. They couldn't decide between me and another candidate, so could I go back for an 'informal chat'?
I did indeed go back for an informal chat and had a phone call on the train home to say they think I'd make an excellent addition to the team. I am so excited and so so pleased! This department has seen my potential, acknowledged my lack of post-PhD experience and offered me a job!
Yes, it's only part time - but it's a foot in the door. It's going to be over an hour of travelling each way, but I've got a well-stocked Kindle ready for the train journeys.
I am so grateful I've been offered this job and I am incredibly excited about starting this week. I'm finally going to feel as though I am contributing to society again. And when Ben and I get home from work and ask each other about our days, I'll be able to say more than I went to the shop to buy some milk and knitted a few more rounds of sock!