As I near the end of another academic year I have been doing some reflecting on the highs and lows and things I’ve learnt. So here’s my top ten reflections:
1. Gender DOES matter. I have encountered blatant discrimination on the basis on my gender. It turns out that some men just feel too threatened by intelligent women.
2. Age DOES matter. I’ve noticed that even if you have more knowledge and experience, younger academics get far less respect than academics (and postdocs) aged 40+ and, as a result, less opportunities.
3. No matter how experienced you are at lecturing, enterprising, networking, leading events and investing in students, all university employers are looking for are publications. So it doesn’t matter if you can’t lecture and students hate you, if you can publish articles then you will get a job. I find this very sad to be honest, universities should be driven equally by teaching and research.
4. The more universities run as for-profit businesses, the more disadvatagsous this is for students (and staff). Allowing anyone to start a degree just because they have finance is actually cruel to students when they realise they cannot cope with the demands of a degree. This in turns lowers the academic standards as staff are pushed to ensure all students pass and progress.
5. Good colleagues are what help you get through the stressful periods. Those working lunches and little coffee breaks can really ease work load stress. Off loading to one another also means you don’t need to take the work home with you and impact on family life. Thanks to my amazing colleagues for helping me through a tough year.
6. After various interviews for internal and external posts I have realised that the grass is not always greener. Whilst I have many problems where I work, so do others. All academic institutions and departments have positives and negatives and so for the future I will focus on the positives and just accept the negatives as part and parcel of academic culture.
7. I’ve definitely learnt to say no a lot more this year. After realising that being a ‘yes girl’ gets you no reward or recognition, I now only say yes if I directly benefit.
8. Just like in any other industry, some academics are just assholes. I’ve really noticed how downright disrespectful and nasty some criminologists can be to their peers. I would rather be a nobody with integrity than a egotistical dickhead. Just because someone has academic credentials (that many strive for) doesn’t give them the right to treat other people like idiots, and one day it may come to bite then in the ass.
9. I really do love my discipline. I went through a period of being somewhat disengaged from Criminology but over the last 12 months the passion for improving understandings of crime and responses to offending has been reignited. So I’ve learnt that taking a new direction can give you the push of enthusiasm and drive to keep going.
10. Finally and most importantly, this year has taught me to be content with where I am in my academic career. Yes I am behind my peers in terms of international research profile, but I have so much more to be proud of. I have a happy home life, a child who makes me smile everyday and family memories to last a lifetime. And you know what, I wouldn’t trade any of that for a 5* star paper and an international keynote.
So there you have it, my top ten reflections, a well placed balance of highs and lows. I will endeavour to learn from this last year to make next year a more productive and positive experience. This blog has provided me with a much needed outlet and enabled me to reflect on my work and personal life and understand what truly matters. I hope my reflections can help others realise what’s important to them.