I never blog about ERC (early career researcher for the non academics) problems and job instability. There are many others who have done it great, and have expressed far better than I can what I think -and what I feel. But, within three months of the end of my fellowship, I wanted to share my experience to say, to anyone who can relate to it, that hey! you’re not alone in this! And that this precarity it’s not your fault. NOT YOUR FAULT.
Like most of my women colleagues, I’m not particularly good at thinking high of me. Even if I love what I do, and I think that the stuff I research is the most amazing thing in the world, I always have this constant insecurity about what I do -about what others are going to think of what I do, to be more precise. Like my girl friends, I will only self indulge myself thinking that, at least, I’m doing my best. That I’m trying to do my best.
Of course, comparing myself to others does not particularly help in this.
But one morning I had like a “click” in my mind, and something changed. Let’s change the perspective for a while. Do I lack skills that others have? Yes, of course. I don’t have a degree from Oxbridge. I didn’t do my PhD in a top university. Nobody in my current network knows my supervisor. For god’s sake, I don’t even speak English properly.
But these things are not my weaknesses. These are my strengths. In spite of all this, I made it. I got an amazing fellowship and I’m working with the best colleagues ever -both intellectual and personally. I came from nowhere, and now I’m here.
I don’t want to turn this into a ‘self-made’ myth. That’s neoliberal crap and it’s usually a lie -working hard does not guarantee success, in the same way that ‘success’ does not mean having worked hard. Besides, any story is the story of *one* individual.
But I do believe that we have to take into account privilege when thinking about ‘success’ and opportunities in academia. Caroline Magennis recognised in a fantastic blog post that “I don’t have that relaxed confidence that people have when they’ve been to certain institutions or have never had to worry about rent.” Nailed.
But again, as I read in twitter other day -and sorry but can’t find where!-, I won’t admire someone who have never had to think about making dinner. That’s the point. Our concept of ‘merit’ has to change. If success comes from having someone taking care of your daily needs, sorry, but I’m not impressed. If you have been struggling to take care of children or relatives while doing research, or just needed a paid job to survive -impressed.
So let’s change the perspective. If, in spite of all this, we have made it through here -we can do it. This is not positive thinking, it’s just self love. Of course being positive does not change the fact that there are very few jobs -to change that we need political action. But I find much easier to deal with the whole job application process if I remember that I came from nowhere, and now I’m here.