Academia to Third Sector Science and Back Again

By Laura Wilkinson (@LLWSwansea), who embraced an alternative career route to her lectureship at Swansea University

GraduationThere was a time, relatively recently, when I believed that my academic career was over. Indeed, a number of people had told me as much and I believed them. This is because after my PhD I turned down a traditional post-doctoral position in favour of a research role within a third sector organisation.

So why did I make this, so called, career-ending decision? The organisation I wanted to work for impressed, astounded and humbled me – they conducted applied high quality research in the area of domestic abuse. The findings were used to improve the interventions that victims received. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be on their research team.

psy1214pOFCAs with many jobs, there comes a time when you start to think about moving on. At around this time I read an article in The Psychologist (publication produced by The British Psychological Society [BPS] for its members) about the diverse careers of some the most prestigious female members of the BPS, including academics. This diversity existed for as many reasons as career paths; some female centric and some not. The benefits of having different experiences were clear; from providing students with examples from outside academia, to real-world ideas for research or a deepening empathy for a particular patient group.
I felt very inspired and took a look at academic vacancies. Whilst writing applications and attending interviews, the benefits of conducting research that I was deeply passionate about and motivated by came to fruition in the form of ideas and potential collaborators. In the interview that led to my appointment as Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, I talked about my experiences and research within the third sector more than anything else.

Perhaps this is not a female issue per se but it is an issue that for whatever reason seems to affect women to a greater extent. The message of that article and the message that I echo wholeheartedly, is not to let experiences that don’t ‘fit’ with the patriarchal system that we inhabit hinder us because we think we don’t fit. Rather, embrace those experiences and apply for them because they actually enrich research, enrich teaching and enrich life!

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