One Year Post-PhD and COVID

It was around this time last year that I submitted my PhD. I still remember being given the ‘PhD Party Hat’ of my department to wear. I was told that every PhD student before me for the last 20 years or so out of my department had worn that hat and that it symbolised a major milestone in my academic journey. Congratulations were had, and then I went home.

The submission of my thesis felt fantastic. For that time I had forgotten the struggle of trying to line up post-PhD work, but that came back the moment I got home. Fast-forward 12 months and here I am writing this blog post whilst in the midst of planning to chair my first Teaching and Learning committee meeting that will help to steer the academic body’s preparations for teaching next year. A lot has changed, COVID hit hard, and I think it is now time to reflect on the year.

The period between submitting my PhD and securing work was a period of trial and error, but ultimately, online job adverts were my saviour. Money was hard for a few months. The teaching semester was over, my institute did not employ PhD students to teach, research assistant funds had dried up, and I was relying on my partner almost completely. We were barely making ends meet.

What I did not realise is that this was all a bit of tough love. I was put in a position where I had to move outside my comfort-zone. In fact, I had to move interstate for work. I had some hesitation – I was moving states into a job with a lot of unknowns. But the position was a dream job. It was a Level B 40/40/20 position. I could do my own research, the institute had small student cohorts, and my external service was encouraged.

Then COVID hit. I was unsure how things would go, especially with the tertiary education sector struggling. But, in fact, my institute grew during COVID; while other institutes were firing staff and restructuring, we were hiring. I ended up spent most of the year working from home, but I was still connected to my colleagues which helped a lot. Less than 6 months into my job and I was encouraged to apply for the Associate Head of School for Learning and Teaching role that was coming up. I figured “why not” and applied for the experience. Lo and behold, I received the position. Since then, I have learnt a lot.

Wrapping things up, this year has been turbulent for all of us. Somehow, the stars aligned for myself during this time and I have ended up in the most wonderful job role. The anxiety and stress that preceded this job was not pleasant at all, but perhaps that was needed to help me consider moving interstate.

~ Chris

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