I Got A Uni Job

My professional goal since undergraduate days 20 years ago has been to divide my working hours between indoor research, fieldwork and teaching. And so I applied for my first academic job in June of 2003, shortly before my thesis defence. When I saw the list of applicants (this stuff is public in Sweden) and checked everybody in the bibliographical database, I was optimistic. I had way, way more publications per year after age 25 than anybody else! But the job went to a guy who was twelve years older than me. What counted wasn’t your output rate but your output sum: the thickness of your stack of published work, and your teaching experience. And later I realised that you also have to be between 41 and 45.

But I kept on applying endlessly all around northern Europe, all the while building my research portfolio and teaching a little here and there. After five years uni rules closed all opportunities reserved for junior scholars to me. (Though the people who get those jobs in Swedish archaeology aren’t actually junior. They’re middle-aged yet have recently finished their PhDs.) After seven years I began to get shortlisted for lectureships, though I didn’t get the jobs. And now, nine years and a few weeks after the deadline of that first job I applied for, I have been given my first uni job! Temping, but still!

During the autumn term, I’m going to teach Swedish landscape archaeology / history in English to exchange students at the Linnaeus University’s Växjö campus. To begin with, it’s ~100 paid hours. So my first uni job is less than three weeks long if recalculated into full time. But that’s an important start. Because teaching qualifications snowball: you get teaching jobs in relation to how many hours you’ve already taught. This job will more than double my uni teaching experience. And I suddenly realise something that seems very obvious.

An important reason that I haven’t gotten uni jobs before is probably that I haven’t paid much active attention to my teaching portfolio. I’ve concentrated on research and writing. Teaching certainly doesn’t bother me: students tell me I’m good at it. But I belong to a generation of Stockholm archaeology PhDs who never taught during grad school because the department didn’t have any external funds to let the permanent staff off from teaching duty. So we never picked up the kernel of that teaching snow ball.

Now it seems so clear to me. I should have been pestering academic personnel officers around Scandinavia informally on a monthly basis for brief temp teacher jobs like the one I just got. I should have started in 2003. I never really did that. Because I knew the way to the steady jobs I wanted lay in publications. I’ve pretty much seen temp teaching as a way for scholars to support themselves while treading water academically, one that I don’t need since I have research grants. And sure, a good publication record is a necessary requisite. But I believe, Dear Reader, that I will have reason to write more about how the snow ball of my teaching qualifications is doing in the future.

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin Zelnio
    Sweden
    August 20, 2012

    Congrats Martin! If you ever take E22 down or up, I’m right on the road. Stop by for a beer or fika.

  2. #2 Martin R
    August 20, 2012

    Thanks man! I’d love to!

  3. #3 Steven Blowney
    Academic Doldrums.
    August 20, 2012

    Congratulations! Sounds like an interesting course.

  4. #4 Mattias
    August 20, 2012

    Congrats and good luck!

  5. #5 Richard Rothaus
    August 20, 2012

    Congrats, Martin. Good bloggers make great teachers. You will do great. Lucky students.

  6. #6 Martin R
    August 20, 2012

    Thank you guys, you’re very kind!

  7. #7 Philip Mills
    United Kingdom
    August 20, 2012

    Congratulations!
    I’m in a similar position in the UK – although I am embedded in the commercial sector ( like many finds specialists) I have been able to use that to carry out primary research, and to have the freedom (family commitments aside) to be involved in projects around the Roman world. The major drawback has been not being able to access research funding, as I don’t have a proper academic association, and need the funds to pay my wage – which is generally not allowed by the main grant bodies.
    The recent economic conditions have meant that I have started applying for academic positions – and like you teaching is a weak point on my CV.
    I have been lucky to get some teaching in a nearby university, filling in for someone on research leave; on top of that I have been running CBM day schools for societies around the country ( and increasingly abroad)
    Beyond the CV benefits I have found it has immeasurably improved my conference papers, and the ways I communicate my work – and lecturing is one of the best ways of learning a subject I have found – certainly for pinpointing the areas I’m weakest in, but also when putting together material for a course highlighting whole new areas of potential research

  8. #8 Martin R
    August 20, 2012

    Woah Phil, you certainly know you’re in a recession when commercial archaeologists start to consider academia as greener pastures!

  9. #9 Bob O'H
    August 20, 2012

    Yay, congratulations! I see they’ve even given you an email address.

  10. #10 Martin R
    August 20, 2012

    Thanks Bob! No expenses spared…

  11. #11 Jonathan Jarrett
    Oxford, UK
    August 21, 2012

    Congratulations Martin, excellent news and I’m sure this will open further doors, as you say.

  12. #12 Birger Johansson
    August 21, 2012

    I see you will end up near Swedish-occupied Denmark and with some almost “wild” terrain around. In the evenings -if the weather is clear and the moon is not up- you can take your car and drive outside town 15-20 km and finally get to see the milky way. Venus should be clearly visible in the mornings.
    Some astronomy enthusiasts have been making maps showing the extent of “light pollution” so it will be easy to find spots of really dark skies. I don’t know if Mars wil be in the evening or morning sky.
    No fossils -you would have to drill trough a layer of igneous rock to reach sedimentary rock.

  13. #13 Martin R
    August 21, 2012

    Värend also has extremely large numbers of Late Neolithic gallery graves and Early Bronze Age cairns.

  14. #14 Birger Johansson
    August 21, 2012

    When you study those cairns in the outback, watch out for the aggressive carnivores terrorizing the southern provinces: http://www.thelocal.se/42684/20120817/

  15. #15 Bruno
    Belgium
    August 22, 2012

    Congratulations, Herr Professor!

  16. #16 Martin R
    August 22, 2012

    Thanks Bruno! I’m afraid I’m still just barely a Privatdozent.

  17. #17 Kristina
    August 22, 2012

    As someone who is on the hiring committee at my uni: yes, your lack of teaching experience would have been a major problem when getting hired. We are a teaching uni; while we have a lot of research going for a place our size, we need all our academic employees to be competent teachers – there is simply no space for someone whose strengths lie entirely in research.

    Anyway, should you desire to discuss teaching and didactics with someone who’s done a lot of it, you have my email.

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