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.