PhD Stories

Advice and support from our Doctoral community.

Discover what life has to offer after completing a PhD as Aly Flint reflects on her experience as an Early Career Researcher. After looking for work in the academic job market, Flint found The Brilliant Club, which offers rewarding and flexible work teaching university-style short courses to secondary school students, allowing her to create bespoke courses based on her current research.

Recently, I was asked to reflect on what life had to offer after PhD for a not so young, yet still an Early Career Researcher. I have to say, in all honesty, that this was certainly not the avenue I presumed. Although I had done the PhD for my personal benefit, I thought I would fall effortlessly into a position within my home university, with my own office space. Well, how misguided those thoughts were! I came to realise that I was living in the past, when having a PhD automatically secured you a post. Just to clarify, I am a historian of Ancient Greece and Rome and dead languages, and the not so ancient, the long nineteenth-century, need I say more.

After a few forays into the academic job market such as the very, very short-term research post and extremely fixed-term lecturing post, I began to look elsewhere. A fellow PhD’er who knew I was looking for a new challenge invited me to a presentation that was being given by The Brilliant Club. Her exact words were, ‘Why not come along, you may be pleasantly surprised, there are opportunities for someone just like you, brilliant, enthusiastic’. I must say that I had never heard of this club, but my colleague was enthusing profusely over them. Now, suitably intrigued, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. To be fair, I had nothing to lose, and who knew, The Brilliant Club may be just what I was seeking. My colleague was correct, and let’s just say the rest is history.

So, what is The Brilliant Club?
Of course, you can google it, and why wouldn’t you?
But, why not read what follows, and then google it.

Before I explain the complexities of the job and the Club, I want to say that I am not trying to recruit. This is my personal experience of working with The Brilliant Club. Firstly, it is rewarding. Secondly, you get to choose how much work you take on. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, you are valued and treated with respect.

Much of my work is done from home. The other is going into secondary schools to teach select small groups of students. I work in disadvantaged areas where the pits and the mills are no more. I get the opportunity to create bespoke short courses at  university undergraduate level and style, based on my current research. We, at The Brilliant Club, aim to give state school students a helping hand to get a chance of applying and going to a Russell Group university. So far, I have run a course on Nineteenth-Century Epistolary Cultures and also one on Clubbing in the Regency. The rewards of teaching supra-curricula subjects to secondary school pupils are that, in most cases, the students want to get involved, they offer different and insightful perspectives on your research and show their appreciation at being treated as adults with opinions that matter.

What other work have I undertaken since my PhD?

I took a three month internship with Derby Museums and Art Gallery as a PAS photo editor, working with the finds liaison officer for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, creating publishable images for the British Museum’s website. It was interesting and enjoyable, whilst improving my photo editing skills. For those unfamiliar with PAS, this is the Portable Antiquities Scheme run by the British Museum and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of archaeological objects are discovered, many of these by metal detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening, or going about their daily work. Finds recorded with the Scheme help advance knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales.

During the first lockdown of the pandemic, as a direct consequence of working for The Brilliant Club, I was offered a one month position as a Quality Assurer for Oak National Academy Online. Working as part of a small team, our efforts were echoed nationally, as colleagues came from all over the globe due to enforced lockdown and extended country stays.  As a company we hit the envisaged target, creating 10,000 quality assured online lessons, covering all subjects for students from ages 11 to 16. Each lesson consisted of a video, worksheet, and online quiz. Fun, but hard work.

Then again through The Brilliant Club, and as a direct consequence of COVID, I joined the National Tutoring Programme, mentoring and teaching secondary students who had fallen behind in their English studies. I have to be honest here, I did not fully enjoy or connect with this work, so I simply accepted a single term. Additionally, I have worked as an exam invigilator for a large energy company, taught at a TEFL summer school and volunteered for the National Trust, all of which were short term contracts. Having enrolled with Protocol Education for agency work, I am now constantly besieged with requests to work as a TA or SEN, and as a Cover Supervisor in the local area schools; this I find slightly disturbing because it indicates an extreme lack of secondary and primary school teachers within the state sector.

As you will have gathered by now, life after a PhD can be truly varied. Nonetheless, I must add a word of caution; the work has been rewarding, and while it has not made me rich in the money sense, it has given me a sense of well-being, freedom to choose my hours, and the time to travel, with the present pandemic excepted. While having sought a career straight out of academia has provided the opportunity of trying new avenues and given me time to reflect, it is nonetheless pertinent to note that once out of academia it can prove extremely hard to re-join.

So, what does my life, or should I say career, hold for me now, four and half years on? To be perfectly frank, I have no idea. I still miss writing for a PhD. It gave me a goal to do my research, around which I structured my day. In fact, knowing what I know now, I would like to read for another PhD, but sadly money restricts this. Am I mad, you say? Definitely not. On reflection I thoroughly enjoyed the PhD stress; the sleepless nights, organising conferences and all that coffee and cake consumed, to reach the final and ultimate academic conversation, my Viva, that life changing event. No longer, Miss, Ms, Madam or whatever. I often take time to consider how extraordinary it would be to not only have one Dr for my title, but two. Dr, Dr, would certainly cause a stir in some scenarios, and a laugh in others.

Now finally, as I said previously, I have no definite plan for the future. All I can say at present is that I am looking for a new research project, (or the offer of an unfilled PhD post, ha ha), so anyone out there requiring research help, proof reading and study advice please feel free to DM me. Thank you for reading my story.

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