Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.
Job title and company: Training and consultancy in gender and LGBT equality. Career development coaching (self-employed).
Approximate salary range for your type of role: Extremely varied!
Twitter: @julie_scan LinkedIn
I completed my PhD in English Literature, Gender and Sexuality in 2002, having studied part-time. I then worked on contracts as a Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University for two consecutive years. I got a permanent Lectureship and subsequently Senior Lectureship at Northumbria University, where I worked for 12 years. I left academia in May 2017 to pursue a values-based career where I could use my skills working for social justice and also continue to support individuals to develop themselves.
I felt I had achieved what I wanted to achieve as an academic and with 20 years left until retirement, I was ready for a fresh challenge and wanted to expand my horizons, to learn and to grow. Academia can be all-consuming, so a couple of years before leaving, I worked hard to carve out time to explore my interests in gender and LGBT equality, through volunteering and trusteeship. These interests were part of my academic work but branching out got me circulating in different worlds. I was able to pick up a little work training schoolteachers around LGBT equality and thoroughly enjoyed it. I started to see what other careers ‘looked like’ and to enjoy the learning that went with that. I went to networking events, met with people who were doing work I admired and took all the opportunities I could to get out there and explore my interests in different circles. I also undertook a coaching qualification before I left academia. Upon leaving, I applied for some jobs but in reality I think I knew that I wanted to work for myself. I needed some thinking time and referred to myself for a while as a ‘recovering academic’!
I committed to setting myself up as self-employed a year ago. I provide training in gender and LGBT equality, diversity and inclusion and I provide professional/career development coaching.
For my training, I create bespoke sessions or programmes for organisations and groups, sometimes working on my own, sometimes collaboratively. For example, I have designed sessions ‘Being an LGBT Ally’ for the NE Business and Innovation Centre, ‘Gender and Coaching’ and ‘(How) is Gender Relevant to Coaching?’ for the Association for Coaching’s Coaching Exchanges. Working with the LGBT Federation, I work collaboratively to design and deliver training for schoolteachers across the North East on Anti-Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Bullying. I am shortly to work with an organisation called Changing Relations, where I will be delivering awareness-raising sessions on domestic abuse. I am also starting work with Fowlkes Consulting on LGBT equality. I love the varied nature of these projects and that they are all rooted in my values, which means that the work feels meaningful and rewarding to me. I also love being my own boss where I am able to select and create work that aligns with my values.
A current consultancy project I am undertaking is evaluating the ‘Women of Tyneside’ Project at Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums. In this work, I am designing and facilitating focus groups with community groups to assess the impact of their being involved with the project. I have so far worked with school pupils and a carers’ group.
Given my networks, most of my individual coaching clients are academics, often trying to seek better work/life balance, enhance their ways of working or who are exploring alternative career pathways. I am also part of a recently launched coaching collective, ‘Yes We Can’, which supports the not-for-profit sector in the North East.
In addition to these strands of my own work, I have a part-time temporary contract at Sunderland University as the Athena SWAN Manager, supporting work around the Gender Equality Charter Mark for Higher Education Institutions.
Compared to doing research in academia, my work feels much more varied and more in my control. I set my own goals aligned with my values, which means I am more likely to achieve them. As researchers we spend a lot of time on our own and in my field, publishing an article or a monograph was the driver. Yet frequently the audience for these is a limited academic audience. I feel the work I do now, sharing my expertise in a different way beyond academics and students and occasional community events, has a more immediate impact on the social world. For me, this is incredibly rewarding.
My role requires me to pay close attention to detail, keep up with latest research and guidance and I need an ability to communicate often complex and sensitive material to diverse audiences. These are skills I developed throughout my PhD and my subsequent experience as an academic. Although my current career does not require a PhD, it is certainly respected, perhaps more so than within academia where ‘everyone’ has a PhD! My academic expertise helps me stand out from the crowd in a competitive market.
I left academia with nothing set up which was either bold or bonkers or both! At times it was scary but it has been truly liberating. I enjoy the learning experience and challenge of working for myself and I can see that I am growing personally and professionally through this process. People often have the perception that working for yourself might be lonely but I am often at networking/CPD events and have made fantastic contacts and colleagues in so many different fields. I have broadened my networks rather than reduced them!
Researchers and academics thinking of leaving academia often find it hard to answer their own question: ‘But what else could I possibly do??’. My answer is ‘You are a highly skilled professional – you can do pretty much whatever you want!’ I recommend having fun exploring the possibilities. You don’t need to get it ‘right’ first time. Following your interests will take you in the right direction.
Where can researchers look for jobs like yours? Being self-employed is not a ‘job’ per se but a job you create for yourself. When creating my website, I looked for inspiration as to how others showcased themselves and their experiences. I find that networking is my most successful way of gaining work along with applying for freelance training opportunities as they arise with organisations I am interested in. Procurement websites and portals also offer opportunities.
What professional/accrediting bodies or qualifications are relevant to where you work? There are no ‘must have’ qualifications either as a trainer or a coach. However, for coaching a recognised coaching qualification is increasingly expected as is membership of a professional coaching body. This is especially the case for picking up contracts within organisations (as opposed to working with individual clients). I have an ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring and am a Member of the Association for Coaching. Another highly recognised professional coaching body is the International Federation of Coaching. As a trainer, my PhD is relevant for the specialism and skills it evidences. Some kind of teaching qualification is useful. For example, I have a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and while this is geared to teaching in an H.E. context, it is adaptable to teaching/training adults more generally. It also gives me Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.