Dear future researchers
Before I offer you advice it’s best know who it’s coming from. I was born in Huddersfield, a post industrial town on the edge of the Pennines in West Yorkshire, UK. As a child I desperately wanted to be a gymnast (preferably Olga Korbut) or a pilot. I didn’t have the bendiness or eyesight for either. As an adult I am still easily distracted, with poor attention to detail, and a need to be liked (my co-researchers will vouch for this I’m sure). On the plus side though I think I am relatively calm in adversity and nurturing. I’m not overly ambitious but I do need to succeed.
My move into academia and tourism was pure happenstance. I scraped a degree in Marketing and Engineering worked for engineering companies for two years and then sold up and went traveling. When the two years fun travel time was up I decided a teaching career was for me and did a post graduate qualification in teaching in further education. My first academic jobs were at Bradford College and a college in Bangkok teaching Business Administration. I studied a masters degrees in Marketing Management and one in Statistics and then my real academic life began with a Lecturing job at Leeds Metropolitan University in the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Events. I’ve been there ever since.
My worst experience as a researcher was the classic – not turning on the Dictaphone and missing one of the best focus groups I’ve had. My best experience was the opportunity to get to know the amazing participants in my research with older women.
In terms of challenges, I expect everyone of us has come up against the same issues. For me, up until recently, it was always trying to carve out the time to do my research. In the early stages of my research career I was a single parent of three children under ten. I look back at myself then and wonder how I did my PhD and wrote first book whilst being a Course Leader with a heavy teaching load. I think I just decided that 9pm to 12pm every day would be research/writing time. There was some element of the energy of youth but also I was driven to get to a position where I could do more meaningful research.
Now, to make sure I have time for the important things, I fully plan my diary to include things for me. I block out time for a lunch time walk and never work weekends. I try and get as much done in the mornings as possible so afternoons are for firefighting. This is only possible though as I also work with excellent co-researchers and colleagues who can relieve the pressure when needed. Nowadays I prioritise home and family over work whenever possible. As much as I love my job it is just a job.
If I were to advise my younger self I’d tell her to learn to relax more, learn to just do nothing sometimes, don’t be so driven, don’t plan your life so much – things change and often for the best, realise how much you worry your parents and be kinder to them. Find a job you love and stick with it. I am so lucky to have one of the best jobs working with the most amazing people and that makes everything else easier.
Leeds Beckett University, UK