Boost your path to employment with academia
Alex McInch is currently a lecturer in the Sociology of Sport at the University of Gloucestershire. After leaving secondary school just after commencing his A-level studies, Alex undertook a modern apprenticeship in stone masonry and subsequently worked in that area for eight years. It was then that a return to education was sought, with a view to becoming a PE teacher and Alex enrolled on a HND at the famous Cardiff School of Sport at Cardiff Metropolitan University (formerly UWIC).
Alex graduated with first class honours on the BSc (Hons) Sport Management program after performing better than anticipated, and it was this success that prompted Alex to move away from a career in compulsory education to Higher Education. Whilst completing a Master’s degree in the Sociology of Sport, Alex commenced teaching on a franchise course at a local college, alongside which Alex completed a Postgraduate Certificate for teaching in Higher Education.
Alongside his current lectureship, Alex is nearing completion of a PhD within the Sociology of Education, with a projected submission date of 2015. Alex will now provide some helpful employability advice based on his own journey through academia.
Work Experience: Never pass on an opportunity, either good or bad!
There are many ways to enhance your employability whilst at University, and I chose to get involved in as many opportunities as possible. I first took up some work as a student ambassador with the marketing department and this really opened my eyes to other areas of a University other than just Sport. I would host school visit days and help out on Open days and eventually I was asked to attend UCAS HE recruitment fairs and this was a great networking experience for me. I got to meet people from other institutions and learn about how they function and that proved invaluable for gaining a deeper understanding of the sector that I wanted to work in.
As a result of the ambassador work I was offered the chance to work on a residential outreach project that brought in a group of year 9 secondary school children from socially deprived areas. The objective of the residential was to promote Higher Education to pupils where HE was probably not an option for some of them. Again, this experience was invaluable and a real CV enhancer because of the skills learnt Whilst at University I also worked as a fitness instructor within the sports facilities. Again this role helped me to build relationships with a variety of people across the institution and obviously enhanced my communication skills.
It might sound like I’ve had an easy ride and things just happened for me, but getting into lecturing was not an easy process! There were no full-time lecturing jobs available at the time I was looking, but to keep as close to the dream as possible I was appointed as the lead administrator in the School of Sport at UWIC. Although it wasn’t directly what I wanted to do, the role still gave me great exposure into the inner workings of the quality assurance/regulatory processes of HE and this would prove invaluable experience that would eventually enhance an application form.
As a result of being in the right place at the right time and willing to help colleagues, I was offered some teaching hours as part of a professional development module and this involved a two-day residential as part of the student’s assessment. Yes it was cold and yes it was hard work but my willingness then opened more doors for me and I was subsequently offered more teaching hours. I gained more experience of the role of lecturer and by this stage I ticked the majority of boxes that potential employers would look for.
Finally a job opportunity emerged and I did contemplate not applying for it, as I had received several knock backs in the months previous and my confidence was low if the truth be told. However, I reflected and thought that I need to keep going and not give up, I applied for the position and was successfully appointed. I am very grateful for the opportunity but I also think that my perseverance and hard work were major factors in finally being given the opportunity to do what I love.
- Learn from experience: All experiences whether good/bad are beneficial. Sometimes doing something you don’t enjoy confirms that something is not right for you and that can prove invaluable.
- Do your research: Look at how your potential career’s jobs are advertised and what skills they are looking for. If it is possible to gain relevant experience in some way (even unpaid) then your CV can only flourish from self-sought experience. Set yourself apart from other candidates in your field.
- Speak to people: Ask people already doing the job how they got into their career. For some it was easier than others, but there will be people out there who have had to work tremendously hard to get where they are and will be happy to share their story with you.
- Be an opportunist: If something arises that is related to your chosen career in some way. Shape or form then go for it. The value-added is immense and will demonstrate a holistic knowledge base and indeed versatility to any prospective employer.
- Do not give up: I have suffered my fair share of knock backs and most professional industries are obviously highly competitive in the current climate, so people do get let down. What sets people apart though is the willingness to improve based on feedback received, so always seek feedback whether successful or not and act on it. Your CV will only grow as a result.