Guardian careers blog part 2 – and problematising networking and flexibility


October 23, 2012 by researchertransitions

The second of my Guardian careers blogs went live today and can be found here:

I haven’t got any comments about it on the Guardian website yet but I checked out the tweet button and found a few people had read and reacted to it – raising some really important points about the difficulty of being flexible once you have a family, and the general problem of talking about flexibility and networking as employability ‘skills’.

I don’t think I can paraphrase so I hope @CelebYouthUK doesn’t mind me quoting their tweet – “‘flexibility’, ‘networking’ etc are not ’employability skills’ but embedded in wider inequalities”.  They link to this article which I will certainly read – the abstract explains how “Drawing on interview data with students, staff and employers, we identify the discourses and practices through which students are produced and produce themselves as neoliberal subjects.”

I can’t really argue with the idea that as a careers adviser a lot of the time I am helping ‘produce neoliberal subjects’ and perpetuating the current system by advising students/researchers on how to ‘play the recruitment game’. While I get satisfaction from offering pragmatic advice that will be useful to some people, it is of course very troubling when people are prevented from moving forward in their career because of inequalities – when you have to say, ‘is this realistic, given your constraints?’ and if it isn’t, advise them to come up with a plan b.

I’m struggling to string my thoughts together at the moment so will leave it for the minute but definitely appreciate this food for thought and hope to further address these issues in future blogs!

2 thoughts on “Guardian careers blog part 2 – and problematising networking and flexibility

  1. anthea says:

    Interesting blog post and thanks for the link to your article. What would you suggest given that there are so many people who are highly qualified with PhDs and unable to find some a job of any sort in academia? …I understand that it’s important being able to identify the skills that one has obtained and sharpned whilst studying for a PhD but just saying that people have to come up with Plan B if plan A (which is get an academic job of some sort) fails is problematic. If Plan A is to get a job its highly likely given this current job market that it will fail, especially given that research budgets are being cut and there’s far far too many people with PhDs given the number of jobs available. So, just saying that its important to have a “plan B” is insufficient.

    • Thanks for you comment, and sorry I only just approved this after abandoning my blog for some months.

      If its not too late to ask, can I get a clarification on what you are asking – do you mean what would I suggest should change in society/academia to improve this situation? Or what would I suggest for individual PhDs planning their career? Perhaps you are asking both…

      I absolutely agree just saying you need a plan b is insufficient, it is short hand for an extremely complex career planning process that will be different for each individual. So perhaps I should write a blog post that starts to unravel that…

      Just had a look at your blog which looks very interesting so I’ll have a read and try and respond properly later.

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