Name & Social Media Handle
Zoë Port – zoejoyrylands
Lecturer in Management & Co-Director, Healthy Work Group at Massey University in Aotearoa New Zealand
Finished PhD in…
Elevator spiel of PhD
My PhD looked at the experiences of people working in multiple jobs (multiple job-holders) – something that was actually inspired by the students I taught in my first year of lecturing, many of whom were balancing multiple jobs alongside their study. The literature reports mixed – both good and bad – experiences for these people, so I wanted to explore why this was. I sought to uncover whether there may be different “types” of multiple job holder; my findings suggest that there are, and that these different “types” have different experiences.
What have you done since finishing your PhD?
Personally… I got married! Something that I just couldn’t find time to plan while finishing my PhD.
Professionally, in November 2021 I was offered a permanent role as a Lecturer in the School of Management – the same School where I’d been an Assistant Lecturer for 4 years fixed-term during my PhD. Permanent (or tenured, as they’re called in the US) academic roles are really competitive and hard to come by in New Zealand, so this was a dream come true. I especially didn’t expect any jobs to come up for a while with the impact that COVID-19 had on the university sector. I cried many (happy) tears when I was offered the role at the end of a long recruitment process! I still tear up now remembering that feeling.
Since starting officially in December I’ve been getting into the swing of a balanced academic role (with teaching, research and service), while working on publishing from my PhD. A lot of that time has been working mostly from home due to the Omicron situation (with help from my cat, as pictured), but we’re starting to be back in the office more now – which makes the new job feel more real! I’ve also started co-supervising a PhD student, which feels a bit surreal having just finished mine! I’m constantly in awe of how diligent our student is, and I think about how she’s so much more focused than I was.
How do the skills learnt in your PhD assist you in your current role
Since it’s an academic role, the research skills translate directly across as you’d expect. I used mixed-methods, with one qualitative study then a quantitative study in my PhD. I’m really glad I did, as it keeps my options open for the research I want to do now. But probably the skill I use most across all aspects of my job (teaching, research, service) is definitely time management and prioritisation. Now that I’ve finished my PhD and actually get to spend time on all the different aspects of academic life (whereas during my PhD I was always aware that had to be my priority) it’s an incredibly busy job! It’s really easy to get overwhelmed if I don’t prioritise well.
What are your future plans?
I feel like I’ve got everything lined up as it needs to be professionally, and have lots of exciting opportunities, so for me the big thing is going to be prioritising work-life balance to make sure my work is sustainable. As someone who researches workplace wellbeing, it’s embarrassingly not my strong suit!
I worked full-time during my PhD, and less than a year out from completion I took on a role as Co-Director of my university’s largest degree programme – so those four years were literally non-stop for me and I’ve definitely become a workaholic (I also have ADHD which means I love shiny new projects and taking on way too much). Now that I have more breathing space, I’m really trying to train myself to have a better work-life balance. I know if I was to try and keep up the pace I did during my PhD, it wouldn’t be sustainable and I’d burn out completely. This is way too common in academia! So – that’s my biggest plan – to find that balance.
I also want to use the privilege I have now as a permanent academic to advocate for others – both inside and outside of academia. Inside academia, I’m trying to advocate for other Early Career Academics – especially for having early career voices represented in decision-making. Outside of academia, I feel I have a duty to advocate for workers at the policy/government level, particularly where my research has been able to shine a light on vulnerable groups of workers and how they could be better protected.
If you could give one piece of advice to new PhD students, what would it be?
Trust your gut, about the decisions you have to make during your PhD (and after!). Sometimes you may not know what the right decision is, and in that case, definitely take others’ advice. But if you know deep down that something is the right decision for you, trust that instinct.
This happened to me a few times but in particular, during the last year of my PhD. I was nervous about securing future employment and made the decision to apply for a role as Co-Director of the Bachelor of Business at my university (which was a total long shot and wasn’t meant to be for someone without a PhD, or even a junior academic in general). I was offered the job and accepted it, but I had so many people telling me I was crazy. When my appointment was announced, I had so many emails congratulating me, but also telling me I was crazy. Of course, they did have my best interests at heart – they worried that it would stop me finishing my PhD. But I knew in my heart that having guaranteed employment since my fixed-term role ended the next year would make it easier for me mentally to keep going. And it did! It definitely paid off, and has led to incredible opportunities I definitely wouldn’t have had otherwise. But it was such a hard decision, and if I hadn’t decided to trust my gut, I would have missed out.
Your tough decisions may be career-related, or they may be related to your research – about your topic, method, or something else… Do definitely be open to listening to others’ perspectives, including your supervisors, but don’t be afraid to ultimately trust your gut. You’re the one who has to live with your decisions.
Anything else you would like to share
Can I squeeze in some more advice? The best PhD is a finished PhD! Sometimes you may have to make pragmatic decisions about your research/the finer details, for the sake of finishing. And also… in the words of Terry Pratchett, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”