Case study

Lecturer — Simon Williams

After working as a youth worker for 14 years, Simon completed a degree and moved into a lecturing role. Find out what he enjoys most and the challenges he faces

How did you get your job as a lecturer?

Having graduated with a BA Hons Applied Youth and Community Work from the University of Derby in 2013, I kept in contact with the university through my job at the Multi-Faith Centre, which is independent of the university, but situated on university grounds. I maintained good relations with the institution and the teaching team through providing guest speakers and hosting placements so I was in a good position to find out about lecturing opportunities.

I successfully applied for a maternity cover post in the social and community studies department. At the end of the maternity cover I as offered a permanent contract.

What's a typical working day like as a lecturer?

I spend some days teaching 9.30am to 5.30pm, while other days are filled with marking. I still have one day a week to develop placements and this allows me to visit and interact with agencies across the East Midlands. This helps me stay up to date with what's happening in practice and to keep in touch with agencies like the D2N2 Youth Work Alliance, which brings practitioners together across four local authority areas.

Currently, we're also undertaking revalidations, which is exciting but time consuming. On top of all that is research and writing, which is often squeezed in due to time commitments.

What do you enjoy most about being a lecturer?

I love interacting with students who are such a valuable source of knowledge and bring so much learning to the group. They help challenge me professionally and personally.

I also work with an excellent team; we're very supportive of each other, which is vital especially when you’re new and don't know much.

What are the challenges?

I was told when I started that this would be the most stressful job I will ever have. Although I don't feel that myself, there is a lot that's required of you and it certainly isn't a nine to five job. It makes turning off very hard.

How relevant was your degree?

My degree was the bedrock for my profession. I'd been a youth worker for 14 years before doing the degree, and I learned so much more about engaging others professionally. Also, the experience of presentations and other work-based experience gained during the degree has helped me to be a better lecturer.

What are your career ambitions?

I would like to get more involved in research and writing and am starting a Masters (in education).

After that, I'm looking forward to doing a doctorate in research.

What's your advice to others wanting to become a lecturer?

  • Get connected to a university and gain experience - become an associate if you can.
  • Recognise that lecturing is not just about teaching. It's only a third of what you do, so make sure you have skills in other areas such as research.
  • Emotional resilience is key to coping with university structures and management, as is reflective practice.
  • Recognise the many benefits of working at a university, for example the reduced cost of study, available teaching qualifications and opportunities to attend conferences, and make use of them all.

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