Redeployment register: you’ve got to be in it to win it (1/2)

For many people, there is a stigma around adding their details on the redeployment register. While we acknowledge that the register is not perfect, we argue in the first part of this two-post series that not using it is a missed opportunity.

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that receiving “Notices of redundancy” is part and parcel in the life of research staff on temporary contracts [1]. Human Resources send these notices 3 to 5 months before the end of a fixed-term contract to inform staff that their employment is soon to be terminated [2]. I once spoke to a colleague who had been on so many short-term contracts that she’d had enough “notices of redundancy” to start wallpapering her office with them.

For those who are eligible [3] these notices also include information about the opportunities for redeployment within the university, one of which is the Redeployment (ex-Talent) register. At this juncture, it is best to be transparent: the Redeployment Register (RR) is unlikely to win a popularity contest. First impressions matter, and most people’s first impression of the register is that it is… an excel spreadsheet. Strictly, it is a fact, not an impression (it is an excel spreadsheet), but most people expect the redeployment register to be a little more user-friendly and interactive that an excel spreadsheet which can only be edited by HR.

And yet, I don’t think that its look is the biggest obstacle to staff recording their detail on the register. I was once told that a good postdoc is one who doesn’t finish their postdoc, the implication being that if you are good, you will find your next job – or the next job will find you – long before the end of your contract. Success is for overachievers. In this context, some researchers feel that adding their details on the RR is an admission of their own failure: successful researchers shouldn’t have to put their details on an excel spreadsheet.

I see things differently. Coming towards the end of a contract without knowing where our next job will come from is extremely stressful. It’s a time when most people will be looking for jobs, tailoring every CV and application to specific positions they’re applying for and if selected for an interview, preparing for it. At best it is a time-consuming process, at worst it will take a toll on your mental health. The way I see it, filling a few cells in an excel spreadsheet for recruiters across the university to have access to my profile is not the most stressful experience in the whole process.

Realistically, if your research focuses on the importance of shrub bending on tundra albedo [4] and that is all you ever want to research in your life, the RR is unlikely to be for you; instead, you should reach out directly to the people in your niche field of study.  However, if you are curious to explore a little further afield, the Redeployment Register may be exactly the right place for you to broaden your research expertise and skills.

A PI in your research institute or School may be looking for someone with your research background and skills [see part 2 of this blog for personal stories]. Or, with the number of interdisciplinary projects now being funded, you could become the expert in your field in a project with collaborators across Schools or even Colleges. This is what happened to Kathryn Nash, School of Law, now a Chancellor’s fellow, whose stint on the Redeployment Register led her to collaborate with colleagues in the School of Geosciences [read about her story here]. Or… who knows? The more open you are to possibilities, the more exciting having your details on a register consulted by internal recruiters across disciplines and from all Colleges could be.

Ultimately, the stigma surrounding the RR is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the fewer people register their detail on it, the less choice there will be for recruiters. As a consequence, some will go on it already convinced that they won’t find their happiness among the handful of candidates. But who knows, you may have all the skills and expertise one PI always wanted in a researcher but was afraid to dream of. What is certain is that if you don’t add your details, you will never know.

 

More information:

[1] – We broadly define “research staff” here as anyone employed on temporary research-only contracts.

[2]  – Staff who are ineligible to register on the RR will receive only one notice of redundancy.

[3] – This blog post discusses redeployment of research staff, but all staff at risk of redundancy who meet the eligibility criteria can ask for their details to be registered. See https://www.ed.ac.uk/human-resources/policies-guidance/managing-redundancy.

[4] – Yes, there is such a thing, and yes there are absolutely fascinating papers written on the subject (you may recognise the name of the author of this blog on some of said fascinating papers)

Hidden references to Jane Austen and to the title of a 1972 film are intentional.

 

Dr Cecile Menard, the author of this blog post, splits her time between IAD and the School of GeoSciences. Her research focuses on how our research practice and culture (the decisions, assumptions and biases researchers make and have) influence our research paths and outcome. You can contact her on cecile.menard@ed.ac.uk.

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