Letter: PhD prejudice

September 21, 2001

Chris Willis's letter ("Want a job? Don't mention the PhD", THES , August 17) struck a chord. Working towards a PhD, especially as a mature student, requires determination and effort.

Employers assume that people do it to get an academic post and cannot comprehend that some are fuelled by a desire to find something new. Even promethean figures have to earn a living. They may have overcome fatigue, burn-out, adversities, financial problems, family stress. But overcoming prejudice proves more difficult.

Last November, I was brought in as an assistant to a publishing project on Iran, my area of specialism, by the project manager who was familiar with my work.

When I met the publisher, he asked why I was prepared to take such a "menial job". I answered that I welcomed the experience. Although I had never worked in publishing before, I contributed significantly to the project because I know the country, language and culture. I gained an excellent insight into publishing.

In conventional interviews it is difficult to explain that candidates can make a positive contribution even to a job "below" them. Such prejudice wastes talent and opportunity. Interviewers should be trained to recognise potential even when it does not fit into neat pigeonholes we have created.

Sofia A. Koutlaki
Heston, Middlesex

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