Almost didn’t make it…

I joined the Politics Department in Hull in 1977, but it almost didn’t happen.  There was a lecturing post in the Department advertised in the summer – it was actually in comparative politics, but as it was virtually the only politics post advertised that year I applied for it.  Shortly afterwards I was away, as were my parents.  They got back on a Sunday and ‘phoned me – I was visiting another relative – to say that a telegram had arrived asking if I was planning to attend the university for interview.  Fortunately, the telegram alerted them to the fact that a letter had already arrived from the University of Hull.  Without the telegram, they would probably have held on to letter until I got home some days later.  As it was, the letter invited me to interview.  The interview was scheduled for the Monday – the following day.  I had to get my things together and then drive to Hull – this was before the Humber Bridge was built, so driving from Lincolnshire to Hull took much longer than it does nowadays.  I got there in the evening: a room was booked for me in the hotel (then called the Newland Park Hotel) across the road from the main University entrance.

I presented myself at the university the following morning for a meeting with members of staff and then for the interview, which took place in the administration building (pictured).  I think there were four or five candidates who were interviewed.  We were asked to stay until the end of the afternoon, when the panel planned to make a decision.  We sat in the main Council Chamber while the panel deliberated.  I was then invited back to the interview room to be offered the post. 

So within a little over 24 hours of knowing I was being invited for interview, I was offered the job.  But it could have been so very different.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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9 Responses to Almost didn’t make it…

  1. Frank W. Summers III says:

    Lord Norton,

    A compelling story. Often recognized principle governing lesser principles like serendipity, near misses, other things as well. Of courseyou had a working relationship with your parents, Your parents were reasonably dutiful and attentive people. You had the wherewithal to quickly adjust plans and get where you were going without asking for extensions of time and tolerance. You had the physical stamina to make a good impression after the ordeals of travel and stress. You had the right mixture of flexibility and commitment to accept a quickly proffered offer. All in all the process rather worked I think. I truly mean no disrespect to serendipity, coincidence, luck, divine providence and the fairies of the British Isles — had you not gotten the word you would surely have been disadvantaged and you could easily not have gotten the word.

  2. Princeps Senatus says:

    Call me a fatalist, but I believe there is such a thing as destiny.
    I would not have believed anybody if they had told me five year ago that I would be working in my dream organisation in another country. I had to fight for migrating to the UK and for getting my dream job, but I’m sure that Lady Luck helped.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Princeps Senatus: I am not sure about fate, but as a result of this and other experiences I am very conscious of how much luck plays a part. This is one thing on which I would disagree with Margaret Thatcher. I do not take the view that because I have achieved something, everyone else can do it as well. Much depends on being at the right place at the right time. I accept that one can do an awful lot to help create one’s own luck, but not everything is in one’s own hands. That realisation makes me enormously grateful for what I have achieved. It also makes me aware of the value of the observation ‘There but for the grace of God…’.

      • ladytizzy says:

        And then there is serendipity which, by chance, I was discussing with my husband just this morning.

        The question was: exactly what is an invention and, by extension, who can claim to be an inventor? Did Mrs Thatcher’s ‘invention’ of soft ice-cream influence her granting of intellectual property rights to universities? Has this decision helped or hindered inventors and/or entrepreneurs?

        It helped me wake up.

      • Lord Norton says:

        ladytizzy: Is this a bit like Al Gore ‘inventing’ the Internet?

      • ladytizzy says:

        Pretty much! 😀

  3. Paul says:

    I do miss the BPLS seminars with tea and cake. Not that I was very good at baking cakes mind!

  4. Benguela says:

    In yesterday’s Times, Danny Finkelstein wrote a nice piece about James Q. Wilson. Asked for his advice by a young conservative academic, Wilson apparently said that, to survive as a conservative in academia, you have to work twice as hard and be four times as nice. What would you say?

    (I think a young conservative academic in the UK would have to exceed that a number of times over… or, safer, just not let on.)

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