Coming Up for Air, Facing Reality, and One Night Stands

The last six weeks have been extremely busy between teaching a very demanding course and taking on a last minute consulting project (the result of an application for a different temporary opportunity with the firm).  Now that I have completed these pressing demands, the stark reality of vast nothingness and my failure to secure other work weigh heavily on me.  This has been made all the more tangible due to receiving yet another application rejection email yesterday.

I am just not sure what to do.  I couldn’t secure tenure track work, or even longer-term non-tenure track work.  I have applied for a range of jobs that seek my skill set.  Specifically, these jobs involve qualitative research.  I specialize in qualitative research having worked on several qualitative research contract projects outside of academe during graduate school.  I mentored dozens of graduate research projects helping students develop their methods sections.  I use qualitative methods in my own work, and have taught qualitative methods to undergrads.  Somehow, all of this experience does not qualify me for these jobs.  I am not even sure at this point that I even want a research position, but I am so tired of my skills not being valued.  For years, I struggled for recognition at the schools where I was the “temp” employee and now I struggle for any recognition of my skills at all.  I am tired of work being a series of “one night stands.”  I am a professional temp.

I am frustrated looking at job postings knowing that I could do the job, but knowing that I do not have the stated qualifications.  I apply for some of these positions, but they don’t yield any bites.  There are too many people out there who have those specific qualifications.

I am also tired of the instability of entering middle-age and not having a career path or a retirement account.  I can think of alternative careers, but they involve training.  The opportunity cost of getting my Ph.D. (time, money, loans) has made a career switch at this point difficult.  It is not impossible, but it is not appealing (more money, more time) considering the fields that interest me most.  And, who knows if there will be a job at the end.  It is a huge risk.  I took a huge risk and lost.  Where to go from here?  I don’t know.

For those considering leaving academia or are on the fence, think really hard if you want to be in your early 40s without any stable career or retirement.  Will you be ready to start over?


King (or Queen) of Contingency: Work Histories in Post-Fordist Economies

It has been a busy few weeks here. I am still wrapping up the most demanding course I ever taught. I applied for a couple of jobs, interviewed for an internship, did not get the internship, but was then offered a very short-term and somewhat intense sub-contracting non-academic research position with a consulting agency.  Despite my reservations about the time frame and deadline (I started this intense job during the last week of the semester and will have to have it completed a few days after grading finals) I decided to accept it because it is an interesting project/topic and I thought it would make a good addition to my resume during this time of transition.  I also thought that it was a good opportunity to “test” a potential new career.  (More on this topic in a future post.)

Being offered this position got me thinking about my work history.  Since graduating with my Bachelor’s degree, I have only worked at two jobs that were “permanent.”  By “permanent,” I mean that the job was not listed as seasonal, temporary, limited grant funded, or contingent.  These two positions were filing medical records (as unbelievably boring as it sounds) and working at a historic movie theater (a surprisingly fun, “cool” job that let me get my grad school homework done).  This summarizes over twenty years of my employment history in which I have worked in approximately twenty-five positions both in an out of academe.  And fitting this pattern, my first post-ac employment is contract work.  I appreciate the opportunity, but at the same time I feel like contingent royalty.