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?