Thursday, December 08, 2011

Selling Out? Or, How Long Does One Wait?

This is the question: How long do I wait on trying to get a full-time academic job before I decide to get off the pot?

I live in an area where there are more schools (colleges, community colleges, universities) per square inch than probably anywhere else in the country. Theoretically, my chances are good that I would *eventually* land some sort of full-time position, though probably teaching comp classes. In the meantime, we cannot afford to live forever with me being employed only part-time. I've found out some good news, that I'll actually get to teach a summer course in my field, which is great! Unfortunately, the fall assignments have already been handed out, and I'm still down to two classes.

On one hand, I know that once Eliza is in school, that will free up about $500 a month. And then, a mere 2 1/2 years later, Amelia will be in school, and there's another $500 a month. Of course, by that point, we will surely have to actually purchase a new vehicle and take on a car payment (something we haven't had since the first year we were married). Will something come up during that time? Who knows...

On the other hand, I want things! I want to do things! I want to go out for dinner, take the kids to Disney on Ice, a movie matinee...I want to be able to buy lounge pants just because I like them and I could use them. We can't do those things on my part-time budget. When I have money, I don't feel the urge to spend it. When I don't have money, it really bothers me, I feel trapped, and I start thinking about jumping ship altogether.

Like, what if I could get hired at a drug company? Sure, I'd be selling out, but I'd have money, right? No, I shoud try to draw on my skills....wait, I don't think I can sell free-lance literary criticism. Okay, how about a middle ground? There's a full-time administrative assistant position open at the Planned Parenthood office in Nearby Big New England Town. That would still be something I'm passionate about. I've looked at local listings, and there are no part-time administrative positions that would allow me to keep teaching and stay active in academia. I could go back to the banking industry. Of course, any of the options that take me out of academia essentially mean that I can never go back. And what the fuck does that mean?

It means my heart breaking more than a little bit. It means feeling like I've let down my advisor and completely wasted her time, as well as the time of my other committee members. It means forever wanting to slit my wrists when I make that student loan payment every month. It means that I might as well shit all over that PhD I worked so fucking hard for. But really, isn't that what it might come to?


Anonymous said...

Don't wait.

M said...

For what it is worth (and I fully realize it is likely not worth much), I don't think it is selling out. Plus, you do have other options than the ones you listed. There are many private high schools in your area, and many pay well. There are agencies you could register with that would help you find a job, for a relatively small fee (a percentage of your first paycheck, I believe). I have good friends who went that route in your area, and these friends are really happy teaching at the secondary level. One has even continued publishing and conferencing. Also, would a full-time gig teaching comp be so bad? I know how much you love teaching. Why not capitalize on that?

As for your advisor, you haven't let her down. You finished. She will respect whatever decision you make.

L said...

I hear you!!! Especially on the not having money and not being able to do so many things. I've known what that feel ALL MY LIFE and most of the time I think that this will never end and we'll never have ANY money.

I like what M said. I just feel very very sorry that you have those loans. :( I hope it's not a lot.

In any case, you went to graduate school because you were passionate about your subject and teaching and that's great, don't berate yourself for things that are out of your control (the awful market, the large numbers of phd people that the universities don't care to hire as full time, etc.).

And, in the end... I feel like you do have many options after all and you should definitely pursue them.

feMOMhist said...

grr ate my nice long post from earlier

to recap, for personal reasons I ended up in academic admin for a while. it pays very well. It doesn't suck. It does suck a little to be in higher ed but not a prof, but I managed to get over it and get into full time TT within 3 years.

just my crappy .02. PP also sounds like an awesome option. None of it is selling out. It is finding something that is workable

Becca said...

Industry experience is not selling out and a break from academics doesn't mean never going back. Just think of all the PhD's who are currently making lattes at Starbucks while they wait for a "real job"! It's good you live in a town with so many options. Do the best you can to stay current on the research (read articles, stay in touch with colleagues, make some papers out of your dissertation) and keep looking, find something to pay the bills in the meantime and something will work out eventually!

Lisa Dunick said...

Been there. Mourned that.

I made the choice pretty quickly. I saw the market for Americanists tank, never got an interview (even with three publications and a wealth of conference presentations and awards), and then my husband got a job that put us in a totally new place. Two years on the market--two years of wasted app fees, stress, and the anxiety of the wait--was enough for me.

Here's the thing-- I was good at academia. I liked academia--loved it even. I had done everything I was supposed to in order to put myself in the best place possible to land a job. And it got me NOWHERE.

So I decided to try something else, and guess what? I kind of love it. Sure, I have to still teach part time for right now, but that's the key phrase--for right now. I don't have any hopes of landing a tenure track job. I keep watching WAY too many of my WAY too smart and capable friends turn up empty handed year after year. So I've (finally--it took a while) got to the point where I'm not longer emotionally invested in that. It saved A LOT of heartbreak.

It's not selling out to walk away. It's claiming what you're WORTH. You're worth more than the 2-3k a class they're willing to pay adjuncts. You have skills and experience that make you worth more than that. And, honestly, I think if more of us were willing to demand it or walk away (instead of working indefinitely at Starbucks), we'd have adjuncts paid as well as those, say in the Economics department.

You haven't wasted anyone's time. Your advisor was compensated quite well to serve as such. She chose you. She was willing to take the gamble, and if she's as fabulous as mine was, she's going to root you on in whatever you choose to do.

Now, don't get me wrong--it's not an easy choice to walk away. I stuck my phd on the fridge when it came in the mail because that's how pissed I was at myself for wasting 8 years getting it. But then I moved on. I wrote a book and found out that I loved that more. I got an agent, which told me that I Was just as good at writing as critiquing. And I'm REALLY trying to work on being happy with where I am.

So sorry about my rant, but I want to wish you the best of luck with your decision. Don't feel like you're not allowed to walk away. People change careers all the time. Don't worry that you won't survive it. It's hard to get over, and I totally sympathize about the student loan payments, but I'd feel worse about myself running my head into the academic job market wall over and over.