Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Plan

The comments to my previous two posts have, as intended, had me thinking quite a bit more about my options--or lack thereof--in the current academic job market. Contrary to what most commenters seem to think is the best plan, I'm going to stick it out for at least another full academic year. Call me crazy, stupid, or just plain blind, but I'm basing my decision primarily on three things.

The first is that, contrary to "Linc's" comment that "Academia is, in the end, just a job," it is much more than that to me. It is truly a calling, a long-time goal, and the end result of the past 7 years of work, sacrifices in time away from family, and living in poverty. It is the thing that makes me happy to get out of bed and go to the office, to spend extra hours meeting with students, to work even when I don't need to or am not expected to (for example, now, when research and presenting at conferences are not in any way factored into my position). I honestly cannot imagine myself doing anything else.

The second reason driving my decision to stay the course is that, on average, it takes 3 years for newly-minted PhDs to land a tenure-track job. That's what I was told when I entered my graduate program, and that's what I witnessed in the job market process of several colleagues from my program. Linc further suggests that if I'm "not getting interviews this season—fresh PhD, publications, good teaching record, at least some jobs being advertised—it’s time to rethink the career path. Unless [my] appeal is about to dramatically change (e.g. your dissertation being reformulated as a book, but NOT just adding a new course taught or another article), [my] marketability is not going to change." I disagree with this. Each semester in my current position has offered a new course to teach, which has brought the opportunity for more learning on my part and more confidence in both my knowledge base and skill set. For example, by teaching Shakespeare and incorporating it into my research work, I'm able to more credibly call myself an Early Modernist, rather than a Restoration/18th c. scholar. In turn, this broadens the number of positions to which I'm able to apply.

The third reason I'm going to hang in there a bit longer is that this year sucked in terms of the number of jobs in my field. There were less then 30 in my field, and of those 30, a good number of them were at very prestigious schools, which are likely to only hire Ivy-pedigreed grads. Several of the other positions were somewhat narrow in their search. For example, the secondary specialty was poetics or digital humanities, or tapdancing, or some other subspecialty that wasn't a good fit for me. That doesn't mean I don't have a wide range of secondary interests, but rather that this year's positions were frequently looking for something else. It just wasn't a good year for my field.

I choose to be optimistic, to believe that something will work out, and that God has a plan for me. I can't imagine that He's brought me to this point--through graduate school in three different states, through 10 years of teaching, to the Middle East and back, to a wonderful advisor, to two very good publications and a dozen conference presentations--only to leave me unemployable in this profession. I could be wrong, and I may occasionally be down about the situation, but for now....I'm not out. I have lemons, and I choose to make lemonade!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good News...Finally

Not one, not two, but THREE good things to come from one e-mail.

"Dear AcadeMama, would you be interested in teaching Shakespeare in the spring?"

Why yes, yes I would! This resulted in not one, but TWO Shax courses, which then resulted in an eliminataion of one of my comp courses--the 8:00 a.m. course!--huzzah!!

This news has me all sorts of giddy, but I'm also really nervous because a) it's been a long time since the Bard and I have been together and b) I don't want to screw this up. This does, however, how that I'm flexible and happy to teach a new course at the very last minute, and it will be great for my CV.

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?