Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Update on My Job Search - Part 2

Today, in my ongoing effort to keep all of you posted on how my job search is progressing...a new update. Probably the last one for a couple of months.

In my last update, I mentioned that my current strategy is to focus on finding a higher-level job in the industry I currently work in, in the city where my partner and I want to live. Once we're settled, we'll focus on finding more permanent "career" jobs.

This is still the plan, but it's going to be a few months before we get moving. A couple of things came up over the past few weeks that have led us to decide to postpone the job search for a few months. It's nothing major - just a couple of financial and nonwork-related things that would make it very difficult and inconvenient for us to move before the spring. So after a lot of talking, we decided to just spend the next few months working and relaxing (with me studying for my certification exam so that I stand a better chance of getting a higher-level job in my industry), and to commence looking for jobs after the new year - with the hope of moving in the spring or summer.

It sort of makes me feel like a failure when I run into former academic friends and have to admit that I don't have a career job yet and I'm not sending out a resume every single week ... but at the same time, I think this is the best thing that could have happened to me.

Because right now, I just don't have a long-term career plan ... and I need to get one. I know that the industry I currently work in isn't what I want to stay in, long-term ... but I'm having a hard time figuring out what career I do want. The truth is, I've been focused on an academic career for so long that I'm just not sure of what I want to do now. I'm still sure I want to leave, but I don't know where I'm headed. I need to pick one career out of the 5 or 6 that sound intriguing to me ... but I'm having a hard time trusting my instincts after spending so many years in academia. I think that I subconsciously assume that I'll change my mind on whatever I choose like I did with academia, so I'm avoiding making a decision.

The solution, however, isn't to avoid the decision. It's to be extra careful when trying to figure out what career I'm aiming for. And unlike academia, I'm determined to do research to determine what an actual career in each field would look like. My days of picking a career path based on "things I like reading about" or "a subject I find interesting" are over ... I did that when deciding to go to grad school, and look at how that turned out. This time, I'm determined to take some time to think and do research before acting.

In that way, then, I'm sort of grateful that the outside world has intervened a bit to force me to slow down and take a break before continuing to job-hunt. I may know what I'm planning to do next (find a job in my current industry in the city I want to live in), but I need a break in order to put together a potential long-term plan. And better I do it now, while I'm used to my job and my routines, than after we've moved and I'm settling into a new job and a new city.

As I said in earlier posts, I'm considering a few potential careers ... primarily, I've been focusing on student affairs or applied research positions. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that both of those might be too close to academia for comfort. So I'm also wondering whether I want to jump into something entirely different - you know, being an investment banker or a bookstore owner or a traveling carnival worker or something. :) Who knows.

My point is, I'm using this downtime to not just study for my certification exam, but also to reread some of the best career counseling books out there for academic leavers and career changers. I need to figure out a long-term plan.

I'm also planning to read a bit about how to open a small business. One long-term option I've been seriously considering recently is to open a small business in a similar industry to the one I work in right now. Without going into too much detail for now, I'll say that this business would involve very little upfront financial investment and very flexible hours, so it would definitely be something I could get started while working full-time. For various reasons, I'm also fairly certain that it would be successful, and I think that I would enjoy doing it. But of course, I need to do a lot of research (and land a day job in the city I want to work in) before I could pursue that possibility.

In a way, I think being forced to slow down and take a break has been good. Instead of letting my mind go crazy with the old academic guilt ("Why aren't you spending every waking moment getting more lines on your CV researching and sending out job applications, you slacker???"), I've been put in a holding pattern, so that I've been forced to just slow down ... and think ... do some research on careers ... and frankly, just live life a little bit.

It's been a blessing in disguise, honestly. I'm happy. Truly happy. I go to work and come home and run errands and read books and watch TV and see my friends like a normal person. I'm enjoying the city we live in, and I'm getting to just sit back and take a breather until it's time to try to move. Rediscovering my life has shown me without a doubt that I am never going back to academia. I enjoy "just working and living" way too much.

And here and there, I'm working on a final academic paper with a colleague and prepping for the certification exam. And reading about potential careers. But the best part is that I do these things in my spare time. The all-encompassing academic career guilt isn't hanging over my head anymore.

So I probably won't have a job search update until after the new year. But thanks to my "for now" job, everything is okay. For those of you reading here who haven't yet left, I once again recommend focusing on getting a "next job," especially if you aren't sure what comes next. It'll buy you some time when the inevitable hiccups and stalls and disappointments while job-hunting occur, because at least you'll be able to pay your rent and you'll have something to occupy your time.

Truly, life is easier and more flexible now that I've left. Sure, there are job ads out there that I could be applying for now ... but there will be jobs after the new year when I'm ready to apply for them as well. I'm not on the academic job cycle anymore, and I've got some time.

So I'm taking some time right now, letting the moving situation resolve itself while I do some reading and thinking ... and I'll be back on the job-hunting horse after the New Year.

So that's where I'm at. I hope everyone else is doing well, whether you're still in the academic cycle or working your way out. Good luck!


  1. Good luck and do post back.

  2. I *so* hear you on having a hard time trusting yourself to pick a new career path. That has been one of the hardest things for me to figure out. Especially because I'm not sure how much information will be enough information to take the leap.

    One of the things that's helped me a lot is to try to think about all of the ways that a certain career could grow or change over time. I get stuck in thinking about the obvious next steps down a certain path. But when I brainstorm the possibilities it feels less daunting to make a choice. Especially, actually, when I think about the possibilities that my experience in academia would make possible. Like, in the field I'm currently considering, I think about how long down the road I might consider writing a book, or going back to teaching. It helps me remember that no matter what I pick, there are likely to be unanticipated opportunities that take things in a direction different from what I planned, and that that could be a good thing.