Monday, January 30, 2012

Random Monday Morning Thoughts

I got two more resumes sent this weekend. Yep, just two. But it's okay. As I said last week - I'm not at all surprised or discouraged that the job application process is starting out slow. This is all in keeping with my personality - I start slow and deliberative with any project, and get more confident and speed up as time goes on. I'm setting myself reasonable application-sending goals for now, and forcing myself to be deliberate with what I apply to, rather than just panicking and applying to anything and everything because I need to find a new job right at this moment oh my gosh!!!!!!!!!!

I have a job. I don't need to be desperate. More important to me right now is (1) making sure I'm applying only to jobs that I think I would *want* to do (rather than any old thing I'm qualified for), and (2) trying to find something that will pay better than what I'm making right now. My days of trying to find any old job in a particular category - salary be damned - are now over. I am reasonably financially stable for the first time in my adult life, and I am not about to throw that out the window for any random job that just happens to be located the city I want to move to. I'm going to take my time and take it slow and make the right decision ... this time.

I think I used up my lifetime quota of poor decisions by going to grad school and persisting in it for nearly a decade. Now it's time to make sure I'm doing the right thing for myself. If it takes an extra few months to figure out what that is? So be it.

Anyway, two applications went out this weekend, for jobs I could easily see myself doing. We'll see what happens, and I'll keep looking, and eventually something will work out. I know it will.


...Which brings me to a random thought that keeps popping up in my mind while I've been reading postacademic job ads and selecting what to apply for.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Try Not to Let Your Head Explode When You Read This

This article was sent out over my department's listserv this morning, from a "star" grad student in my former program. I'm not sure why zie sent it out - as advice? A "useful article" that hir colleagues might find helpful? I ... certainly hope not.

The article is specifically about grad students in the humanities and the potential link between the number of available jobs and their time to degree. This may seem like an odd article for me to get fired up about, since I'm not in the humanities ... but let's not pretend that all of us social science and humanities grads aren't in very similar boats these days. The various social science job markets may not be as terrible as the ones in the humanities, but they're still not good and certainly not going to get any better.

Anyway, it may not directly pertain to my former discipline, but I could not let this pass me by this morning without posting about it. And thought that my fellow postacademic bloggers who are in the humanities might have some further thoughts ... if their heads don't explode first, that is.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Random Sunday Observations

A few random observations on this Sunday afternoon:

I got my first job application sent out today! Go me!! It took a little bit longer than I was expecting to get started, namely because I wound up getting sick for a few days and could barely do anything other than go to work and lay on the couch for about a week.. But everything is back to normal now, and the first (official) postacademic resume is out!

I know this will be just the first of many resumes I'll send out, so it might sound weird that I'm so excited about it. However, getting one application out was an important first step for me. I'm the type of person who can easily find myself sitting and obsessing and endlessly revising my resume, or else worrying for hours about whether I'll like a particular job or if I'm really ready to find a new job ... and will ultimately procrastinate on actually getting an application out. This was true for my previous nonacademic job attempts, and it was true for my academic job search, and even back to fellowships and other such things. My brain can get the best of me, and I've found that the easiest way for me to proceed is to finalize the first step of the process. So I'm done with the first step of this job search process - the first application.

Not to mention, applying for jobs is infinitely easier once you have a resume/cover letter template to work with, so you aren't starting from scratch for every job. Now that my first resume/cover letter is out the door, I'm over that first hurdle. So I'm very proud of myself!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Academic Job Market, in Numbers

So I'm still on the listserv for my grad department, which means that I get almost-daily updates on what's going on in my department and discipline (most of which I ignore, of course, since I don't care about the 22nd Annual Mid-South Conference on Medieval Widgetmaking anymore, nor the upcoming lecture from Boring-Ass Professor Who Should Have Retired 20 Years Ago).

But this week, I got an email from our department chair with a "summary" of our two successful faculty searches that completed this fall. My curiosity got the best of me, so I opened it. And over the last few days, I've been doing a little bit of thinking about what my (former) department's search says about the academic job market more generally, and about how we can extrapolate from the number of applications Grad U received to the health of the larger job market.

Now remember, my graduate department is in the social sciences, not the humanities. The job market in this discipline is struggling, but is still seen as reasonably decent in comparison to a lot of other disciplines. There are more job listings per candidate than in other fields, so you'd assume that Ph.Ds in our discipline would have a much better shot at getting a job than Ph.Ds in English, history, and a lot of other fields.

Some department-specific background: one of the positions the department listed was an open position - they were looking for someone to teach various quantitative research methods classes in our and another department, with any research interests whatsoever. The second position was looking specifically for a qualitative researcher working in a moderately popular research area.

Also, the department is an R-1 program whose ranking hovers around tenth in the discipline - give or take a few places - every year. The university is in a medium-sized college town - not in one of the hot urban locales where a lot of grad students and faculty would like to live. It's not Bumblef*ck, Idaho ... but definitely isn't someplace where you'd expect people to apply just because they'd "love to live" in our city. 

So given this background info, what did Grad Department's job search and candidate list look like this year ... and what does it suggest about the larger market?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More Discussion of Privilege in Academia

Quick blogging/life note: Yes, it's after January 1st ... and yes, I'm restarting my nonacademic job search. I'm currently writing/revising two different resumes (for two broad categories of jobs) so that I have templates to work from, and I've been reading job listings all week to get an idea of what's out there for me. Resume sending will start this weekend, as long as I don't hit any unforeseen roadblocks. I'll write more about it later this week or next week ... but in the meantime, rest assured that I am making progress ... even if it's starting out kinda slow. The mental process of figuring out "what comes next" and "how to sell myself as a good candidate without spending 200 hours on every application" really is pretty tough ... not to mention simply trying to find time and motivation to sit down and work on such things *in addition to* the full 40-hour workweek. But I've got time and I'm working at it every day ... and I do have a job for now, so I'm doing okay.


For another take on the question of privilege in academia, I turn to a couple of comments left on my last post about privilege and inequality in academia. This commenter has completed her Ph.D. and is now looking for work, and is finding that concerns about money, social class, and relative privilege are cropping up as she contemplates her career prospects after graduation.

Some excerpts from these excellent comments:

In my view, the class differences were not as big a deal in grad school as after. I went to grad school in an affordable city at a school that gave a stipend of around $20,000 each year. It was actually possible to go to grad school without taking on debt, which is one of the reasons I chose this school, despite getting into slightly more prestigious schools in much more expensive cities. (Which itself is a class issue, but that’s another story.)
Yes, that definitely is a class issue worth noting ... so let's talk about it for a minute.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that graduate stipends in my department (a top 10 program) were around $14,000 per year. This commenter describes a higher stipend at a slightly less prestigious school ... an offer that she took in favor of a more prestigious program due to economic concerns.

It's worth noting, of course, that if you come from a privileged background in which someone will be paying your rent, you are free to pay less attention to whether your stipend is sufficient, and more attention to the prestige/fit of a given program. If a top-5 program offers you a tiny stipend in a high cost of living area but a top-50 program offers you a sizable stipend in a livable city? A student whose parents will be paying their rent and helping them out financially is free to take the first offer ... and to reap the benefits of graduating from a top-5 program rather than a top-50 program. A student who has no such safety net will face two choices: take the second offer with its worse long-term job prospects but better financial security in the meantime, or take the first offer and start out their academic career with a load of debt.

In other words, the student who has help from their parents has better options right out of the gate, even though both students are being given the exact same opportunities. Privilege influences one's academic opportunities and academic career success, once again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Look! A Nonacademic Job You Could Get!! (Also, New Postacademic Blogs for You!)

First off ... be sure to check out the updated blogroll on the right. There are a few new postacademic blogs for you to check out - namely, Project Reinvention 2012 and Unemployed PhD for Hire. They've both already had some interesting things to say in their first few posts ... and of course, I'm thrilled to see more and more people not just leaving academia, but choosing to write about it. Let's pull back the curtain and make sure people understand that (1) academia is not a perfect meritocracy where success is guaranteed, and that (2) it's okay to not like it anymore, even if you think you could get a job. It's okay to want to leave.

Anyway, check out their blogs and leave a comment!

On this lazy Sunday, I thought I'd follow up on recentPhD's recent post by copying the text of an ad for a nonacademic job that requires academic skills. As recentPhD wrote, perhaps this can help you think more positively about your job prospects outside of academia. Most of you probably aren't looking at nonacademic job ads right now ... so perhaps seeing that there are jobs out there for people with the kind of job skills that you gain from academia will help you feel more positive about the possibility of finding work outside of academia if you choose to or need to leave.

I'll do this every now and then on this blog, now that I'm reading job ads regularly again (although to some extent, I'm still not really sure what I'm looking for. Eeeeesh).

Anyway, I can't even tell you how easy it is to find job ads that are looking for people with academic skills. Teaching skills translate into jobs as training coordinators. Research skills translate into many jobs analyzing data or running focus groups or conducting surveys or interviews. Reading and writing skills translate into jobs in editing, technical writing, marketing, and a lot of other things. Trust me - regardless of what Professor McFancy in your department tells you, there ARE jobs outside of academia that will value your training and that you will find fulfilling.

So here you go. An ad for someone with research training. Does this sound like a job you could do?

Let's Talk about Privilege and Inequality

So ... privilege in academia. I want to write about it, but to be honest? I'm not sure how to start. ... and I'm kind of nervous about writing about it.

Something I've always heard from my fellow grad students (and sometimes still see pop up on Facebook and in other places) is that grad students are very, very privileged people. Jokes about "first world problems" like being at a coffee shop at noon with no laptop charger were common, as were observations about how lucky grad students were to be reading and writing and teaching for a living rather than doing some kind of backbreaking manual labor or working for a tyrannical boss.

"We're so lucky," they'd say. "Our lives are so privileged. We have no right to complain. We're lucky."

So part of me does feel odd starting this series. I feel like I'm going to get a bunch of comments and emails telling me how crazy I am -- that this is the best job in the world and I'm insane to try to argue that there's anything like "inequality" or "unfair working conditions that segregate people by class" in it. Because, did I forget? Grad students and academics are privileged.

So let me start this series out by saying that to some extent, I agree. Having the kind of job where you're free to come and go as you please, and where your work duties require no physical labor and where you have the freedom to sit in a coffee shop or a park all day "working" (when in actuality no one would be able to prevent you from playing on the internet all day long) is a privileged lifestyle. A lot of people would kill for that kind of flexibility and freedom.

But in other ways, I don't think that academia is a life of privilege ... unless, of course, you come from a privileged background. That's right ... I'm talking about salaries again. (But grad student salaries, this time).

Now, there are certainly other things to discuss with regards to privilege and social class in academia (I've already talked about conference travel, and later I plan to write about the divide between students who are paid through fellowships and those who are "teaching fodder" for the department because they are desperate for some type of funding). But let's start out by talking simply about grad student salaries ... and how they often exacerbate preexisting class differences between incoming grad students.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome Back ... to Overthinking :)

I'm back at work today, with a pile of things on my desk and a lengthy to-do list for this week. So, you know, it seems like a good time to write a new blog post. :)

As I've mentioned multiple times before, this job is perfectly fine for the time being. I make enough money to pay the bills plus have a little extra, I like my boss and especially my coworkers a lot, and (perhaps most importantly), this job is not academic work and therefore pays me a fair wage while allowing me to live a normal life without academic guilt and the expectation that I will work 24/7, and on all vacations and holidays. (I mean, my grad student friends who celebrate Christmas were posting on Facebook on the 26th that they were "back to work after a relaxing two days off!" Come on, now...)

The hunt for my next job begins this week, so we'll see how it goes. At this point, I'm looking simply for "a better job than I have now, in Dream City." From there, I'll see what comes next.