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!


On the note of applying for jobs, I'd just like to observe that online application systems are the devil's spawn. Seriously.

This applies to both academic and non-academic jobs, by the way. Prepare yourself ... if you're applying to a university or to a bigger company with an HR department, you often can't just email a resume/cover letter to an HR person and call it a day. Instead, you have to go in and fill out their online application before uploading your CV or resume and cover letter and supporting materials. These online apps will often include a range of questions that you might find it hard to answer from an academic background - names of supervisors, specific previous jobs that you've had, salaries, etc. And if you really get a good one, you might find completely random questions on there as well - "Describe how your skills will help this organization." "What else can you tell us about yourself?" Etc. etc. etc.

Now, it IS possible to fill these out as a postacademic candidate ... don't worry. Your graduate school work gets divided into previous jobs with titles like "College Instructor" and "Research Associate," while you can use a range of people as your "previous supervisor" without probably encountering any problems. But still ... be prepared. In fact, if you are planning to apply for jobs (academic or otherwise) in the near future, you might want to pick a major university or other company with an online application system and start creating a profile for a random job in their database. You obviously don't have to send it, but you should just get a sense of what they'll ask for and how to fill it out. Because otherwise, you'll wind up cursing at your computer and freaking out when you thought your application work was done.

These things are the devil's spawn. I'm telling you.


It's really weird to be focusing solely on one geographic area for this job search. I keep feeling odd ... like I should be expanding my search more, since there are probably a million jobs I could do in other areas!

But ultimately, the city I'm applying to is where we want to live. And I am okay where I am now, so that if it takes up to about a year to find something else, I'll be okay. After all, one reason I left academia is because I realized that where I live is just as important as what I'm doing. Knowing that reality, I have to keep focused on it and quiet the internal doubts about whether I'm doing everything I can do to get any job. Because the truth is, I don't want just any job anymore. I want a job in this one city. So that's what I have to focus on.

And ultimately, academia is one of the few places where "where you'd like to live" is something you're not supposed to focus on. Pardon me, but that's kind of messed up. If you have a preference on location, why in hell shouldn't you look for a job in that area? Academia is crazy.


Last week, I saw a quote linked from twitter, which apparently came from someone attending this year's MLA conference, that I thought was fantastic. I can't attribute it to anyone specific, unfortunately, so I'm just going to repeat it here with the caveat that I did not come up with this. (And if anyone knows who did, please leave it in comments).

(Note: the hashtag #altac on twitter is a good one to search every now and then, for bits of wisdom as well as resources and job leads).

Anyway, the quote I saw (most likely paraphrased):
...the path to an alt-academic career is kind of like driving at night. You can't see past your headlights at any given moment to know what's coming five miles down the road ... but you can safely and successfully make the whole trip to where you're going that way.
How great is that?

We're taught in academia to think in terms of long-term careers ... the job you get after graduation is seen as ideally being your career job. Unless you choose to leave, you can see the entire path to your destination (retirement) laid out ahead of you when you land that tenure-track job.

The real world doesn't work that way, and you often have no way of knowing how it will all turn out. But most likely, everything will be okay. Most people stay employed throughout their lives. Lots of people who aren't faculty enjoy their jobs. And a vast majority of people change jobs and employers throughout their careers.

Given the socialization and the work structure in academia, it's not surprising that the outside world looks scary and uncertain because your whole life isn't potentially set when you land that first job. But people navigate the nonacademic world and survive (and thrive!) all the time. My fellow postacademic bloggers and I are doing it right now, and we're all okay. And if you choose to leave, you'll be okay as well.

As long as your headlights are on, pointing you toward the next step in your career? There are a lot of different directions you can turn toward, and you'll still be safe and happy.

Have a great week, everyone!


  1. Congrats on getting that first resume out! That's awesome! I find that I'm getting
    better/cleverer/quicker with each resume/cover letter I write.

    And you're 100% right about how differently preparing for a career in academe is from most other career prep. It's so helpful to remember how much movement there is in jobs/employers for most that old "most people change their jobs (heck, their careers!) 7 times in a lifetime" statistic.

    Best of luck with this app and any others!

  2. I love that quote from twitter. I guess someone else at the conference was there with an 'alternative' framework in mind.

    And I definitely agree with your description of online applications. They are the most annoying contraptions on earth. I have now taken to calling recruiters directly and discussing first, usually getting away with a personal email address to send something to. Even if I have to call the company directly first to track down the person to speak to.

    I have to also say that I went to my local library and borrowed some books on resumes and interviews. I know there is a lot of info out there on the web, but I have decided I am sticking to my two books. Already seems to be working in my favour. I just compared my old resume with my new one, and you know what? the author could be right. My new resume is much sexier, more direct, easier to follow and better organised. And only takes a few minutes to tweak the important bits for each new application. Who knew? Bless my local library.

    And yes, the overthinking and obsessing part of any application is all too easy for people used to doing this for an (underpaid) profession. Best of luck with your next applications!