Sunday, April 29, 2012

In Which I Become Angry on Behalf of Someone Else

I've recently written that these days, I only find myself angry or bitter about academia when I hear about other people who are struggling or being treated badly. Most of the time, I just work and go home and live my life. But at other times, I find myself furious with academia all over again.

Today is one of those latter times. Let me share the story with you...

I had a drink Friday night with a couple of people from my former grad program - one good friend, and two other grad students who I don't know very well but who I do like, and who have been very supportive (or at least not openly disdainful) of my decision to leave.

One of the acquaintance grad students was a little stressed. Okay, a lot stressed.

(I'm going to refer to this student as Joe, just for the ease of telling this story. You should not assume that Joe is their real name, or that they are male. Although they might be.)

When I arrived at the bar Friday evening, Joe immediately started talking about how stressed out he was - almost before I even had the chance to say hi and ask how he was. As it turns out, he was overwhelmed. He's teaching a class, taking two others, working on a book review, doing data analysis that wasn't going well for a journal article, is ten days away from taking his written comp exam after a year of reading for it, and trying to think of ideas for his dissertation. If you're counting, that's seven distinct things taking up his time and energy this month.

On the day that we met, he had just delivered a presentation to a departmental seminar, which was arranged by his advisor. (Thing #8 for this month!) He was dressed up in his "presentation clothes," and as I sat there sipping my beer in my casual clothes (we don't have to dress up at work), he started talking about how he wished that he could just relax after work like a normal person. And that he was going to have to go home after we left the bar and work some more. And again ... he mentioned how stressed he was.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm Still Here! And You're Still Not Alone! (Part 10)

Just a quick post today to let everyone know that yes, I'm still here!

We've been unbelievably swamped at work, and unfortunately this past weekend I had to go out of town yet again for another funeral. This one was for a family member who'd been very old and very sick for a long time, so it was one of those funerals that was both sad and happy at once - since we were sad to lose him but it was also a blessing that he was finally at peace.

Anyway, between traveling and scrambling to catch up at work, I haven't had much time to think up new posts ... much less write them. Things should be back to normal next week, I hope.

But in the meantime, since finals are coming up at most schools and I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who are feeling overwhelmed/desperate at this time of year? I thought I'd post a list of the search terms bringing people to the blog in the past couple of weeks.

Once again, I give you a reminder that you're not alone if you're growing to dislike academia or if you no longer think the industry will allow you to live the kind of adult life that you want because of the scarcity of jobs or the adjunct career path that most of us get sent down. You're not alone, and you can find happiness outside of academia if you want.

Search terms bringing people to the blog this week:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Posted Without Comment

You know how people say that the various social science job markets aren't as bad as the humanities markets? And that the market might even be "rebounding" after a few down years?

I was emailing with a friend who's still a grad student in my old department at Grad U this afternoon. Zie informed me of the following:

(1) Of the ten students on the market this year from our top-ten social science department, only two got tenure-track jobs. (Another got an instructor position as a spousal hire). Two other people have already been working on temporary contracts, but failed to get a tenure-track job this year despite applying widely. So 70% of the people on the market this year will be back on it next year ... along with all of the new first-timers.

I've been around Grad U Department for nine years, and in those nine years I have known exactly three people who didn't get a job on their first run at the academic job market - and perhaps five or six more who took very undesirable temporary jobs as a desperation move. But never, ever have I seen a year where more than one student was unemployed this late in April. This year ... seven.

And for the record, all of these people have impressive CVs with good publications and teaching experience. These are not academic slouches taking a "test run" at the market.

(2) According to my friend, the department is now giving the advanced students a hard time about funding for next year. Our department has always been very good about funding its advanced students, especially if they were willing to teach and/or were on their job market year. This is apparently no longer the case. These students who didn't get jobs this year are also being told by the department that they will likely not be funded by Grad U any longer.

(3) Just today, the department sent out its excited, self-congratulatory email, announcing the names of the full, normal-sized cohort of first-year students they have admitted for the 2012-13 school year.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?????

Monday, April 16, 2012

On Bitterness

I got some traffic this weekend from a job and career advice site unrelated to academia. I appreciate the traffic, and I'm happy to have the blog linked from more general career advice sites rather than simply from other postacademic sites.

However, I was somewhat disappointed to see that at the referring link, the author of the piece noted that when looking at my blog - as well as 100 Reasons and PINYC's and a few others - readers should "glean the advice [and] leave the bitterness."

I admit, this quote rubbed me the wrong way - both on behalf of us bloggers and our readers.

Not because our blogs aren't bitter (in places). Of course they are! We're recovering academics. As others have noted, it's not altogether dissimilar to being a recovering addict or from leaving a cult. We're reorienting our entire lives and mindsets away from an institution that we've become totally immersed in, and a lifestyle that we've grown to believe is the only lifestyle and career worth living.

I wasn't disappointed at being called bitter. But I was disappointed to see the bitterness billed as something that was inappropriate or that others shouldn't be feeling. In my opinion, it is completely appropriate and natural for you to be bitter and hurt and angry when you find yourself leaving academia. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Postacademic Rant 7 - On Academic Seminars

I am swamped at work (yes, I'm going to take the raise - still negotiating with my boss) and don't have any ideas for new posts right now ... but I don't want to leave you all hanging for more than a week with nothing new! So I thought I'd post another postacademic rant for you.

Standard disclaimers: these were written about a year ago when I was freshly dealing with my anger at academia and was working through my feelings with a therapist. I don't really feel this strongly about most of this stuff now ... although I certainly don't denounce any of the thoughts or emotions expressed in these posts, either. :)

This one will probably be more relevant to folks who are earlier in their grad programs - people who are still mired in coursework, or who are at the phase in their grad student careers where their cohort-mates line up eagerly to go to every Friday seminar and take notes excitedly on whatever topic Famous Scholar X is dishing about that week.

(Notes that will simply migrate home to your office, to sit on top of the other piles of notes from presentations you listened to that had absolutely no bearing on the work you're doing or the research you're interested in or anything else relevant to you. And yet, you have to hang onto them forever and ever and ever, filed away in some cabinet. After all, they represent academic work!!)

It's titled, appropriately, F*ck Your Pointless, Endless Seminars... language NSFW. Obviously. :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Decisions, Decisions ... and Another New Blog for You!

Before I get bogged down in my own stories ... another new postacademic blog has arrived!

Literary Emergency is written by an English Ph.D. who is currently in the middle of a career change after (I believe) failing to land a tenure-track job. Already, zie has written some interesting posts about the insanity and expense of the academic job search - something that, obviously, appeals to me given my recent series on privilege in academia.

Zie has also written an insightful post about how pursuing an all-encompassing career like academia is the perfect way to ruin your love of something (in hir case, books) ... and how you should think about this reality when you are searching for new jobs. Zie has posted a "sweet spot" theory that I really appreciate - basically, the idea that you should find a "sweet spot" of things you enjoy doing but don't love, and focus your career there. Then, save the things you love for your hobbies and interests outside of work so that you don't get burned out.

Oh, and how could I forget ... zie illustrates every entry with an awesome cartoon. Oh, how I wish I had artistic ability or a consistent sense of humor! :)

It's good stuff. Go check it out!


Now, onto me me me me and more me...

So I met with my boss yesterday about a potential raise and promotion that would keep me at this job for a bit longer ... and to my amazement, the offer he made was quite a bit more generous than I was expecting.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Can You "Just Quit?" Sure ... If You're Rich!

After a few days/weeks of thinking of nothing other than my current job and my future career plans, a recent post at Postacademic in NYC's place got me thinking, yet again, about privilege in academia. You may recall that I started a series on privilege a few months back, in which I argued that grad school and the immediate post-graduate period is far, far easier to navigate for people who come from lives of privilege, while those of us from more modest backgrounds are often forced to juggle work-intensive assistantships and "side" teaching positions in order to stay in academia while also being able to pay our rent. 

In other words, academia exacerbates privilege. And based on the way it's structured, it places more value on students and faculty who come from privileged backgrounds, who are able to pursue academia as a sort of interesting intellectual exercise with Mom and Dad (or a wealthy spouse) footing the bill when things get financially tight, rather than as an actual career that pays a decent salary in exchange for concrete work like teaching.

Once I got those two posts out of my system, I was feeling a little calmer about the whole privilege thing. Fine. Rich people get ahead in academia, as they do everywhere else. Time to move on.

But as I read PINYC's post the other day, I suddenly got inspired again.