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.

It includes a salary increase as well as profit-sharing (in a company that is growing and that I do expect to continue to grow, thus increasing my pay), reimbursement for a new computer and for travel/phone/etc business expenses, and a promotion in title and "official" responsibilities that would make my resume look better for future jobs. I'd still maintain most of my current job duties, but would basically add on some additional management and business-administration responsibilities that I don't currently have (or else that I do now in a purely informal capacity).

The job would also be more flexible than my current one - I'd be expected to work a bit more, but the hours would be a lot more flexible and I'd be able to telecommute from home if I wanted. That's really appealing, since as I've clearly demonstrated on this blog, I really value a flexible schedule.

The downside, though? He wants me to sign a contract to stay here for longer than I was intending. I was thinking I'd sign on for a year or so, under the assumption that the pay increase would be modest. He proposed that I stay on for 3-5 years, in exchange for a far more sizable increase in pay and responsibility. This was the only option presented to me, so I'm not sure whether a more modest raise in exchange for a shorter contract would even be a possibility.

The pay increase is tremendously tempting, because (as I've mentioned before) we're in quite a bit of debt. This pay increase would help A LOT with that - his opening salary offer was already more than I would have been offered at any of the academic jobs I applied for, and I haven't counteroffered yet. Financially, I'd be stupid not to take the job.

But on the downside, I'd be here in Grad U City longer than I expected, at a company and in an industry that I never anticipated staying in long-term. I've been wanting to move to Dream City for awhile and to be closer to my aging parents and my friends. This would obviously put a wrench in those plans. We could still plan to move there, of course ... but it wouldn't be for a few more years, until we'd be in our late thirties at least.

But ... while I am having a little bit of guilt over not moving closer to my family immediately? Let's face it. A year ago, I was planning to move "anywhere in the country" in pursuit of an academic job, which would've put me even further away from my family than I am now. The plan to definitely move closer (to Dream City) has only arisen within the past year, and of course, it's not like I'm pursuing some particular career right now. As I've said, I really have no idea what I want to do next. So is it really a terrible thing to change those moving plans again, in response to a good job offer in an industry I can tolerate (even if I don't love it) and better financial security? I don't think so.

Also worth noting ... the industry I work in is one where telecommuting and working remotely is definitely possible. My boss strongly alluded to the possibility of me being able to continue to work remotely for him in the future if my partner and I moved to Dream City.

This might be a great option for the future. I'll have 3-4 years to think about what career I want to pursue and to perhaps start volunteering around here or talking to people to get experience in whatever industry it happens to be. Then, I could pursue entry level positions in Dream City in whatever industry that is, knowing that I could do some work in the evenings for my current boss from Dream City and make up my loss in income. Or else if my partner is the one who lands a great job out there, I will have something to fall back on until I found a job out there.

(For the record, my partner is on board with whatever I choose - actually, he might be more in favor of me taking this offer than I am! For financial reasons, as well as for his own career - this might buy him some time to pursue his own career opportunities since I'll be locked into a contract.)


It might sound like there are few downsides to taking this job, and perhaps there aren't any. But I guess what I keep getting hung up on is that I don't want to live in Grad U City forever. And right now, 3-5 years sounds like a looooong time.

This city isn't a podunk town with nothing going on, for the record. It's definitely not the most bustling metropolis in the world, but it's a nice city with a low cost of living, a decent amount of culture and things to do, and where (for better or worse) we have made our adult life in these past few years. Once I got out of the grad school hole and we started purposely trying to go out and enjoy the city, it turned out that we liked it quite a bit ... to the point where we've said that we'd miss it when we moved. It really suits me now more than I ever expected it to.

And yet, part of me feels like this has been, by definition, a temporary stop. That if I hang on for a long time in Grad U City (even as a professional local worker), I'm some sort of pathetic person who could never move on from Grad U. All of my other grad school colleagues have moved or will move away, after all! Why am I still hanging here?

Yes, I know that's silly. But I'm just thinking out loud here, so bear with me. :)

More importantly, I wanted to move to Dream City to be closer to friends and family. They've stayed emotionally close to us for the past decade while we lived here - keeping in touch and still inviting us to events and coming to visit. So now that we were talking about moving, we were excited to be able to move closer to be more of a part of their lives then we have been in the past.

But then again, as I said, they've stayed close to us after all of this time and distance. Why would they suddenly decide to cut us off in the next three years if we stayed here? Of course they wouldn't.

And also ... with more money and more flexibility in my life and job, it'd be a hell of a lot easier to travel back to visit from time to time. It's not like things will be worse than they have been.


I guess I have to acknowledge that - given the fact that I don't hate this job or this city and we could really use the money - I'd be an idiot not to take this job. As much as we want to move, neither of us have any good prospects in Dream City right now ... and it's unlikely I'd find a job there right now that would pay me as much as my boss is offering, with this kind of stability.

And we do have a good life here in Grad U City, with most of the trappings of adult life already - we own our home, and have jobs, and friends, and whatnot. It's not like we (like some postacademics) want to move so we can finally buy a home or something like that. Moving to Dream City would just be a matter of changing where we live our adult lives, and changing how we've always envisioned things playing out. It's not a big deal. But it kind of sucks to be rethinking how things were "supposed to" pan out for the second time in a year.

Then again ... whose life really plays out exactly according to plan? No one's.


Also, while I'm being honest? I know that my academic friends (who of course, have no idea what work outside academia entails or looks like) will see me as a sell-out who gave up all of my ideals to work for a gross for-profit company. Someone who couldn't figure out what cool Ph.D.-level job to get, so I just took some random job at some local company and am settling for that. A sellout for the money who is - horrors! - working at a job where the Ph.D. isn't even required!!!

And I kind of don't care about that because I know what I want and I know they're just snobs ... but at the same time, I sort of wish I could announce that I was moving to Cool Big City to take a job with Big Policy Think Tank or something like that ... rather than "just staying in Grad U City to work at the same company."

But again ... life doesn't always work out according to plan. All you can do is make the best decision for you at the moment you're living in.

And for right now, it feels like the best decision for me at this moment is to take the offer (after negotiating a better increase in pay, which I think I can get out of him). But I'm feeling sort of weird and unsure about it. I guess I feel like I should be more excited about it than I am.

Then again, maybe this is what actual non-academic adulthood feels like. You aren't chasing a dream job like academia all of the time ... sometimes you just make the conscious decision to take a decent job that you like well enough that pays you a good salary. And then you make the best of it, and make sure that your whole life is, on average, pretty decent.

And when it comes down to it, I'm okay with that. My life is pretty decent. I just have to convince that little voice in the back of my head that I'm not making an epic mistake by not pursuing a "dream job" anymore.

Thoughts? I should take this, shouldn't I?

(Oh, and don't worry ... I'll keep blogging if I take this job. Turns out that I like blogging too much to quit. And since I'll still live here in Grad U City, I'll still have plenty to say about academia and Grad U, I'm sure. :)


  1. Congratulations on the job promotion offer! In terms of what to do, I think once again, that it's an issue of values - which do you want to prioritize, moving to Dream City or having more financial security? However, I don't think it hurts to talk to your boss more about the offer. For instance, would he be willing for you to take a shorter contract? What would you need to negotiate to do that? How realistic would it be for you to work remotely for an extended amount of time if you did decide to move in about a year or so? At least from what you've written in this blog, I get the sense that your boss really likes you and wants to keep you as long as possible, so I do think he'll be willing to discuss this offer in more detail with you and work on a plan that works best for both you and the company.

  2. For what it's worth, I agree with Anonymous. Exploring more options with your boss is a good step, as is trying to pin down what you value most in immediate/semi-longish future.

    My one additional comment would be that if you do think you'd like to stay in this field, a job promotion like this could be very good for you when trying to transition to Dream City. It may open a lot of doors having this extra experience.

    Yet if you're not as keen to stay in this field then it might be advantageous to "get going" on the next step. Not that you need to rush by any means, but perhaps you'd want to begin positioning yourself for an entry-level job in a new field sometime before 5 years pass.

    Best of luck whatever you decide!

  3. Thanks for the blog intro, JC! I'm glad you found it interesting!

    Congrats on the potential promotion--it sounds hard to turn down. I sympathize with your feelings about Grad U City. I was happy to leave my Grad U Town right after graduation (it felt like I was moving on), but now there's a possibility I might be moving back due to my partner's job. I'm none too happy about it, even though I know, logically, that it's not a terrible thing (and would be only temporary and probably better for my partner in the long run). It still doesn't feel great though, so I understand your mixed feelings about staying!

  4. JC... This is my first comment to you, but I love reading your blog... It is my guilty pleasure inside these academia walls! Thank you so much for your insight! I know that you are feeling scared that if you accept this offer that means you are gonna be stuck forever in Grad U City? Well, JC, I have a feeling that you won't! He he and I'm the most negative person ever! Things happen for a reason, yadda, yadda, but the money that u are going to save here with this new offer, you guys can build even greater things in Dream City, sell you home for more value (see these 5 years as a 'time to improve something in the house' because when we sell the house in 2017, oh boy this will be the item that will close the deal... See these 5 years as more money to rent a BIG 1-800-Got-Junk trunk, yieck! this is exciting!) etc and more in all these 5 years will be time for finally have: JC Spa's Days? Anyway, hugs and I support you in whatever you decide to do!

  5. Oh, JC... 5 years is nothing! Only in Academia it seems like an eternity and that too goes quickly ;)

  6. Hi JC (and the rest of ya), I've been following this blog for the last couple months, and it's given me some hope for my life post-academia, and I thank you for sharing your insights with us. I'd appreciate anything you or any of the other readers might know about a situation like I've now found myself in. Needless to say I've been having what I would describe as a nightmare in academia. My first qualifying paper is turning into a right disaster, and I've become so fed up with the process I can't even get myself motivated to finish it. Right now I'm stuck between trying to decide to take an MA in a subject I already have an MA for and just plain withdrawing from the program and cutting my losses. In order to get the MA, I'd have to finish the paper that I'm not even sure will pass in the first place, as well as pay for another term of tuition to the tune of a couple thousand bucks that I don't have. I suppose what I'm asking is, why shouldn't I just cut and run at this point, my sanity and economic situation withstanding?

    1. Hi PB, and thanks for reading...

      Obviously, my advice is just that - advice. And you need to do whatever you need to do to get yourself through a tough situation. If that means you leave now, then so be it.

      But I will say that having the MA on my resume has really helped me with job applications. Not only does it seem to look good to future employers to just have that degree on the resume, but it also helps explain where you've been and what you've been up to for the past few years. Having time in grad school with no completed degree might look a little bit odd on your resume - having the MA completed changes that appearance.

      Also, given that you have paid some tuition already, would it make you feel better to at least have the piece of paper to show for it? Only you can answer that question.

      Also - even if you think your paper is turning into a disaster, do you think that your advisor might be agreeable to just "let it pass" if you let them know that you're planning to leave after your MA? Of course, they could always decide to sabotage/ignore you if you told them of your plans, but perhaps if it's going as poorly as you think it is, they might be happy to just grant you the MA even if the paper isn't quite what they'd hoped for, and wave you out the door? If that's the case, letting them know you're going to be seeking another path after the MA might be a good idea - you can take your degree and run.

      Either way - of course, I would never judge you for leaving whenever you feel is best. Heck - a lot of people think I'm crazy for leaving ABD with a half-written dissertation! But that being said, I do think that an MA can be good for your resume, and if you only have a semester left to go, it might not be a terrible idea to just hurry up and finish.

      Good luck with whatever you decide!!

    2. Thanks for the response. I feel it's probably best to just plain leave at this point because I already have an MA in the exact same subject from my previous institution. My doubts are as to whether having two MAs would even improve my hireability. That, and I don't think the department here is willing to just wave me out the door with the MA for my paper in its current state. I'm so burnt out I doubt I'll be able to get this paper up to any acceptable standard.

    3. Oh my gosh, you already have your MA? Well yes then ... if you are sure you don't want the Ph.D., I would say to get out NOW before you invest any more time or money in it!

      In fact, I'm surprised that the department didn't let you just bypass the MA phase since you already had a degree. That's pretty unbelievable.

      Good luck!

    4. Thanks, I guess I'm not just crazy for wanting to just fold 'em after all. I guess I'll just sell what I have as additional coursework. I never was too happy about the first year here considering all the irrelevant coursework involved. The good new is I've taken a few classes in the second year that actually developed skills I can reasonably apply in the outside world. Oh, and good luck with the job decision! I think it's great that you have a partner who'll support you whatever you choose.