Monday, August 27, 2012

Ask a Postacademic #7 ... and Yet Another New Blog!

Hey all!

Posting is going to be super-light and I won't be around much for the next week or so ... I have a busy workweek ahead of me, and then my partner and I are going out of town for a much-needed relaxing beach vacation over Labor Day weekend. Yayyyyyyyyy!!!!!

Anyway, I wanted to put something up quickly today and will probably try to dig up another postacademic rant or something similar to auto-post later this week, just to give you something to look at. But I won't be around much for comments or questions until next week. I've been feeling a little bit overwhelmed and "blah" lately, and am desperately committed to making this trip be as unplugged and relaxing and enjoyable as humanly possible. Wish me luck!


However, before I go I did want to link everyone to another new postacademic blog. Post-Medievalist is a humanities (obviously :) grad student who has already written a lot of terrific stuff at her blog ... so far, there are posts about academic guilt, about the stress that an international research trip placed on her relationship and finances, and a particularly insightful post that compares the process of leaving academia to a sort of lingering sickness that develops and worsens over time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Blogs (and Crappy Advice from Advisors)

Hey, everyone! Sorry for my relative lack of posting this month ... it's been a crazy one!

Today, I have two new postacademic blogs to link you to, along with some brief additional commentary stemming from a conversation I had with a grad student friend of mine this week...

(Seriously, I cannot believe how many postacademics we have out here! Maybe the group of us will someday be able to really get the word out that Grad School Is Not Necessarily A Great Life Plan, or that Academia Kind of Sucks For Some People. Maybe...)

Also, don't be surprised if you see me ramping up my complaints about academia in the next few months. My one good grad student friend is on the job market this year, and is currently at the annual national sociological conference, starting the process of trying to network herself* into a job somewhere. As someone who occupies the weird space of (1) having gone through the whole market process, having been reasonably successful with interviews, and having survived, but (2) ultimately winding up very cynical about the whole thing, I've become a huge sounding board for her. Which is great - I genuinely want to help her stay sane through this whole process and to help her keep some perspective on the whole thing ... while genuinely hoping that she is able to get an academic job, since that's what she really wants.

But as you'll see in a minute, these conversations are also drawing my attention - yet again! - to the ridiculousness of the academic job market and to the utterly cruel and deluded things people will say to you while you're going through it.

So I'm sure I will have Many Further Thoughts About Academia and the Academic Job Market (tm) to share with you over the next few months.

Blog intros after the jump...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On Compensation

Postacademic in NYC wrote an interesting post last week, where she discussed the somewhat disconcerting feelings she's been having as an hourly wage worker in the world outside of academia. In this post, she wrote that the lump sum payments she received every month or so in academia were fine with her, while the hourly pay she gets now is causing her to have some uncomfortable feelings about how her work is "quantified" in dollars.

More specifically, she's been calculating how many hours of work at the temp agency she needs to put in in order to earn enough money for the things she likes to buy - a sandwich or a coffee or a bottle of booze. This, in turn, is (I think) making her feel a bit discouraged. I got the feeling from her post that her pay in academia was lower, possibly ... but that despite that, she felt less exploited/dehumanized because it wasn't as easy to translate her work hours into a dollar amount.

I enjoyed the post, and some of it definitely rang true to me. Until I got my promotion and raise this spring, I was also an hourly wage worker at my current office. And while I was paid fairly well and could afford a decent quality of life as an hourly worker, I would occasionally catch myself thinking "if I buy those concert tickets, I'll have to work a full day to pay for them," or "damn, I'm working 4-5 hours for a tank of gas? Ridiculous."

So, I've definitely done the "quantifying what I'm purchasing in work hours" thing, and it did feel a little weird. Now, I never found myself calculating the amount of work that would "pay" for a sandwich or coffee - I really never got down to the nitty-gritty of what, say, 15 minutes of my labor was "worth" in terms of consumer goods. But if I wanted to spend a decent chunk of money? Yeah, I'd sometimes find myself calculating the number of hours I'd need to work to earn that money back.

And I agree, it's kind of an odd feeling to be able to directly calculate how much money your work time  is "worth," in such concrete, calculable terms.

But looking back on my time in academia and then on my time as an hourly wage worker outside of academia, I can honestly say that I preferred being paid hourly to the pay I got in academia. And I'd still go back to hourly work any day before I'd go back to academia. With absolutely no hesitation.

Now, PAINYC's outlook on her job is totally valid. Her job is far different from mine, and her work environments sound challenging, to say the least. I'd have a hard time not feeling like a cheap cog in the wheel of my workplace if I was working in buildings that have butlers (WTF?), doing basic tasks for the top 0.1% of wage earners in this country, alongside miserable and exploited support staff. There's absolutely no question in my mind that I'd feel pretty damned exploited and underpaid if I were in that position.

But I wanted to put up a post here that explains the outlook that I had on my life and my compensation as an hourly worker. Because my outlook and my experiences have been different from PAINYC's ... and while I don't think there's anything wrong with her outlook, I want readers of both blogs to understand that there's no guarantee of how you will feel about a job that pays hourly until you have one. Perhaps you will feel like PAINYC ... but perhaps not.

So as food for thought ... here are three reasons why I found hourly pay to be preferable to my academic salary.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ask a Postacademic - Question 6

Here's another great postacademic question from a reader. I've covered versions of this Q/A before, but have never seen the question about time usage in and outside of academia asked to succinctly before. So I'd like to answer it, to make my viewpoint on this absolutely clear.

I'd also like to ask the other postacademics who are adjusting to nonacademic jobs to chime in if they have a minute, either in comments or at their own blogs. We all have different jobs and live in different cities, so my opinions and experiences certainly aren't going to be representative of everyone's. I'd love to hear a few more people talk about how they feel about their flexibility of schedule since leaving academia.

Anyway, onto the question...
I'm starting to get the idea that despite my "flexible" schedule [in academia], these 8-5ers have more of a life than I do and an easier time living it (with the schedule). Is this accurate?
I think your hunch is accurate.

I mean, don't get me wrong. Having to be in the office for a regular 40 hour schedule every week can be frustrating. My family and friends are about a half day's drive away from where I live now, and I do occasionally miss the grad school days, where even with my part-time job I only had to be in the office 3 days per week and was free to take long weekends to visit them without having to count vacation days.

But all is not lost. I do have vacation time and flextime, which gives me enough time to take about one long weekend a month and a few extra days at Christmastime. That might not seem like a lot ... but even in my grad school days, I wasn't going on weekend vacations more than once a month. (And as an aside - weekends away are a lot more satisfying when you don't have a pile of academic work to do!)

So if you're a grad student who takes long weekends every single weekend and who takes extended, weeklong vacations multiple times per year? You may find a regular 8-5 work schedule pretty difficult to manage while still keeping up that travel schedule.

But if you usually only take a few trips a year, most of which are just a few days at a time? Then I don't think you'll feel egregiously oppressed by only having a few weeks off per year. Really and truly. Most nonacademic jobs aren't that inflexible - particularly the types of jobs you'll be getting with your MA or Ph.D.