Tuesday, November 14
Here’s *my* job market secret: I don’t want to go on it.

Well, that’s not exactly true. As distasteful as the process sounds, I think I will be able to adapt to a lot of it. Even though I hate the idea of “selling” myself, I can live with doing it (or trying to do it). Of course I want a job, and this is how it’s done.

But I haven’t yet told my advisors that I’m not willing to “go anywhere” for a job, the way you’re supposed to. And I think I’ll continue to keep it to myself.

I feel like I’ve been fairly dutiful with most of the professional activities we’re supposed to take part in – going to conferences, publishing, serving on committees, etc—and I’ve even enjoyed those experiences. But this is one thing I don’t think I can be dutiful about. Not only do I feel there are certain parts of the country I truly wouldn’t be happy living in, but there’s this itsy-bitsy problem of having a life partner whose career is location-specific. (I can’t go into what the career is if I want to keep my anonymity, but let’s just say it’s not like being, say, a lawyer, where you might have to give up a great job in order to move but you could probably work almost anywhere. Let’s say, for the sake of (silly) argument, that his career is slaying vampires, which only live on the hellmouth. Or something.)

To be honest, I’d be almost as happy adjuncting forever as I would be in a tenured position. As long as I got to teach, I’d be ok. I know it’s about other things too, like retirement and health insurance; I know I’ve got to consider that. But I’m just not willing to give up living with my partner, and it makes me mad that I should have to consider it. And before anyone suggests that he should be willing to change his career for me, please note that he dreamt of having this career since he was a kid (whereas I was in the “finding myself” stage for years before grad school), not to mention that he has been helping support my little grad school habit, and now (after years of service) his job pays better than even a tenured position would. As a feminist, I’ve always made sure I was financially independent (believe me, it’s my name on the loans), but he has provided a lot of extras, such as vacations, I would otherwise do without. (Just fyi, we don’t have kids, and don’t plan to have them, but have been together for almost 10 years.)

Once, his mother tried comforting me by reminding me that neither of us is in the military, where couples have to live apart all of the time, but with the added burden of being, you know, in the military. So it’s all relative, I guess.

7 comments:

strawberries said...

i don't want to have to go "anywhere" either. I hate certain parts of the country....

i hope that you can find something close by your partner though...

Salmon Ella said...

I'm in a kind of similar situation, mentally anyway. It's not so much that I have to stay in any one place for my partner's job, but at this point I can really not imagine uprooting the family to go around the country doing post-docs and then going anywhere that I can find a job. At the same time I know that's what it takes.

My department recently hired a new faculty member who is about my age and has a similar personal situation in that she has a husband and kid. At first I was thinking that I might spend a lot of time being jealous of her, seeing as how she's already in a position that I'm supposedly wanting to be in someday. However, I have found that I don't really don't admire her life too much, which has led me to seriously reconsider my career goals.

Like you, my major goal is financial independence (or at least knowing that I could be--the concept of independence kind of changes when you have a shared kid), and I can see myself being perfectly happy teaching in a variety of situations. At the same time I do wonder if one day I'll regret not trying to be all that I can be academically and professionally.

twilight blue said...

I've moved three times in the past five years. I moved first for post doc 1 (city 1), which I hated...I fled months later to post doc 2 (city 2), which was fantastic and from which I got my dream job (city 3). By most measures, I've done well. I live in a great city, I have wonderful colleagues, I teach smart students, I do work that I love. Given that I've only been in my new "home" for a few months, I am quite well settled and have met lots of really lovely people. At the same time, I am staggered lately - now that I've "landed" - at the wear and tear caused by moving around so much, which has been hard both on my friendships and on what was my romantic relationship (honestly, it would've ended anyway, but that I chose to move certainly made the ending rather abrupt and emphatic). All my metaphors from this come from the plant world - I feel planted in soil that isn't sufficiently deep, I have rootshock, I'm worried the graft won't take, etc. (though I recognize that I've had agency in these decisions, I really do!) Anyway, all this to say, I want to affirm your sense that moving can be really difficult and that it can be entirely reasonable and rational to choose not to do it and/or to limit where you're willing to go. After all, it's your LIFE and that can never be only about work...

fraud, in denim said...

I don't know about you, Poppy, but I got my PhD for flexibility, and went into academia for that reason (although to support my role as a mother). I knew I could get a job teaching someplace - whether it was an R1 or a community college - and be doing what I loved.

I'm sure that you went in with some purpose of your own and that doesn't have to be to get a stellar job somewhere, but the job that's right for you. A grad student career doesn't have to end with a job in a far-away place, or an academic job at all, and that's okay.

In my grad program we had a number of adjuncts who stayed at the school for personal reasons (usually centered around family) and while they didn't get paid as well and had little job security, I don't think that any of them would have chosen a different path given the chance, or that anyone looked down on them for making a decision like that.

You know, my partner turned down some big-time jobs to land at the same school as me and email after email from the schools he turned down applauded him for his commitment to his family and those that he loved.

Academics might seem cold and heartless, and they do want their students to grow up to be just like them, but they've all made decisions and (the vast majority at least) have people who they care about and are close to.

Poppy Red said...

Thanks everyone, so much, for your thoughts and stories. It's good to know I'm not alone, and to be reminded of the options I have!

Turquoise Stuff said...

Related, but with some aspects tweaked a bit. I've always wanted to be on the academic track and sort of assumed that that was all my advisors in grad school would want to hear. For me, it was not pretending to say so. However, I felt badly for friends who felt like they couldn't be up front about this.

Now that I'm on the other side I see this differently and have also since realized that my advisors could support other paths as well.

First, you want your students to be happy. It's pointless to get people in this field (or in your case in a location) if they're going to be miserable. We're talking about people's lives here, after all.

Second, I have personally also realized that just because people leave academia (or in your case decide to focus on teaching) doesn't mean that they have failed us (that being academics or research or whatever). It just means that they will be making important contributions elsewhere.

The question is whether you can assume your mentors to be reasonable in that way. Fortunately, their recommendations may be less important for non-academic positions (or possibly teaching jobs as well) so hopefully even if they can't be supportive it won't be to your preferred career's detriment.

Ms.PhD said...

Ugh, I feel your pain. You sound like someone I'd really like in real life. I'm totally with you on the financial independence thing.

I hate that I feel like I'm betraying my feminist roots by putting my relationship equal with my job, but I think of it as a matter of timing. If I had found my ideal job before I met my partner, things would have been different. But instead I'm frustrated because I know it's holding me back. And he does, too, which just adds to the guilt. But I'm not going to leave him or make him move someplace for me, I know that wouldn't work, either.

On the other hand, my partner and I agree on which parts of the country we absolutely couldn't stand, and that is another timing thing. I think if I had been in a position to apply for jobs when I was younger and more clueless, and better yet, coming from someplace awful or boring rather than where I am now, I would have been happy to go anywhere.

I always thought I would be happy to go anywhere. But I'm older, more burned out, and a little bit more travelled, not to mention spoiled, so I know I wouldn't want to live just anywhere. And my partner especially, while being somewhat flexible, has high standards for where he'd be willing to live. And while I might be willing to suffer on my own- why not, I'd be depressed and lonely, instead of just depressed- I know he's right that we'd both be happier in some places than others, even if work were exactly what we wanted to do (which we know doesn't exist).

But I know I can't say any of this to my advisors.

Lately I'm dreaming that someone will create a position for me where I am now. Which is silly. I know I wouldn't be happy as an adjunct, since I wouldn't have money or space to do research. And I'm not sure I'm willing to stick it out as a postdoc indefinitely until something comes along. I feel like I have to set a deadline and say, if things don't improve by the year 200x, I will find something else even if it means I have to move.

I guess my point is, after all this mememe stuff, if you're happy where you are doing what you're doing, what's the problem? As long as you're not going into a dead-end situation, hang onto it as long as you can. Maybe some other solution will present itself in the meantime.