A Job that Works Can Stop Working

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Sometimes things just drift.

When my museum career came to a screeching halt a few years back during the recession (and my first pregnancy), I made a very calculated and deliberate decision to come back to higher ed as my workplace of choice. A decision that came after a lot of processing of my feelings about my career and my work, and a lot of soul searching and reflection. If I had been able to be honest with myself (instead of clouded mind after having been laid off), I would have been able to say, “You know what? We’re just not suitable for each other anymore. It’s time to move on” to the museum profession.

I wish I had known this a long time ago, but just in case you don’t, a piece of advice.

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Reflections on women in (my) workplace

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Women Rule!

International Women’s Day is coming up and #metoo has been inescapable this year, with good reason, I might add. While I’m not going to comment on that specifically, I will use this moment to reflect on women in my workplace.

One of the reasons I’ve been so content in my work since landing (back) in academia has been that I have been fortunate to land in a field where I am mentored by, work for, and work alongside amazingly talented, skilled, intelligent, and compassionate women. In fact, since joining my current university department more than 7 years ago, I have consistently heard that the field I work in – which I’m not going to identify due to privacy concerns – is more than 75% women. Industry-wide, not just in my corner of the work world at my university. That turns out to be true. In fact, I guess the most recent data now show that the workforce is actually closer to 85% women. And so perhaps my own experience of working amongst a team of inspiring women leaders may not be unique, no matter where I go next.

That is great news to me! And yet, we still have miles to go. Let’s talk about three problems that brings to bear.

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Why I needed a backup plan

When you got your degree, did you get it knowing what kind of work you would do?

This is how a lot of people end up with a graduate or professional degree. To be a teacher, you’ll need your ed degree; if you want to be a doctor, you’ll need med school; and to be a college professor, you’ll need a terminal degree in your field.

Lots of people get an advanced degree for other reasons. Maybe you needed to learn all that you could about a particular subject. Or maybe you were getting nowhere with your job hunt because you had only a Bachelor’s – and so you decided to tack on another degree, deciding to figure out the career stuff later. (That would be me, if you’re wondering).

No matter how you ended up with an advanced degree, or what you envisioned doing with it, you need a backup plan.

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Your backup plan may take a couple of tries, too.

I know, because I found that out the hard way.

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Book Review: The Professor Is In

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If you aren’t already familiar with The Professor Is In, you should be. It’s a fantastically informative and brutally honest faculty job market blog run by Karen Kelsky. But now you can get her job market insights in book form as well.

I got a chance to read Kelsky’s book, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning your Ph.D. Into a Job over the past week. After briefly setting the context for why the job market is so very competitive, the rest of the book provides no-nonsense guidance on how to navigate the market more successfully.

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Why I started this blog

It never ceases to disarm me how naive some Ph.D. students can be about the academic job market. And I’m not the only one.

Even though the undeniable bottoming-out of the tenure-track market has been well-documented, I frequently find myself conversing with grad students or recent Ph.D.s who suggest that they will take “just a research job” or something else to bide their time if they can’t find a tenure-track job, suggesting they haven’t even considered the possibility of finding no job in their field.

When pressed, they barely acquiesce, acknowledging that they may have to lower their standards over time and consider openings at non-R1 universities or lower-tier schools. This mentality was VERY prevalent prior to the great recession, but even last week, I overheard the following: “I’m not interested in the job at [XYZ]. It’s like a safety school’s safety school.”

This time of year (end of fall semester), as another academic jobs cycle comes to a close,  I start to see a lot more posts and musings about “What else can I do with a Ph.D.?” The answer is: tons! But the problem is that a lot of what’s out there about alt-ac careers is still generally outdated advice.

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