Starting Over. Way, way, over.


Hello, lovelies! It’s been too long! Neglected blog is neglected! My intention when I started my new alt-ac position (over 6 months ago, now!), was to continue to document my transition into the land of para-academia. As you can tell by my lack of posts, this has not quite worked out–for a couple of reasons. At first, I was just really tired. Really, really, tired. That’s the thing about adjusting to a 9-to-5 schedule–it’s strangely exhausting. This is especially true for people like me who have an internal clock that is at odds with a day job lifestyle. I often spend Friday nights crying in exhaustion like a toddler. That part really sucks. I try to remind myself that this exhausting job is the reason I own a lovely home to tired-cry in, instead of my old, crappy, paper-thin walled grad student apartment. This is not 100% comforting.

More importantly, my newish job is at one of my previous graduate institutions. Since I’m only pseudo-anonymous here, it’s simply too risky to post any machiavellian details about my plan to take over the university office politics or minor cubicle rants. I am, however, going to be a contributor to a fab new ebook about post-academic life that fellow post/alt-ac bloggers JC, Lauren, Jet, and Currer are putting together in conjunction with their new site, How to Leave Academia. My soon-to-be-written essay will focus on day-to-day life in an alt-ac job and feelings and stuff. Maybe some advice? I’m not sure yet.

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I did not die today

You never forget how?

So remember how my new thing is trying new things (like employment)? Now that I’m living just under a mile from work, I have gotten it into my head that I should be a bicycle commuter. Up until this point, I have been walking to work–huffing and puffing up a couple hills and two giant staircases. Yes, I work on a mountaintop. During one of these hikes, as I was sweating through my nice work shirt, I had a vision of myself cruising effortlessly to campus. Gliding on a snazzy bike, messenger bag slung jauntily across my chest, I would halve my walk time and swagger into the office looking cool. “What’s that? Oh, it’s just my bike helmet. I bike to work you know,” I would say to admiring coworkers. Look how socially responsible she is! They would think. She’s also a virtuous person who exercises virtuously, they would say to each other. There was just one flaw in my plan. I do not know how to ride a bike. I had not ridden a bike since I was 12 years old. But was I going to let that stop me? *Of course not!*

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On the Hunt

House Hunting

It’s been ages since my last post. My bad, guys. Since accepting my full-time alt-ac job, I’ve been busy moving back to the U.S. and attempting to not be homeless. New job is located in my old town, so I am intimately familiar with the dismal rental market ’round these parts. Essentially the options are: 1) over-priced apartments for college students with wealthy families (think NYC rents for NYC-size apartments in a middle-of-nowhere college town); 2) cheap, fire-trap apartments for college students who do not have wealthy families; 3) over-priced, slumlord-managed dwellings in various states of disrepair for non-college students. I’m exaggerating a bit, but the rental market ain’t good. Complicating matters, we’re coming in off-season to a town that runs on the academic calendar (people rent in Feb-April for leases starting the following summer/fall) *and* we have a pet. This left us with slim pickings. A side rant: it makes me very sad to move from a culture where pets–dogs especially–are such an accepted fact of life that one wouldn’t think to question whether or not one’s dog would be “allowed” to be somewhere to a community that seems dog-friendly on the surface (there’s a dog park, etc.), but makes it extremely difficult to actually find housing while owning one.

This is all to say that we decided to buy a house. I know! Turning on a dime here, folks. I had been frantically stuffing money under the mattress when I thought that I might be unemployed, well, forever. Now that I have secured gainful employment, investing in a house seemed like a good option for those funds. So we took a week, looked at some houses, and picked one. Then things got complicated. Having never bought a house before, I thought that job + down payment = mortgage. As it turns out, this is not necessarily the case.

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I got a job, guys.

Happy Dance

So, I  accepted a job offer this week for an academic affairs position at one of my former universities (!). It’s a full-time, permanent position with benefits (good benefits! Like dental, yo! And a gym membership and stuff). I cannot even tell you how excited I am about this. The job is in instructional/faculty development, which I’ve been working in/around for years as a grad student (serving on curriculum committees, teaching pedagogy courses, presenting at teaching conferences, etc.). The hiring committee’s preference was for a PhD, which was exciting. I was hired (and am being well-compensated), in part, because of the degree. No burying my education section at the end of my resume for this gig! I’m psyched about the actual job duties, but I cannot overestimate the effect the promise of stable employment has had on my mental and physical well-being.

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Pressing Pause


My post frequency has been slowing down lately, as you might have noticed. My alt-ac job applications have been moving along at what, in reality, is a normal pace. To me, however, the interviewing/hiring process feels interminable. I seem to be progressing to new rounds, but I have no idea how many “rounds” there actually are. Four? Five? Eleventybillion?

Donkey Kong

This has been stressing me out a bit. Especially because one of these jobs would start soon, which would mean coordinating a trans-Atlantic move within a fairly tight timeframe. I know that what I should be doing during this waiting stage is applying to more jobs and creating more options for myself, but I’ve decided to take a bit of break from job hunting instead. So far, this feels good. I might pick things up again later this week. Maybe Wednesday? Wednesday sounds good. Or maybe Thursday. Yes, Thursday is better. So what have I been doing instead during my break? Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of the Uninterview


It is a commonplace to say that in order to get a job you have to know someone. Hence all the job hunting advice about the importance of networking. So while I knew this was true (and therefore bumbled about LinkedIn for awhile), I didn’t really know it. You know? Lately, however, I’ve been following up on job leads sent to me by friends (thanks, guys!). This usually means that I wind up on the other side of a friendly phone call that’s 50% informational interview, where the person is explaining to me the details of a yet-to-be-posted job opportunity and I’m trying to figure out if I’m interested (LOL, as if I’m going about turning down job opportunities), and 50% initial screening interview, where the employer is attempting to determine whether I seem like a relatively capable person with whom he or she might like to work. I genuinely like these chats. I get to ask questions pretty freely and get a sense of the work environment. It’s all very low pressure. One thing I don’t often get from these conversations, however, are concrete details. Since these are often unposted jobs, the actual job description might not exist yet. This can be great in the sense that, theoretically, the official job description might then be written around your skills and qualifications making you, in effect, an inside candidate. The downside is that it’s hard to get a good idea about what exactly a job entails when the duties are constantly in flux. This has led to some confusing interview questions asking if I would be able to work on Project Z before anyone has explained just what Project Z is and how I would be expected to contribute. It can also be difficult to figure out which experiences and skills to stress without having an actual job description in front of you. I sometimes wind up misjudging what exactly a hiring committee is looking for (“No, I no longer want to do Y. Wait, you mean you’d want someone to do Y? Well then, of course I’d be eager to continue doing Y!” Yikes).

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Lessons from Management Consulting

Management Consulting

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, one of the fields I’ve been investigating is management consulting. I did a few informational interviews with management consultants several weeks ago (both in big firms and smaller boutique ones). I was initially drawn to consulting for a number of reasons. I like the teamwork and problem-solving aspects. I like the idea of a fast-paced work environment (but not necessarily the reality of it, as I’ve mentioned). I like the earning potential. I could be earning more after 5 years as a consultant than I would ever make as a professor, even a tenured, full professor. I was also drawn to the fact that many (but not all) firms tend to recognize the PhD–even when it’s in a Humanities field. By this I mean that PhDs don’t necessarily have to start in entry-level positions with recent BAs/BSs. A downside, for me, is the need for quantitative skills (I do not have them, and I do not really want to learn them). I think my inability to perform back-of-the-envelope-fourth-grade-math might be a dealbreaker. There is also the question of work/life balance. The consultants I talked with emphasized the long hours (60+ hour weeks) and travel time, but were quick to assert that they had a fine work/life balance. One person noted that the people he knew who had quit over these kinds of issues had problems in their next jobs as well; they just weren’t good at establishing boundaries. I think this is probably true. Any task can expand to fill the time you have, and if you’re not good at fiercely defending your free time it’s easy to wind up without any.

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