Monday, 18 August 2014

Job versus Career

It's been two months today since my viva, so I thought I'd check back in. People have been asking whether I've found work yet. A woman at church asked if I was "going to work or stay in academia?" (I didn't realise the two were mutually I've been trying to work in academia!)

I get embarrassed when I have to explain that no, I haven't. I'm currently waiting to hear the outcomes of a few applications, and still checking jobs sites and e-mails for more opportunities. It's embarrassing and shameful for me to not be working, but at the end of the day, building a career in academia is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm taking a long-range view of things.

Technically speaking, I could find a job--I could be out there every day handing my CV out in shops and pubs, filling out online applications and talking to contacts in the area. I could find something--but I'm not looking for just a job. I'm taking this 2 month break to work on my career, taking advantage of this time to write and read again, and draft new project proposals.

Some days are better than others. Today's been pretty bright and productive--I found another post-doc and applied for it, and I'm planning a library day tomorrow. Other days have been pretty low--meeting new people is embarrassing, as I wonder how long I can keep saying "I recently finished my PhD and I'm applying for post-docs". What's the expiration date on the term 'recently'? Would 3 months be too long, or 6 months, or a year?

I've seen brilliant colleagues finish their PhDs and find jobs, but not careers. They teach full-time on temporary contracts, but they jump from one job to the next and have no time to work on publications or to come up with new projects. I'm trying not to make that mistake, but it's hard to be unemployed. Even if I know it's better in the long run, I still feel bad about it. I have the luxury of not being the breadwinner, but having a roof over my head and food to eat adds another layer of shame and guilt to the whole post-doc unemployment thing.

When I was staying at my mom's between the MA and PhD, I didn't get a summer job. My mom was fine with that--she enjoyed having me home for the 4 months, and I cooked and organised the garage, and mowed the lawn, etc. I got a lot of reading done and spent a lot of quality time with my mom and local friends. It was a nice summer, but it'll always have a shadow over it for me. My sister, who lived across the country at the time, wasn't fine with it, and said, "Well, I hope you're not planning on living with mom after the PhD." It still hurts. Mainly, because it's true--here I am, after the PhD, and although I'm not dependent upon my mom, I'm dependent upon my husband. I wanted to prove her wrong. All of these years, I've been working hard and hoping to show her that she was wrong.

At the end of the day, I genuinely love working in academia and I know this is what I'm meant to do with my life. Patience is key. I'll keep using 'recently' for as long as it takes...

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