Post Academic


The Sloppy Seconds Job Posting, Hamster World Version

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on October 13, 2010
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PhotobucketRecently, Arnold described one of his experiences with a job posting that kept popping up again, year after year, never to be filled. After explaining his history interviewing for the job, he writes, “I’m passing on this position [this year], because I actually don’t believe in getting a second bite at what’s essentially the same apple.”

For those of you who want to make the leap from the Academic World to the Hamster World, you’ll soon discover that “sloppy seconds” job postings exist out there, too. One of our commenters wisely noted that repeated job postings are not necessarily the sign of a bad department, and that’s a good point to make regarding the academic world. As for the Hamster World, there’s a much greater chance that a repeated job posting is a red flag. Here’s why:

They’re not paying enough. Even with the bad economy, the job situation isn’t quite as dire as it is for academics, and most Hamsters won’t take a significant pay cut unless they need the money right away. If you don’t know what you’re worth, join Glassdoor, where you can look at salaries for your position at other companies in your area. Yes, I sound like an ad for Glassdoor, but the information that it provides helps keep you from–pardon me–getting screwed.

They’re dramatical. If they didn’t find what they were looking for the first time around, particularly in a bad job market when some really talented people are applying for work, something’s up. Either someone on the hiring team is fussy or there are obvious signs that it’s a bad place to work, no matter what the pay is.

They have high turnover. Some companies are better at hiding their problems during the interview process, or a person really really needs cash. So the person takes the job and discovers that the drama and the bullying isn’t worth it. The second the economy gets better or improves, that person will bail.

Of course, every situation is different. A person might take a job and then their spouse gets transferred to a new city. High turnover for a single position might not mean a workplace is a snake pit. So if a job keeps on coming up, you’ll need to ask around your network or even ask tough questions in the interview to get the full story.

Image of leftover pizza by Rick Audet from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Learning on the post-academic job

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on August 5, 2010
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We wanted to respond a little to all the sincere concerns and sympathetic support articulated in the comments section to “Can Being a Lowly Grad Student Kill You?”  We were heartened by the fact that so many folks felt compelled to offer their two cents, so I figured I might as well go into my own post-academic situation try and do what our statement of purpose says we do: “help people–starting with ourselves–figure out how to use and adapt skills to do things for which they might not have been initially intended.”

"A Notary in His Office" (1672) by Jan Berckheyde (Public Domain)

To expand on yesterday’s post unpacking the ballyhooed flexibility of academic jobs, I wanted to share some of my new experiences of working a 9-5 job–really, it’s like a 10-6 job in may case–in an office setting and what I’ve learned about my life as an academic from being a post-academic.  OK, my particular situation is a somewhat anomalous one because I’ve lucked out a bit finding employment that fits my training and skills well.  My job could be best defined as post-Ph.D./not tenure-track/no teaching/but still academic.  And I do enjoy some flexibility–note the semi-off-commute hours that accommodate me having to endure one of the bottom-10 worst commutes in the country many times a week.

With those caveats out of the way, I have to say that I enjoy having the structure of being in the office during specific times after basically setting my own hours working and studying since college.  Getting back to my original train of thought, here’s what I’ve learned to appreciate about having a stricter schedule and how I’ve come to the realization that flexible academic time might not have been so great for me…

Setting boundaries: Let me start by saying that the flexible schedule works for some people, since they manage their time well to find a way to be productive scholars, good teachers, and have a normal off-campus life.   And, of course, there’s an appeal to only being officially on the clock/in the classroom for, say, 10 hours a week, plus a few hours for office hours, plus more hours for administrative stuff, plus many more hours of prepping, plus many more hours of grading–wait, what was that about “controlling” your own “flexible” time as an academic?  Hey, that still doesn’t add up to 40 hours a week, does it?

More below the fold…

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The Tenure Debate, Again: You First. No, You First.

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by postacademic on July 30, 2010
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More or Less Bunk took a page from Bill Maher and set a New Rule: “Any professor who thinks tenure should be scrapped must give up theirs first.”

That rule sure would stop the endless circular debates that never result in anybody doing anything about the number and quality of jobs in academia (or the education provided to students, for that matter). There are a few individuals, though, who are either letting go of tenure or just letting go, period. Consider the following examples:

1. The Self-Described “Worst Professor Ever”: This philosophy PhD got a job and left it. On her way out, she torched her PhD while wearing a Bettie Page wig. Best of all, she shared the photos with the online masses. That’s the best job departure since the one seen in the Dave Chappelle stoner opus Half Baked.

2. The Tenured Prof Who Moved for Love: This professor entered the Hamster World when his girlfriend decided she wanted to get a PhD herself. He said, “It wouldn’t be a story if I were a woman, because thousands of women do this every year.” True, that. But you don’t see professors giving up a tenured job for the Hamster World, either.

3. Leaving Academia and Escape From the Ivory Tower. Okay, no Bettie Page references or romantic undercurrents, but solid advice for anyone wondering what else can be done with a PhD.

The words and actions of just a few people show that tenure may not be the end-all, be-all for the intellectually inclined. Again, I am a Hamster, not an academic, and I am pro-tenure because I don’t want market forces to determine who teaches what when. But skepticism toward institutions is always healthy. Skepticism built more than a few academic careers, didn’t it?

Interview With Adam Ruben, Author of Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School: Part 2

Yesterday, PhD, comedian, and recovering grad student Adam Ruben, author of “Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School,” answered our questions about how grad students can stay sane in their programs. Today’s questions focus on what happens after the program, specifically on how Ruben got his book published and on why he decided not to become a professor after earning his degree.

1. Your bio says how popular your stand-up comedy classes were at Johns Hopkins. Did your advisors or your grad school peers ever catch your show? What did they think? Was anyone offended, and how did you get around it?

Some of my grad school friends did attend the final show for the stand-up comedy class I taught, but that show mostly consisted of performances from the students in the class, not me. For other on-campus shows that peers and advisors might see (though I don’t think my advisor ever saw a show), I made sure that the things I made fun of were more universal and didn’t pick on anyone in particular. For example, I talked about the difference between conceptions of science when you’re in grade school (You get to make a volcano out of baking soda and vinegar!) and in grad school (You move small amounts of liquid from one place to another) and why such a large percentage of the students’ lab reports included the sentence “Overall, this lab was a success” even though they didn’t understand anything in the lab. Actually, I’ve never really offended anyone with stand-up, though I did get a few angry letters when I edited the grad student newspaper and introduced columns like “Undergrads Say the Darndest Things.” Some people didn’t like that.

2. Obviously, you have made the move from academia to the working world. We were wondering a) how did you launch your stand-up career and b) how did you land a book contract?

I began doing stand-up in college, and I started performing in the real world when I started grad school. A couple of comedy clubs in Baltimore had open mic nights, and I’d perform there when I could–and I’d meet other comedians, and some of them told me about other clubs, and things kind of grew from there.

As for the book contract, I was writing some freelance pieces for National Lampoon, and one day they contacted all of their writers to see if any of them would be interested in submitting book proposals. I came up with the idea for this book, and I wrote up the proposal, and they promptly rejected it, since grad students weren’t exactly National Lampoon’s demographic. So since I had the proposal anyway, I started sending it to literary agents. The most common response I got was, “I love it! I don’t want it!” Apparently it’s not a good idea to try selling a book to people who are notoriously cash-strapped. But a couple were interested, and I signed with Laurie Abkemeier at Defiore & Co., and she sent the proposal around to publishers. The process began again, and I received lots of very polite rejections, all claiming that impoverished grad students won’t buy books. Broadway Books turned out to be interested, though, which was great news.

More after the jump! Image of Adam Ruben courtesy of Broadway Books/Crown Publishing. (more…)


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