Post Academic

Learning on the post-academic job

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on August 5, 2010
Tags: , ,

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…


Why You Should Treat “Flexibility” on the Job With Skepticism

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionDuring the third season of “Mad Men,” Don Draper takes repeated middle-of-the-night calls from Conrad Hilton, owner of the hotel chain and a VIP. Anyone tethered to a Crackberry should groan upon seeing it. Even the powerful Don Draper can be caught in the trap of “flex time.”

“Job flexibility” or “flex time” has grown increasingly popular as a benefit, and it’s one of the reasons people flock to academia. In many cases, flexibility is a good thing, especially if you have children or need to see a doctor regularly. That way, you can make up your work hours at night or on the weekend, and you and your boss will still be happy.

Lately, however, I’ve seen “flexibility” be abused or misinterpreted to mean “available at all hours of the day or night.” In academia, the overhyped flexibility will have you bending over backwards. Students e-mail at weird hours, you do your work at night because of marathon meetings during the day or coffee breaks that turn into grading sessions. But hey–it’s all worth it because you’re not doing the 9-to-5, right?

More after the jump! Image of contortionist from 1880, Wikimedia Commons, public domain. (more…)