Seeking a Career: In or Out of Academia

This morning I read and tweeted No Adjuncts Allowed by Nazima Kadir. I’d say it felt like a timely read, but there’s no shortage of blogs, articles and so forth about the decline of academia and university careers. I’ve recently moved back to my home country (the US) but to a new state (Alaska) for personal reasons, and am beginning the hunt to find not just a paycheck but a suitable career path now that I’ve finally finished the PhD. I’ve spent the last couple of years blogging about my ambivalence with pursuing a career in academia. Part of this was a lack of confidence in the quality of my own research, part was (and still is) a lack of faith in the future of the university, especially within the countries I imagine I’d live in over the next few decades (e.g. the US or the UK). Having made it through the PhD I can’t deny that I not only want an academic career, I think it’s what I’m best suited toward. Still, I’m leaning more toward out than in. Articles like Kadir’s sum up a lot of why. I love teaching, and still think I’m going to throw my hat into the adjunct pool. I love, but yes, I also hate research. Yet, I am hoping that as an adjunct I’d have a bit more access to enough resources to pursue that love/hate relationship in my hobby time at least. I also think I need to fling my hat toward other career paths. Currently, while trying to finish off a paper and a chapter proposal, work on my creative writing, and get my CV together (particularly my non-academic CV), I’ve been researching “other” careers and following every blog, twitter account and platform dedicated to potential careers for humanities PhDs outside of the university. I’m not worried about options, more about figuring out what will be the best fit for me (that is, ideally, currently hiring). I hate the idea of closing the door on academia though. Because as Kadir’s experience makes painfully clear, while there are very few opportunities within the university system, and the competition is fierce, you are either in or out. I want both. I want a stable career, family life and paycheck. Still, I also want to be able to teach a class or two, still be able to publish when I’m inspired to publish (rather than pumping out crap to attempt and avoid the perish).

I’ve been living in my new Alaskan apartment for a week and still don’t have a bed. I’m slowly furnishing (TV came before bed, but that’s entirely Mattress Firm’s fault – fyi don’t order through their website it’s terrible and filled with misinformation regarding delivery time), attempting to figure out how to get a car while unemployed (and my UK fiance waits for his SSN to be issued) with zero mechanical knowledge, and working on my literary projects. I’m fortunate enough to have savings (if also student loans) and my partner has a pretty decent paycheck. So I have the luxury of time to assess career options and not jump into the first thing that’ll hire me. I have the time to decide whether to fight for academia or fight my way out. But I think as much as I want to have my cake and eat it too I’m going to have to pick a side. I don’t want to find myself in a situation like Kadir’s, spurned by academia simply because I think I’m worth a bit more than a temporary contract, low pay and (non-existent) benefits, and minimal (if any) career progression.

Note: Kadir’s post seems to have been removed at the time of publishing this (unsure if it’s down temporarily or permanently). However, her specific situation (having her book denied consideration for a prize because of her lack of university affiliations), while having inspired this post, is only one example of the failings of the university system (in this case regarding employment opportunities) and why I’m still career searching.

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