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Ashley’s Employment Situation

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First, I’ve got to express my internal struggle….

I have SO MUCH I want to share with you guys. I feel like the better idea you have of my life/work/financial/debt situation, the better equipped you will be to render advice, suggestions, and just provide comments and/or support. But I also don’t want to overwhelm you with ALL of this information at once!

So, bear with me. I have planned a mix of “content-heavy” posts (where you learn more about my financial situation), and “content-light” posts (where you can celebrate some of my successes – like paying off my Capital One CC today!!!! – or get an inside peak at things I’ve been doing to save money!)

Right now, let’s talk my job status.

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If you recall, I graduated in August 2013 and have been unable to find full-time employment since then. My “dream job” is to be a professor, but in lieu of full-time employment, I have been working part-time jobs in the meantime.

Currently, I work on a contract-basis (meaning, not an official “employee”, not eligible for health care, no job security) for multiple employers. My work is 100% online and gives me the flexibility to work how I want, when I want, and where I want (I choose to work in my yoga pants at home) ; )

My work is still in the area where I got my degree (teaching online and doing research). In addition to my paid work, I also work unpaid in a couple realms. First and foremost, I’m a Mom. My girls are currently in daycare 3 days a week, but I’m planning to talk to our provider about reducing to 2 days a week to save money. Either way, being a Mom is full-time and certainly requires a great deal of my time and attention. My other unpaid work (discussed below) I see as an investment in myself.

Soooo, I’m in a bit of a precarious situation currently. I have had advisers tell me that I can “free float” for one year, but if I haven’t found a job in that time I’ll basically be considered unhireable (have I mentioned the stiff competition in my field?) So to try to keep my hat in the ring, I have continued working on various projects with colleagues from my alma mater. These are 100% unpaid and do require a fair amount of time (trips to campus for meetings and to use specialized software I don’t have at home). Right now, my commitment is predominantly one of time, as my costs aren’t too significant (e.g., cost of daycare when I go to campus, nominal costs of gasoline and parking on campus). However, staying active in academia can boost my resume (we call it a “CV”) and help make me a more attractive candidate, so I see this as an absolutely imperative venture at this point (money and time be damned).

I plan to give the job-search my “all” for another full year. Remember, most positions hire in Nov-Jan for the following August, so my plan is to continue being active and applying for positions until August of 2015 (side note – There is still a tiny chance I could get hired this year…there are 2 schools left that I applied with who have not yet made hiring decisions). If by August 2015 I come up empty handed, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve that could potentially be quite lucrative. I hesitate to discuss it further at this time (on the off-chance that a potential future employer stumbles across this blog, I don’t want to disclose this information). If we get to that point, I’ll be happy to open up with you at that time. But currently, I’m committed to pursuing my dream job and giving it whatever time investment is required.

So, even though my work is “part-time”, it really feels like I’m working all the time because I’ve always got some kind of project going on and some kind of deadlines on the horizon. I don’t make a ton (the majority of our household income comes from my husband), but I make a pretty decent wage considering my paid employment is only a part-time, online gig. I feel very fortunate to have it so I am able to be home with my girls the majority of the time, particularly while they are very young (they’ll be 2 in a few months!)

A couple take-home points I’d like to make regarding my paid employment, in case anyone else is in a similar situation or could benefit from the advice:

  1. Network, network, network. Even if you don’t network, make sure you never burn any bridges with the people you meet.
  2. Let people see your work ethic, but also let them see that you’re “human.” No one wants to work with a machine.
  3. Be open to outside-the-box opportunities.

I never sought out my part-time employment situations, they all just fell into my lap. This was 100% because these people (former colleagues) knew my work and my personality and, even after moving on to other universities, they knew they could “count on me” on various projects, that I am personable and easy to work with, and that I am task-oriented and will work to complete projects in a timely manner. Never did I ever think I would be here – working at home, online, sitting in my PJ pants and wrangling twin toddlers. And of course I want the coveted professor position. But you know what? My employment situation is actually pretty awesome! I consider myself lucky, for sure!

As a random aside, I also have a few tricks up my sleeve to increase my income even currently….but those will be shared at another time.


18 Comments

  • Reply Christa |

    I feel your frustration! I finished my masters in 2010, and didn’t find full time employment until 2013. I too pieced together part time jobs, and took a full time job for minimal money that didn’t require a MA, to get more experience. I too am in education.

    • Reply Ashley |

      It’s tough on the streets for an academic! ; ) Really, though – I recently read an article about how adjunct faculty in the US currently make less than minimum wage in many places, once accounting for EVERYTHING (course prep, grading, emails, lectures, traveling all around town to teach at 3 different places, meeting with students, etc etc etc.) Very discouraging! : /

  • Reply Kerry |

    I think I would rather be a heroin addict than hooked on the drug of academia. At least they have treatment programs.

    • Reply Ashley |

      lol. For what its worth, Kerry, I have made it my personal mission to dissuade EVERY PERSON I KNOW from going to grad school. It’s too late for me, but maybe I can save some others : )

  • Reply TPol |

    I think you are doing just what you need to do. Building a solid CV is important. Wish you the best.

  • Reply Matt |

    What did you major in in undergrad? What was your masters program in? And in what field is your PhD?

    • Reply Ashley |

      Why – you want to hire me??? ; )
      If I end up going the alternative career route I promise to be more open about it, but while I’m knee-deep in my search I’d prefer to keep it private. With employers nowadays credit checking applicants and taking into consideration personal finances, coupled with my obvious lapses in judgement in this area, I would prefer to try to keep some anonymity for the time being.

  • Reply Joe |

    hi Ashley,

    You are very brave for putting it all out there for us, I wish you the best in the journey ahead. I hope that we collectively can give you some helpful pieces of advice.

    The academic job hunt is a funny thing. I hope that when the music stops that you have a chair!

    This is coming from someone who at one point had similar idealized aspirations but turned to a corporate job instead (a path that’s become much more common in my field within the last decade and a decision that I ultimately don’t regret). It seems like you may not want to share details of your exact field, but can you comment briefly on whether there are established alternative career paths? Perhaps these are what you are alluding to when you say there are tricks up your sleeve!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Hi Joe,
      It seems funny when I’m so open with my finances but, for whatever reason, I feel the need to have some level of privacy in regard to my career. Maybe since its still so up-in-the-air. I will tell you that, no…it does not lend itself well/easily to alternative career paths. The potential future career path I could take is something I just very recently heard about and realized would fit me well. Although it would, indeed, use my degree it is not something I would have ever thought about while I was in grad school and not something any faculty member ever brought up or even mentioned in passing. It’s really a new emerging field.

  • Reply Mintly @ MintlyBlog |

    Ashley, I totally feel your pain on trying to find work in academia. My husband is fortunate enough to have a job at a university, but ever since we got here, we’ve been trying to leave! It’s great to be full-time, but he’s a “visiting lecturer”… and has been for 8 years! It’s all about the magic shuffle, right? A few jobs open up, the fashionable/well-connected/sometimes-truly-awesome people get the jobs, then their jobs open up, and here we go again. 🙂

    Anyway, just wanted to say that we feel your pain and know how hard it is to be raising kids while simultaneously working a million different jobs (and applying for jobs is the equivalent of at least 2 full-time jobs, amiright?).

    • Reply Ashley |

      Sooo right! I think people totally underestimate the amount of time is required just for applying to places! I am a little OCD and spend a TON of time researching the place/people/etc first before writing cover letters, research/teaching statements, etc. I calculated it once and – after the research stage – it still takes me an average of about 10 hours per application (and that’s when I’ve already got several “form” statements/cover letters that I can draw from and use as a basis for personalization). My husband and I joke that I’m a “hustler” (not in terms of drug-hustling…just in terms of doing whatever I can to make that $$….okay that still sounds bad. You get the idea, lol)

  • Reply Kiki |

    Are your little girls identical twins? Sweet photo! Yup, looking for work is more work than actually working, I believe. It’s good to read that you have some other plans on the back burner.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yes, they are identical : )
      I will certainly be sharing my other money-making ventures soon!

  • Reply JT |

    Great for you. You’ve got the right idea with keeping up your networking, staying within the University environment, and still working in your field. My only question is – if you get a job at the University will you have to increase the # of days your kids are in day care? If so, could you potentially make enough to cover the job costs (parking, gas, etc) and day care?

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks JT! That’s a great question and one that is difficult to answer with so many unknowns (depends on where the job is – if its in one of the cities where we have family, they have generously offered to help with childcare, for example). On general terms, yes, if I get hired as an assistant professor it will be a full time thing, requiring the girls to be in daycare 5 days per week. My salary boost will be enough to compensate for the additional childcare costs. However, there are lots of other factors to consider, too (e.g., impact on husband’s job, etc.) Its food for thought, but I haven’t worried too much about it. IF I get a job offer, then I can look at the numbers, negotiate salary, and make an informed decision at that point.

  • Reply Juhli |

    I understand that you don’t want to share your major. My Hubby and I both have Ph.D.s and graduated into a difficult market in the early 1980s. I went the corporate job route. He took a one year grant funded research assistant position and then other grant funded research positions before finally becoming a professor. Ironically, once he had tenure he quit to take a Federal government job that has been great. Don’t think there is only one solution!

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