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Employment Update


I’d last written about my job situation a couple months ago (here, if you need an refresher). Recall that I work primarily for 2 universities (online teaching for University A and research for University B), plus I make a small amount of additional income from doing textbook reviews, selling things online, and whatever else I an hustle up.

The main thing to know is that I’m a contract employee. As such, it’s a “given” that your contract can end at any time.

Well University A (where I teach online) has been going great. We’re full swing into the summer semester. I have to do a little budget-planning because my pay is split into two lump sums: one in June, and the other in July (even though the semester goes into August). No biggie, just requires a bit of pre-planning because I don’t think I’ll get my first Fall teaching paycheck until September (meaning, no pay in August, even though I’ll still be working).

University B (where I do research)…..not so great. I mentioned in my first employment situation post that University A feels very secure while University B…not so much.

Well, surprise of surprises – I haven’t worked for University B in about 3 weeks. I’m not going to lie, it’s a major bummer as I really enjoyed this work and its relatively easy in terms of research projects. Let me give a little background into my employment situation with University B.

University B has several large, government-funded research grants. Many of these grants come from the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD will commission University B to do research on “XYZ” (not going into specifics, as some of this information is actually classified). Often there is a short turnaround requested. So the DoD may say, “Hey, we need this research report brief done within 30 days, and a longer research report within 90 days.” I have lots of experience with this type of thing so University B will come to me and ask if I’m interested in working on the project. The problem is, when the project ends that’s it. It’s over. Luckily, the DoD is always furthering their knowledge so there are often back-to-back requests. This is what I’ve been doing since I first started working with them (I think I started in September last year??) Sometimes there are a couple weeks between projects and sometimes multiple projects are overlapping. However, I’ve never gone this long between projects. It makes me worried they may not need my help (or there may be no current requests, funds could have run out, or a myriad of other reasons why I haven’t been contacted recently).

So remember when I talked about “getting a raise” (by teaching more classes for University A)? Well, I’m especially thankful for the additional work right now. It won’t end up with me making additional money, but it ends up where the funds I had made from University B will be covered by my extra class, so at least my income won’t decrease as a result of loosing this extra employment.

So that’s all – just wanted to give an update on my employment status.

Update: I had written this post early last week and, at the end of the week, I was contacted with a new research request from University B. Woohoo!! I still don’t think my work with University B is as dependable as with University A, but I’m thankful to have it. I really do enjoy it a lot. Working directly with the DoD is great because, as a researcher, you really feel like you’re making an impact that matters (as opposed to more theoretical or basic research that may not have an immediate application).

As a related question…for those who have worked in similar situations (contract-based jobs that are not necessarily “steady”), what would you have done in my situation? If you don’t hear from people for awhile do you reach out to them? That’s what my husband was telling me to do, but it felt weird….almost like I’m “begging” for more work. But it could just be considered proper etiquette to keep in touch. What do you think???


  • Reply Kili |

    I am doing contract work as well, and in my field (media), it’s definitly useful to reach out to people if you haven’t heard from them in a while. I’d usually send an e-mail with some ideas for new projects also adding I am available for projects they suggest. I don’t consider that “begging”, but more of a keeping-the-foot-in-the-door-tactic, making sure they don’t forget about me.
    BUT: I guess work for a university B might be somewhat different. Since you rely on University B for work, the same way University B relies on the DoD for work. So if they don’t have a request from the DoD, they don’t have a request for you. because unlike in my job, you can’t just suggest a project..
    Not sure if there are other projects at University B you could work for as well during a DoD dry spell?
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with sending out a friendly e-mail in between projects. Something like “I really enjoyed completing project x at the beginning of this month and wanted to let you know I am looking forward to further projects in this or a related field”. from whatever they answer then, you’ll know if it’s helpful sending those mails out again in the future or not.

  • Reply Juhli |

    I would definitely reach out to them. You could do it as networking – “You know I love working on the projects you have and wonder if there is anyone you know who is doing similar work who also might need additional resources?” Broadening your potential sources of income is always a good idea when a contract worker. Congrats on the online teaching work!

  • Reply SAK |

    Just chiming in – you should reach out regularly – not just when you haven’t heard from them. That way you have a consistent track record of networking with them. Think of it like planning out a series of blog posts – ask about other work they are doing they need help with. If they bid for these DoD projects – any assistance you can provide. Think of our departments/groups that your skills work in – ask for introductions. Just say hi and I’m checking in.

  • Reply Judi |

    I think you said that you re in a science related field, as am I! It’s not exactly part of the science culture to check in regularly so I can understand why you would be hesitant. But do they have regular seminar series in you area of research interest? This could give you a presence at the university if you make it a priority to go and help you make some PI friends that could keep you in the loop.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’m sure they do, but unfortunately I would never be able to attend. “University B” is across the country from where I live, and it is unlikely that I will ever even meet (face-to-face) most of the people I work with there.

  • Reply Tania |

    I don’t see an issue with reaching out. Chances are there is no work, but it could be that someone slipped up. We’ve had that happen at my PT job (hospitality), where they may be busy one weekend, but look over some people, and add them to the schedule after they call. You can also just call to ask for a possible forecast. Sometimes they may know if something is coming, and can relay that info to you. You’re not asking for work, just to know what’s been going on.

  • Reply AY |

    Hi Ashley,

    Great post–love the update on the employment situation since my husband is doing something very similar! He is currently working on his PhD but has been an adjunct at a college for 3 years. He teaches on campus and online year-round and manages to cobble together full-time pay with the highway robbery that is adjunct pay (I know you know what I mean!) He FINALLY has a full-time job starting at this school next month! We are very grateful and I feel like his hard work, willingness to do odd jobs, volunteering to rewrite badly written or outdated course curriculum etc. has really helped him gain the reputation of “team player.” From what I gather you only do online teaching for University A, correct? If so then adjuncting on campus might not be a possibility (if you aren’t local to the school) but keeping your eye open for rewriting courses or updating them might be another possible side hustle. They paid my husband almost as much $ as teaching a whole class to do this several times. Once it was quite a bit of work but another time it was things like reformatting assignments to a new edition, etc. which wasn’t too burdensome.

    Also I definitely encourage you to reach out when you haven’t been contacted by either school for a while–I don’t think they would take that as pushy, just making yourself available (in a good way!) I know how hard it is to NOT be able to plan/budget because you can’t predict ahead of time how many classes they will give you, and you get paid in lump sums sometimes 6 weeks after a course ends (at least ours is that way). I think you’re doing a great job keeping up these employment opportunities and will hope for a full-time job to head your way soon!!


    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the comment – its encouraging to hear about others in similar situations who have “made it.” : )
      I actually started off adjuncting in-person (“live”) courses well before I ever moved to online. I made the conscious decision to stop after I completed my dissertation. The problem is I literally wasn’t even get paid enough to cover the cost of child care. I did it while I dissertated because I taught Tues/Thurs (morning), then had all afternoon (while girls were in daycare) to attend mandatory meetings and work on my dissertation. But that arrangement still had me paying out of pocket a bit for daycare (the teaching didn’t cover it). It was worth it since it was an “investment” in being able to complete my dissertation but now that I just work from home, I can’t afford to essentially PAY someone (to watch my kids) so I am able to go teach. Does this make sense? It would be different if I were able to teach multiple classes on only Tues/Thurs, but it never worked like that – the CC preschedules classes and you have to pick from what’s available. I couldn’t make my schedule to work with childcare so I decided to stop. I miss the person-to-person connection, so if the full-time thing doesn’t work out for me, I fully see myself going back to adjunct at a CC after the girls are school aged (read: free child care!)

So, what do you think ?