Like Cari, I'm in the midst of asking some big questions about what I want from my life, particularly my work and what the hell I'm going to do when my contracts run out this summer.
For most of my Ph.D. and this post-doc I have been extremely ambivalent about pursuing an academic career. I love research and thinking about ideas, I've discovered that for the most part I like teaching and I've been around universities my whole life (my dad was a Prof) and it feels like the right place to be.
The freedoms for tenure-stream faculty are great--flexible hours, no dress code, the freedom to pursue your interests with minimal interference, working in a place filled with dialogue and ideas. The pay if you're tenure-stream is quite good too.
But those freedoms come with the pressure to produce those ideas: getting grants, doing the research, writing and publishing articles and books--combined with creating courses, managing students, administrative duties etc. The work can be hard. It's about you and your ideas, your thoughts and passions. They are judged by your peers and you advance based on your ability to produce. Sometimes it feels like the work never ends. I could always be writing more, reading more, publishing more. My lectures could improve, I could be on more committees or attend more events that allow me to network and discuss ideas with others. more. more. more.
For those reasons, I decided to not be "on the market" for academic work this year. I didn't put in any applications, none. I thought I made the decision to get out, work somewhere else, figure out my transferable skills and find work that would be fulfilling in the academic sphere (I HATE the term real world, so don't use it okay?). All winter I've been trying to figure out what that work would be. What skills do I have that I can transfer elsewhere? How can I convey my abilities to research, write, work independently, manage projects, be analytical to those who don't know this world? Is my Ph.D. an asset or a liability? How can I explain being 36 and not having any employment experience for the last decade (and even that was full time work as VP in my student union in 1995--I *really* like universities).
So, I haven't really been applying for work outside the university much either. I'm starting to do some networking to see what there is out there. Ph.D.'s don't all go into academic work and I've been combing resources to see what people do when they sell-out. It's a tough transition to make. It's like being trained to be a physician and then deciding not to practice medicine. A sociology Ph.D. is trained to be a university professor, but that doesn't mean that's all she can do...but what else is there?
And, will I like what I find? Articles like this one give me pause.
There are some possibilties bubbling that may be interesting to pursue and I have spoken with people like Jo, Em and Sara about this at length, they have made interesting journeys post-Ph.D. to interesting and fulfilling work. The funny thing is that I'm suddenly re-evaluating my getting-out strategy. Maybe I can't find this other work because I really do want to be a Prof. but I'm chicken. I'm scared of the workload and the commitment and the probability of having to leave my city and uproot my family for a job. I'm also scared of the rejection. Much of academic work is about having a very thick skin. And looking for work in a competitive market is probably the worst part--so much rejection. It's easier to not want it than to be in it and fail to land a job.
The big question boils down to this: am I out or am I in? Do I go through a round of applications this Fall or not? Eventually you can't go back. I need to keep on finding ways to publish and stay current or I won't have what it takes to get hired. So do I take more contract adjunct work to pay the bills or cut the cord and venture forth...