Sunday, March 2, 2014

How to Get a Post-Ac Job?


Cross-posted from Kathleen "Currer Bell"'s blog.

Whew! The first two weeks of [my new job at an online university] are kicking my ass! Adjusting to the new gig, along with continued health problems, has left me feeling pretty wiped out most evenings and disinclined to sign on and blog. Yet I had an email recently from a reader that inspired me to pop on here and share a few thoughts.

A reader who had found the piece "I Hate My Post-Ac Job" on How to Leave Academia asked me how I got my post-ac job(s). Like many of us, he earned a PhD and is having a difficult time securing employment. Or, scratch that, he has managed to secure employment, but it's at a job that doesn't take advantage of his talents/abilities/education level and pays a ridiculously low wage. Plus, the hours are crap and he doesn't like the work.

Sound familiar?

In this new age of "post-ac advice giving," (seriously, I feel like I can't sign onto Twitter without some new person advertising their post-ac help business) part of me wanted to be able to confidently reply to his email, "Have no fear--here are 10 easy steps to get your post-ac job." We've all read this type of post--network, hire someone to change your CV into a resume, work through your post-ac emotional stuff with the help of a life coach, take my 5 session webinar on the Post-Ac Job Search--sometimes it seems like the post-ac community has shifted to a post-ac "help" industry.

Instead, I replied with what I see as the (messier) truth. The type of advice he can easily find if he wants it (network, resume building, webinars) is fine. There's nothing inherently wrong with it and it probably can't hurt if he has the time and money to devote to it. Heck, I hired a coach to help me with my post-ac transition and it was helpful. And I've helped others through their transitions as a coach.

However, my hunch is that as an intelligent person with the skillz necessary to earn a PhD (research, reading, writing, critical thinking) he probably already knows how to write a pretty decent resume without hiring a professional. He may not think he knows. He may not have the confidence to strike out on his own. But he probably can handle writing his own resume. And if he can't handle the task at the present moment, a library is never far away with a book that'll show him resume templates and verbiage that he can imitate to draft his own resume.

The nuts and bolts of the (post-ac) job search are really a small part of the problem for most post-acs.

The bigger problem?

The fact that there is no easy answer. The fact that employers do shy away from degrees they don't understand. The fact that not everyone has money to hire professionals to help them. The fact that not everyone has the luxury of taking more courses, doing an unpaid internship, etc. The fact that as much as we'd like to say there are guarantees and simple, clear solutions to the post-ac job problem, there are not.

How did I get my post-ac jobs? Time. Persistence. Crying. Feeling like a failure. Networking. Not networking. Building a LinkedIn profile. Taking down my LinkedIn profile. Hiring a life coach. Taking classes for a new career path, but not getting certified. Taking any post-ac job because we needed to pay our bills. Refusing to take a post-ac job just because we had to pay our bills. Starting and then not starting a new career path. Applying to go back to school and then withdrawing my candidacy. Starting to open and then pushing pause on my own business. Giving up. Trying again. Luck. Dumb luck. The dumbest luckiest luck.

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