Friday, January 31, 2014

Tell me your triumph-over-career-adversity stories

Recently I became friends on Facebook with another woman I know from science. She did fieldwork in Nyota too, but before I was there. She's a postdoc a few years ahead of me in her career with several publications and she had a child since I last saw her. While catching up over Facebook, she said, "we have a very nice life here, low cost of living etc. Good luck on the job search, I never went, so my career is over. My husband has a good job here, so I guess that is it." She did interview for a tenure-track position, but she was pregnant at the time and said it didn't go well.

I am all for supporting women in their career decisions, but it is discouraging when those decisions are more like resignations.

As I sit here trying to write emails to people I want to network with while my daughter cries because she isn't going down easy for this nap, my husband is away for 2 weeks because we really need his income, and I just got another rejection letter, I need to hear some good things. I really, really, really need to hear some success stories instead of more news about how hard it is for women in science.

Please, tell me stories about people who have been unemployed after graduation and then found a satisfying job (academic or not). Tell me about someone who bounced back after a major health setback. Tell me about a new parent who took some time off at a transition point in their career and went on to do great things. Please tell me about the person who graduated without a job and didn't end up as a perpetual adjunct. Tell me how you made it work.

I need to hear encouraging stories, and I doubt I'm the only one. Please share!

8 comments:

Alyssa said...

Sorry - no help here. But, as someone who's contract expired, then had a baby, then a major medical problem, and is wanting to make some career changes, I need to hear these stories too!

Karina said...

I haven't been reading your blog (or any, really)-- congrats on your new little one and I'm so sorry to hear about your major health issues. Let's home some other folks who read this have some great stories to lift our spirits!

Anonymous said...

Burned out after grad school, postdoc for 3 months til I got pregnant. Married with two kids, I was un/under employed for a year (adjunct for 2 years)- applied for at least 10 jobs, lots of rejection letters (or no letters at all). 3 years after phd, finally got teaching job at Small liberal arts college. It can happen, but sometimes the wild card option ends up becoming reality! Good luck. Many prayers.

Karina said...

Thanks Anonymous! It sounds like adjunct teaching positions were probably important for landing your SLAC job, no? What did you do for the year you were un/underemployed?

Anonymous said...

Stay at home mom, and Bath and Body Works :) as much as people in academia loathe the adjunct system, it was huge for me to get practice teaching, something I didn't get as a grad student.

aimee said...

I got pregnant when finishing my PhD and went to live with husband in another state. I networked a lot while I was pregnant. I put in a small experiment that was part of a larger experiment in someone else's project. I gave birth to my son and spent 6 months at home freaking out because I was unemployed. Luckily, the group I worked with on the experiment was looking for a post-doc when my son was 6 months old. They hired me. I'm now an Associate Professor at a University (I've changed jobs twice). I have two young sons and love my job. I was lucky in that I could volunteer in a research lab and we could live off my husbands salary (and he was willing to watch our son when I was in the field). I love my job and my kids. I know I'm incredibly lucky (I'm now 10 years past my PhD). The work I'm doing now is a bit different than what I did for my PhD. I tried something a bit new in my post-doc. There are lots of ways to arrive at the same or different endpoints - all that can be satisfying. Careers are long and winding with weird spurs and dead ends (at lest mine has been so far). Keep plodding along.

JaneB said...

Single/never married/no kids myself, but I did a two year post-doc, then a few months living with parents (hard!), a six-month post-doc at the other end of the country, then hung around for just over a year on scraps of 2-3 days worth of pay to help out with stuff (fairly sympathetic boss allowed me to keep my uni email and the worst desk in the grad room since I was finishing papers from the six-month postdoc which had his name on), applied for every faculty job in my country which was even vaguely in my discipline (in the days of photocopied packets of 8 copies of everything, too), tripped on the train on the way to an interview and tore my only pair of smart pants, had to fix them with elastoplast, spent the whole interview worrying about flashing my underwear at the panel, but got the job! And been in it 16 years...

Oh, and my next-door-office neighbour? She had a year or so gap after her PhD with nothing, then got a part-time post-doc position, towards the end of that she became pregnant by accident with her partner of less than a month (who she met whilst helping out on someone else's fieldwork), since he had a permanent job in nearby city she took a deep breath and moved in with him when her post-doc ended, picked up some sessional teaching at my university and wrote papers once her baby was six months old, then got a one year cover job for someone else's maternity leave, and ten years later has just got her Senior Lecturership and is a partner in a huge international research project despite that period of very low productivity.

It's a funny sort of career, and for ever person who did things 'right' there's at least one other with a hiccup or three along the way.

Karina said...

Thank you Aimee and JaneB for your stories! These are helpful to hear.