Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Midlife Job Searches

Today is the last day of work for 45 of my local colleagues, and for 800 people in my school's nation-wide network.  A very few of us will be rehired.  At my local campus, only 5 people were able to transition into other jobs in the reorganization of our local school.  Some people are leaving happily, while others are less thrilled.  Only a very few are retiring.  The rest face a job hunt at midlife.

I have the issues of midlife job searches on the brain for obvious reasons.  There's also the larger national discussion going on, like this story that tells of the Colorado State U offering an assistant professor in English position, but specifying the requirement that Ph.D.s be granted after 2010.

I earned my Ph.D. in 1992.  Sigh.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday, who thinks that my older Ph.D. is better.  She says it's from a time when a Ph.D. signified some real rigor.

I think a Ph.D. still signifies rigor.  I also know that there are more unemployed Ph.D.s than ever, which means more competition.  How would I stack up?

I have hopes that my 25 years of teaching would be seen as a plus to anyone who looked at my CV.  But it's true that I'm more fully formed than a brand new Ph.D.

I have an odd mix of publications:  lots of poems, lots of blog posts (both for love and for pay), and a variety of other things:  academic essays, reviews, articles of all types.  I've presented at academic conferences and done literary readings.

People might look at my CV and say, "What an interesting colleague she would be."  Or they might focus on what's missing or what they'd like to see more of.

My CV makes my various interests much more clear.  When I first entered the job market, I wasn't the diverse candidate that I am today.  That might be a good thing or a bad thing.

When I first entered the job market, I had no online presence--most people didn't.  Now I'm much more of an open book.  Not in the really bad kind of way:  as far as I know, there are no ill-advised pictures of me floating out there.  But you can look at my online writing and come away saying things like "She thinks the wrong thing about this literary figure" or "I don't approve of this teaching technique" or "Nope, we're not hiring any religious people if I have anything to say about it." 

I've also been thinking about more mundane issues, like letters of recommendation.  When I was a newly formed Ph.D., it was clear who should write those letters:  my professors.  But now?

Sure, there are supervisors.  But my most recent supervisors would speak about my administrative skills.  What if I want to move back to teaching?

I have a variety of friends who might write a good letter.  I've begun to think about how they'd perform on the phone.  I know that it's possible that job search committees would start by calling references.  Could my friends be articulate, particularly if I use a personal phone number and not an office number?

A month ago, as I recovered from the phone call that told me I was losing my job but could apply for a new one, I looked at my job search materials.  I've kept my various CVs enough up to date that it's easy to get them ready.  But my letters of recommendation haven't been updated since 2007.

Even though I have a job right now, it's important to get all of my job search materials ready.  The last two years here at my school have shown that we could be laid off with very little notice.

And frankly, the history of employment over the past 40 years has shown us that too.  In the late 70's and early 80's, I didn't know anyone whose father hadn't lost a job--assuming the father was still part of the family, so that ruled out about 40% of the families I knew.  Those years should have taught us that it's wise to keep our job search materials in circulation.

Midlife job searches also come with other considerations.  Can we sell our houses if we get a dream job elsewhere?  Does a dream job really justify a move?  What if family members don't agree about dream locations?

Of course, one must get the dream job first, which means getting the paperwork in order.  And I'm well aware that for many of my departing colleagues, they'd settle for any full-time job that comes with health insurance.  Their definition of dream job is one with benefits.  I have the luxury of thinking in terms of what I'd be teaching and what my publication expectations would be.


Wendy said...


Yet I know I have flexibility and options, just not the CV for that dream job in academia.

Kristin said...

Perhaps the truth is that no one has just the right CV or maybe the dream job doesn't exist--or maybe it's just a matter of finding a good match: our CV to the idealish job.