Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not with a bang but a whimper

Welcome to another edition of Leslie's angry ranty depressing blog--now with a grudgingly optimistic ending.

This one's brought to you by the Academic Jobs Wiki. Perusing it this evening for the first time in a while, I discovered that, if the other posters are to be believed, most of the schools to which I applied--including those which I felt were the best fit--have requested additional materials.

I have received no such request.

And this is my third year on the market. Short of not having a book contract (I'm working on that and have received some interest), I'm scratching my head over what the hell is missing from my CV. I mean, really--I have three graduate degrees, peer-reviewed publications, invited papers, presentations, and ten years of teaching experience at four different kinds of institutions and a good balance, I think, between undergrad and grad courses. I've overseen 13 M.A. theses, so I have evidence I can advise grad students, too. I have admin experience launching, running, and evaluating programs, and a ton of service, including now serving on two committees that advise the UC systemwide president. And if the letters I saw from previous years are any indication, I suspect I have rock-solid letters of rec as well from top scholars in their fields. Profs who looked at my application materials say they're very strong.

I suspect, therefore, that it's not what's missing from my CV that's a problem, but rather what is on it. It may be that damn interdisciplinary Ph.D. from a second-tier UC--such degrees are becoming a dime a dozen with all the humanities graduate groups springing up everywhere, and--surprise--no one needs to hire anyone to actually teach in those programs. They're looking for disciplinary folks who occasionally teach interdisciplinary seminars as a hobby.

Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong.

But between three years of being on the academic job market, with only one (substantial) nibble for a job running a new teaching center, and the news that the California state budget shortfall will be $21 billion this coming year, it's definitely time to be looking very, very seriously at other options.

While I'm not completely giving up hope, I'm not optimistic about my prospects in academia or at UC Davis. So there are a few things I'm experimenting with in the evening and on weekends. I'm expanding my reading, learning about what it means to be an entrepreneur in the 21st century without selling my soul and while still effecting meaningful change in people's lives. I'm reading Havi Brooks's thoughts on destuckification over at The Fluent Self and learning to cuss more fluently while perusing Naomi Dunford's irreverent advice at IttyBiz. I'm reading--gasp!--business books on consulting and web copywriting and LLCs.

During grad school, I did quite a bit of freelance writing and editing, and I'm not looking to do that again--I want to make my own stuff this time and to apply the specialized knowledge and skills I've developed over the past several years.

Everything is still very, very rough, but I'm testing the waters in a few different ponds:

1) Consulting on professional and organizational development. A colleague of mine at UC Davis and I are looking to launch a partnership/LLC next year called Eager Mondays. We have to do something with our furlough and campus closure days, yes? (I've already earned 19 hours of furlough time. Woohoo.) We're turning staff development on its head by encouraging companies to teach, rather than train, their employees. We will help business owners and managers shift the culture of their companies so that they encourage employees to be not just competent, but also curious, creative, and confident. We've already had productive, heartening conversations with two potential clients. I've already received some terrifically positive feedback from this post on using social media to improve professional development in museums. If you're interested in what we're doing, sign up for our very occasional newsletter--there's a general one and one targeting the museum field. I suspect we'll add more niche newsletters in the future, maybe one on improving writing--and deploying it more thoughtfully—in the workplace.

2) Pursuing a growing interest of mine: urban agriculture. There's nothing but a pretty banner up there yet, but I'm working on a site at Urban Farm Resource. I'm hoping to nurture my own commitment to living greener, direct others to opportunities to learn more, and create (read: sell!) my own resources on a number of niche urban farming topics as I learn more about them. I've been reading a lot about niche and keyword research, info product creation and marketing, and about affiliate marketing as well. (Want to learn more about affiliate marketing, content creation, and passive income streams? I highly recommend Lynn Terry's friendly, definitely non-smarmy, and very accessible blog ClickNewz and, if that interests you, signing up (as I did) for elite membership at her forum, where you get access to all kinds of small business owners with terrific expertise in business and internet marketing, including the very generous Lynn herself.)

3) Posting more regularly (I took a year's hiatus) at The Multicultural Toybox, another passion of mine. Over there I write about issues surrounding multicultural learning and point parents and teachers to toys, books, and games I find at places like Etsy, Amazon, and Powell's.

None of these is going to replace my income anytime soon, but I like having a contingency plan and projects I can work on instead of rather aimlessly surfing the web. I probably won't end up writing about them too much here, but I just wanted to let you know what's been brewing.

So, to sum up:

Academic job market = sucky

Entrepreneurialism = the new black


Susan M said...

Ah, projects vs. aimless websurfing. If you figure that out, DO let me know--I'm surfing too much.

Unknown said...

This is a generally sucky time. Academic jobs have decreased by anywhere from 25-50% depending on the field. The irony being, of course, that enrollments are generally up. I've seen lots of ads for part-time teaching, which says something. Funny, I'm reading almost all the same blogs you are, but not really doing anything with the information. Maybe I'll promote my book rather than my business. :)

Fang Bastardson said...

I wouldn't know about this 'Entrepreneurialism' you speak of because I don't see color. People tell me I'm white and I believe them because I've been to every Rush tour since "Permanent Waves" in 1981, but this Entrepreneurialism smacks of risky business!

ArticulateDad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArticulateDad said...

Cool. Very cool. The eye reads: While I'm not completely giving up hope, I'm not optimistic about my prospects in academia... And a little voice (from the other side) says: ah, but it isn't giving up hope... it's reframing it, regaining it, collecting it, harnessing it.

To become an accidental entrepreneur is simply to embrace those passions which the stupid system that currently exists in academia seems incapable of cultivating. There's no need to sell your soul, I assure you. Indeed, perhaps today's academia suffocates our souls just a little bit. Breathe the air my friend!

grumpyABDadjunct said...

I am one of the legions sending off applications into oblivion so I feel your pain. Thank you for this post, which is both depressing and inspiring, but most of all just expresses the utter unknowability of this situation, and let's folks know how you are coping with it. Cheers for that!