#Dispatches From the Frontlines series crowdsources questions to get a broad survey of how the academic community is coping with various challenges.
This week’s question: How has COVID impacted your career planning? We’ll continue on this for next week as well. Share your response here.
The responses are INTENSE.
I have always assumed that I would work until the end or near. Now, I am actively planning for retirement. (Admin; Art/Music/theater)
This was my first year on the job market and the dramatic collapse of higher ed was disheartening to say the least. The job I’ve trained for my entire adult life literally doesn’t exist anymore. Alt-Ac isn’t an option, it’s the only reality available to me. (Job seeker, Hum)
Parallel careers in entertainment and real estate. Still publishing and doing occasional scholarly talks. I feel like a dodged a bullet. I was in a much better financial and professional position to weather the pandemic than I would have been had I stayed in academia. (Non-ac, Arts/Theater/Music)
I no longer feel like working really hard will get me what I want. I think I need to do all the things I’ve always been against, like leveraging privilege, social contacts, and begging. (Postdoc SS)
Not sure academia is for me (Grad student, SS)
I remembered that the aim from the start was a job at a research institute or Bank of Finland or the like. Aim is still a professorship – because we need more women there. The new generation needs role models – academia cannot be just for men. But then again my mental health is nro 1, so if needed, I’ll change the plan for it. (Postdoc, SS)
I’m on the job market, finishing my Dissertation, and working as a VAP in Psychology. I love what I do, but the lack of jobs this year is hard. I’ve had multiple interviews, but no bites yet. I’m finding it hard to convince myself to keep applying, knowing that it might not happen for me this cycle. It’s particularly hard when universities just ghost you after an interview. I’m looking at alternatives. I applied for a more applied job at a University, and heard back within two days, and already have a second round interview. I don’t want to give up on my goal of Tenure Track, especially since I AM getting interviews, but it’s all starting to feel a little hopeless. I’m also worried about how I’ll make money next year. My partner lost his job due to the pandemic, and still hasn’t found anything new. My biggest fear is that at 30, after a year of working as an assistant professor (proving I CAN do the job well), I’ll be unemployed and have to move in with my parents. Even writing this, I’m realizing I’m better off than many. In all probability, SOMETHING will pan out. But, wow, does everything just feel hopeless right now. (Grad student, SS)
Decision to either be able to move to a job in the top 50-100 universities of academia or get out of the game and move elsewhere. (Asst prof. Hum)
Before Covid, I figured I had a long shot chance at a Postdoc position somewhere, but was also a strong applicant for primarily teaching based institutions. I hoped I could apply for both and if I got lucky I might have a choice of options (I love teaching, but didn’t necessarily want to close the door on more research yet). Now, the market is so utterly devastated, I feel completely hopeless. I will still apply for the jobs that do pop up, but hold much less hope of getting one. Having gone back to study in my mid twenties, and done everything I can do right since then, I am fairly disappointed to find my chances far slimmer than I had expected. I will likely stay at my current institution through tothe end of next year now, and hopefully get some more papers out to bolster my chances of getting something. My advisor is supportive. (Grad student, STEM)
I’ve had three different full-time NTT jobs since finishing my PhD a decade ago. I like my current university; it pays well and I have good colleagues and students. I plan to stay here for as long as they’ll have me. The pandemic of 2020 has made me realize that nothing in life is ever guaranteed. If my position is ever eliminated in the future, it’s unlikely that I’ll stay in academia. There aren’t any jobs in my academic field, and even if there were, I’m tired of moving every 3-4 years. (NTT, SS)
It has opened the possibilities to work in the industry instead of academy as principal investigator. For many reasons, but mostly to see how toxic academia can be. (Postdoc, STEM)
I am pushing back against two forces working against me at the moment: the pandemic, and an administration intent on dismissing, if not removing, the Humanities. In terms of effective pedagogy, this means stronger and more cogent, student-centered pedagogical instruction for an asynchronic online base that can be augmented with intermittent synchronous learning experiences (as in a flex or hiflex mode). In response to an increasingly smaller space in the University, this is a much harder problem to solve. I am trying to collaborate with peers across my Division to craft allegiances and courses that will be inter- or trans-disciplinary. While the admin seek these sorts of courses for a gen ed that has reduced the Humanities, they are also controlling the pairing, which complicates the process. I am trying to mobilize willing Humanities faculty to revisit the Humanities major and offer new courses to better serve our students. My attempts to do this withing the Department have been futile because our tenured faculty are unwilling to engage in program assessment and change things like the English minor, or major. (Asst prof. Hum)
went back to school to become a therapist last year after a decade post-ac — couldn’t be happier about that choice (Non-ac, Hum)
My SLAC spent last year undertaking a faculty-led (albeit board-directed) program evaluation process. My program came out strong, but when the decisions went back to the board they put us on the chopping block and refused to provide any rationale for doing so. While my program once again survived, tenure and academic freedom did not. Tenured faculty members are losing their jobs and the board has made it clear that they dictate our curriculum now. Covid-19 has exacerbated all of the strain that prompted these already-draconian moves. I had just made Full professor and finally moved out of the 50K pay band. (I have a heavy student loan burden and no spouse or family support, and so I’d been financially strained every month for the 12 years it took to make Full.) This was supposed to be a year to settle in and breathe a little, and instead I’m on the non-academic job market because my trust and commitment is totally fried. Our administration have been gaslighting us, and every aspect of their response has been incredibly cruel. Like so many, I have given everything to this institution and profession: I thought the commitment was mutual, and instead they showed me it’s just a job. And frankly, when I look at it through that lens, it’s a pretty shitty job. In one way it’s empowering (and truly ASTONISHING) to discover how I am valued (subjectively and financially) outside of higher ed. I have no doubt that I will land something with (Tenured, SS)
I was already hesitant to even try staying in academia, but unfortunately the research I do and want to continue doing almost exclusively exists in the nonprofit/academic world. Because academia/stem is fucked I’ll probably end up doing an academic postdoc and move on as soon as I can to a non-profit research entity. I don’t care which sector I end up–i just want to do my work. (Grad student, STEM)
I’ve realized this year that I can’t afford to work for humanities pay; I’m 35 with very little savings, and the pandemic really drives home just how financially close to the edge I am. I need savings and assets, which means I need real income. Staying at home during the pandemic has also prompted me to pursue additional education. I can’t afford another degree, so I have been taking some online coding and data science courses for CEUs from Harvard and MIT. I’m hoping that my Religion PhD combined with some data science and coding certifications will set me up to work in industry writing R/Python code or analyzing data. (Non-ac, Hum)
I love working from home. Less pressure and I don’t miss the politics and competitiveness from the in person academic environment. My mental health is so much better, I’m exercising more routinely and I just feel better. (Asst prof, STEM)
EMILY BERQUIST says
Last year, covid ended a research fellowship halfway through when I was forced to turn my attention to home schooling my two small children. It was the same all summer. I am so busy with them this year I cannot do more than a few hours of work a week. I now feel I will never be able to finish the book that I need to complete in order to get a better job at a research university. I am considering returning the money for my advance to the publisher. Covid showed me being a female academic, even a tenured full professor at a comprehensive university, is untenable. I wish I never went to graduate school, much less took a job in such an expensive place. Talent doesn’t seem to matter at all anymore.
Karen Kelsky says
Don’t return the money. They are unlikely to ask for it back, and you may get back to the book years from now! I really feel for you. Please do listen to our latest podcast episode. It’s about regret. https://theprofessorisin.com/podcast/looking-backward-looking-forward/