New semester, new challenges for the alt-ac job seeker

I’m back to work at my evening library job after having the summer off. It’s a bit depressing, actually.

Wait. Scratch that. I am happy to have a job, two of them actually, two part-time jobs that help to pay the bills. In the spirit of those “five days of gratefulness” or whatnot that my more happy-go-lucky friends post on Facebook, I need to reiterate that I am happy — need to be happy — to have two jobs.

But, one of my jobs had earned the reputation for being akin to the “Defense Against the Dark Arts” job at Hogwarts: no one seems to stay more than a year. Perhaps the hours are to blame, being only in the evening after almost all the regular staff has gone home for the day. The student workers who I supervise might joke about their evening supervisors not sticking around for more than a year, but they are presumably not yet in a position to realize that only working in the evening when one is more cut-out for daytime work, with other people, on projects requiring involvement with others, can be its own “stick” factor as much as the “carrot” of employment at all.

I find that returning to this job that lacks those interactive elements of a daytime job has me feeling rather depressed. I’m the one who not only stuck around, but can’t even get a regular daytime job!

It’s not that I haven’t been trying. This summer I had a very interesting interview, as well as an extended conversation with a different company that was interested in hiring me for skills I’ve developed in my work-from-home part-time job, but it turned out that they lacked the resources to bring me on board.

In the wake of those disappointments, I have started sending out applications to various organizations that might be interesting to work for. I feel a bit mad-cap, a bit off-center, in that rather than follow classic job-seeking advice about networking and targeting specific companies or organizations, I’m falling into the mode of sending out applications to anything that might be interesting to one segment of my apparently fragmented self. Will I emphasize this skill or interest today, or that one? I am a person of many hats, apparently, willing to take them on and off on paper for anyone who might be interested.

When I’m not sending out applications, I find myself wrestling with which ones to actually sit down and write. Every one feels like a choice, a decision about which path in the wood to take, as if it would make all the difference. Classic job-seeking advice seems to indicate that I have now pigeonholed myself in one particular field, but I am well aware that I won’t be able to advance in this field without another degree, and I am not sure that it’s the field I’d like to stay in, after all.

I have even taken the radical step for a confirmed alt-ac job seeker of applying to a full-time, regular old tenure track position in my area of research at a university near-ish to where I live. How’s that for unexpected happenings!

Many days I feel frustrated, angry, or just depressed, like I am stuck. I wouldn’t have thought this process of seeking alternative employment would be so difficult. I think I thought that, a year and a half after moving here, a year after having a baby, I would be happily employed in a challenging, interested alternative academic career that was making excellent use of my talents and capabilities. I had no idea I’d still be working part-time from home, part-time at night for an hourly wage, or that it would still grate so much at family events to hear Professor Spouse talk about his three books, with the admiring eyes of our family wondering at all he had accomplished.

Once upon a time, I thought I might have a book out. I know I still could, somehow. I thought I’d have a job during the day, that paid a salary, that was related to some mission or field that I cared about, that required working with people on interesting projects. I feel heavily like I have failed myself, my own expectations of what I could do. Somewhere deep down, I want to believe that I still could do these things, but right now I am discouraged, unhappy, and upset, and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m losing faith that simply finding a better/more challenging job will be enough. I never thought that it would take a year and a half for the frustration, the depression, the anger, all those aspects of post-ac job searching that I’ve read about on so many other blogs, to set in, but here they are. They are scary, and I don’t like myself very much while they are present. They are part of the truth of this alt-ac process that I both don’t want to expose to the world, and yet feel that I should, so that maybe some of others of you will know you are not alone.

I will keep trudging along, trying to remind myself that this process gives me time to spend with my kids that I otherwise might not be getting, but at times it’s hard to keep it all in perspective.


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