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Author Topic: Don't know how to begin job search  (Read 12444 times)
thisfornow
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« on: November 22, 2012, 10:48:39 AM »

Hello Forumites,

I am longtime member of the forum posting under a different moniker, for reasons that will become obvious.  This is probably going to be a long post, at it is my first step in what's sure to be a long and interesting process.  I'm ready to leave academia.

My back story: Maybe it's "survivor's guilt" or something, because, on paper, I'm a success story.  I got a PhD in History about 10 years ago and landed a tenure-track job in a miserable job climate.  It was a terrible environment for me, but I managed to write a book that ended up being well-received in my subfield, which helped me land this job at a large, reasonably well-known university in a History department with a good national reputation.  I'm a tenured, associate professor and I never been more miserable in my life. 

I cannot handle the bulls*** politics and being utterly powerless in the face of them.  And it's not just the department, but the entire administration (which is really just an arm of the football team).  Within the department, I've ended up on the wrong side of some old, entrenched coalition that controls everything--down to room assignments. 

As for teaching, I actually really like it.  It was the saving grace at my terrible first job.  But here, I really only get to teach Gen Ed classes (for above political reasons).  And I don't like my students.  This place has a reputation for being a party school, but it's even worse than any "US News and World Report" metric could ever convey.  Students party every single night of the week. My students regularly miss class because of alcohol-related injuries, and I am stunned by the number of students who die every semester. The few serious students I have encountered won't go into the library at night because the stacks are primarily used for hook-ups and sexual assault.  The administration does nothing.  Don't even get me started on issues related to deferred maintenance on campus--but I'll just say that stories include: swarms of bees, used condoms in lecterns, projectors falling off the ceiling in the middle of lecture, fire, and rats. 

We have a large grad program with a very unique specialization, but I am not permitted to teach grad classes (see above bulls*** dept politics).  I serve on over a dozen PhD committees, though--for which there is no compensation, or teaching or service releases.  It's thankless, and I am utterly horrified by the quality of grad students we graduate.  Seriously--as in, one plagiarized her final project from my research (which I had shared with her when she was working on an independent study under my direction).  She then presented it as her own at a department event.  When I spoke to her adviser about it, he just shrugged.  So I went to the GPD, who also, essentially, shrugged.  Another did something incredibly unethical and irresponsible (related to IRB stuff), and no one did a thing about it. Essentially, I don't think that our department should be allowed to grant the graduate certificate it does, and I think our accreditation should be in danger. 

To complicate things further, the folks in my department who are not in the ruling faction are so beaten down and dispirited that they do not come to work, except to teach. Some of them drive to their classes and drive home, never setting foot in the department.  It's a really miserable environment.  At this point in my thinking, I do wonder if a different academic job would be fulfilling.  But I've been in this for about 10 years, and I am concerned that somewhere else would just suck in its own special way.
 
What I think I can do: I am also a public historian, and adore that work.  I have a unique specialization, and have consulted on about 5 exhibits at well-known museums, at this point.  I have one "single author" credit to my name, having designed a permanent exhibit and organized one major event in conjunction with its installation.  I've published in the field, as well.  I am very interested in moving into museum/public history work, but don't even know how to begin that job search.  I'm looking for concrete suggestions here--where else are these jobs advertised? 

I'm also interested in federal government, or think tanks, or non-profits, or labor unions--anywhere that needs researchers and writers, analysts, so to speak.  I worked as a community organizer for years before grad school, and have a legitimate resume here, too.  I have even less of a clue as to how go about looking in this arena.

I've given myself the next 18 months to make the move. I have met with a career counselor a couple of times, but she wasn't super helpful in terms of the nitty-gritty. I am mobile, and do not have anyone in my life to worry about when making this decision.  Washington DC appeals to me for personal and professional reasons.  Other than that, I don't know what the next step is.  I appreciate any and all suggestions--esp from those of you have been here.

Thanks for reading.

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dr_prephd
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2012, 10:58:39 AM »

Washington DC appeals to me for personal and professional reasons.  Other than that, I don't know what the next step is.  I appreciate any and all suggestions--esp from those of you have been here.

Start checking USAjobs.gov, it's where federal museum positions are listed (i.e., Smithsonian). You'll see what the requirements are for positions you  may be interested in, how often and what types of positions are advertised.
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thisfornow
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2012, 11:04:36 AM »

Washington DC appeals to me for personal and professional reasons.  Other than that, I don't know what the next step is.  I appreciate any and all suggestions--esp from those of you have been here.

Start checking USAjobs.gov, it's where federal museum positions are listed (i.e., Smithsonian). You'll see what the requirements are for positions you  may be interested in, how often and what types of positions are advertised.

Perfect.  Thank you!
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alleyoxenfree
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2012, 4:20:23 PM »

More websites to scope out:

www.museumjobsonline.com/MJO
www.idealist.org
www.versatilephd.com
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joe_hojo
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2012, 8:21:08 PM »

have consulted on about 5 exhibits at well-known museums, at this point.  I have one "single author" credit to my name, having designed a permanent exhibit and organized one major event in conjunction with its installation.  I've published in the field, as well.  I am very interested in moving into museum/public history work, but don't even know how to begin that job search. 

You've designed one permanent exhibit, you've consulted on five others, and you have no idea where to begin your search for a museum job? Surely you must by now have contacts at at least five different museums in your field -- these are the people you need to start talking to. If they can't hire you themselves, then surely they'll know someone who knows someone who knows someone...
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"Bart, don't make fun of grad students! They just made a terrible life choice."
alleyoxenfree
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Countin' all these posts as publications


« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2012, 3:06:56 AM »

Because there doesn't seem to be a thread discussing it, I'll give a shout-out to the Chronicle article about accreditors today, especially the comment that posted the Chris Lorenz article.  The job to look for the one where the interviewers AREN'T obsessed with metrics and "outcome-based" bulls***, if you can find it.  Everything else is just serving up Kool-aid of the kind you're mired in.  Good luck.
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crowie
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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2012, 3:55:07 AM »

So What Are You Going to Do With That? is still the classic guide for Ph.D./academic career switchers.  It definitely has a chipper, "pre-2008 crash" feel to it, but it's very much worth checking out if you have not done so already.  Part of what's good about it is simply that it validates the part of you that wants to leave academia and normalizes leaving as an option.  That's something that no "regular" career guide will do nearly as well.  The authors, as ex-academics themselves, understand vividly the emotional aspects of leaving academia and forging a new path.  They address some of the fears, concerns and even prejudices that keep people from making the move.  At a practical level they will give you a basic primer in networking and particularly doing informational interviews. You can get started on those by talking to the people with whom you've worked on exhibits before (as joe_hojo pointed out).

Your story reminds me of Alexandra Lord's story and website: http://www.beyondacademe.com/ where you'll find a lot of links, guides and advice about making a move very much like the one you want to make.  She wrote an article for the chronicle that got lots of comment when it was published, showing what a sensitive topic leaving academia remains: http://chronicle.com/article/Location-Location-Location/134264

If you are interested in Washington D.C., as I'm sure you know, there are a lot of advocacy, governmental and non-profit groups there that might need your skills.  Good luck and hang in there at your current institution.  There's a lot not to like in general in your story, but certainly the most mind-boggling aspect of your story to me is the fact that you have served on multiple graduate committees but are not allowed to teach grad courses.
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thisfornow
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2012, 9:33:43 AM »

Hi Folks,
Thanks for the links.  I appreciate it.  I'm enjoying Lord's Beyond Academe site, and much of her personal story rings true for me.

I feel like I've fallen through the looking glass.  I'm pretty severely depressed, and the fact that I actually make it to work, the gym, and therapy with some regularity feels like a total miracle.  Other than that, I've lost interest in just about everything else--my research, my teaching, my committee work.  It's all I can do not to lose my temper at my colleagues every single day.  It's a miracle that I don't drink my face off every single night. I cry every morning before I go to work.  I live in the middle of nowhere, with no friends, no family, and no romantic prospects.   I KNOW I have to leave...and I'm just starting to put together the "hows" and all that...

As for this:
You've designed one permanent exhibit, you've consulted on five others, and you have no idea where to begin your search for a museum job? Surely you must by now have contacts at at least five different museums in your field -- these are the people you need to start talking to. If they can't hire you themselves, then surely they'll know someone who knows someone who knows someone...

I'm new to applying for public history and museum jobs, but this field doesn't seem to be offering much permanent employment at this time either. Am I missing something, or is this just snark?  Of course I've been networking with my contacts in the museum world, and they all tell tales of budget woes, declining donations, and the retraction of permanent employment in the kinds of cultural institutions I'm trained to work at/in/for.  In fact, two indicated that they hire PhDs as unpaid interns because the market is so bad.  If I had a trust fund or well-paid spouse, I could consult full-time, but I can't make enough doing that to continue to, you know, live indoors.  All that being sad, they all know that I'm actively seeking new employment opportunities, and I will remain in close contact with them as I move forward.

I'm wondering, too, if I'm at a real disadvantage in not being able to move to the cities where I'm most likely to find this kind of employment.  I noticed that a couple of federal government jobs indicated that you had to already be living in the DC area to even be considered.  Also, is there a peculiar time line to when public history jobs are posted, like academic teaching jobs?

Thanks again, for any and all resources and ideas you can pass my way.
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gsawpenny
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2012, 5:27:47 PM »

This...

First of all, good luck in your search.  You have a number of good links to work with. I will be honest, 5 consultations is a pretty small number in the world of historical museums. I left race after three years for a number of reasons (although I still teach as an adjunct now) and understand what you are going through.

Working for the federal government (where I am now) is great. expect to start off at the lower ranks, Uncle Sam likes Ph.D.'s but is aware there are a number out there looking for work. You will face a remarkable amount of competition from veterans for most federal jobs. If the vet is qualified and makes the cert he or she WILL (as in MUST, by law) get the job over you. Is this fair? Yes, I am a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq and it is fair when you consider the current veteran unemployment rate. This doesn't mean that vets are applying for every job but be prepared for a long slog. Apply for every job...every job. Suffer with being a cog for a year and you are in, meaning a whole new series of jobs will open to you. These are merit promotion jobs and there is no competition from veterans for these jobs. Also, if you see a USAJOBS position that notes it is hiring only from the local area, that is a merit job. Open jobs (those offered to all US citizens) are free of geographic restrictions but rarely, rarely pay for your move.

Sounds like it is too much? You can also try: http://ncph.org/cms/careers-training/ and http://jobs.aaslh.org/jobs. Both NCPH and AASLH are good organizations.

Last thing...DO NOT think that finding a Public History teaching job will save you. Take your current level of bull crap, multiply it by 1000, add in third-tier status as a faculty member who doesn't teach "real history" and you get the picture. 

Good luck with your search. It will be hard but worth the effort.
 
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2much2do
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Posts: 593


« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2012, 6:58:46 PM »

I'm pretty severely depressed, and the fact that I actually make it to work, the gym, and therapy with some regularity feels like a total miracle.  Other than that, I've lost interest in just about everything else--my research, my teaching, my committee work.  It's all I can do not to lose my temper at my colleagues every single day.  It's a miracle that I don't drink my face off every single night. I cry every morning before I go to work.  I live in the middle of nowhere, with no friends, no family, and no romantic prospects.   I KNOW I have to leave...and I'm just starting to put together the "hows" and all that...

Having been in this situation - depressed, hated my job, there was nothing good about anything - I encourage you to manage your depression first, then make a decision about the job.  I left, got a decent job - good money but about 80 hours a week - then took on my depression.  Now I kind of wish I could go back to academia, but that ship has apparently sailed.  Find a decent counselor, it may take a couple of tries, keep looking for a new job.  I was amazed how soon my depression lifted once I saw someone who could offer some structure to my crazy thinking. 

Good luck!
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thisfornow
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« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2012, 9:47:34 AM »

I'm pretty severely depressed, and the fact that I actually make it to work, the gym, and therapy with some regularity feels like a total miracle.  Other than that, I've lost interest in just about everything else--my research, my teaching, my committee work.  It's all I can do not to lose my temper at my colleagues every single day.  It's a miracle that I don't drink my face off every single night. I cry every morning before I go to work.  I live in the middle of nowhere, with no friends, no family, and no romantic prospects.   I KNOW I have to leave...and I'm just starting to put together the "hows" and all that...

Having been in this situation - depressed, hated my job, there was nothing good about anything - I encourage you to manage your depression first, then make a decision about the job.  I left, got a decent job - good money but about 80 hours a week - then took on my depression.  Now I kind of wish I could go back to academia, but that ship has apparently sailed.  Find a decent counselor, it may take a couple of tries, keep looking for a new job.  I was amazed how soon my depression lifted once I saw someone who could offer some structure to my crazy thinking. 

Good luck!


Thanks for this.  Seriously.  I do find myself second-guessing this decision to leave, and am having trouble sorting through friends' reactions.  Do they think I'm crazy to leave because they're too invested in this system?  In any event, one thing I promised myself was that while I am figuring out how to leave, I am also going to put in place something that will make being here bearable in the meantime (or in the long run--I'm open to being surprised by something and deciding to stay here).  If it's ballroom dancing or working part time as a bartender so I can have contact with other humans, I've got to work on that, too. 
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joe_hojo
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« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2012, 9:24:35 PM »


As for this:
You've designed one permanent exhibit, you've consulted on five others, and you have no idea where to begin your search for a museum job? Surely you must by now have contacts at at least five different museums in your field -- these are the people you need to start talking to. If they can't hire you themselves, then surely they'll know someone who knows someone who knows someone...

I'm new to applying for public history and museum jobs, but this field doesn't seem to be offering much permanent employment at this time either. Am I missing something, or is this just snark?  Of course I've been networking with my contacts in the museum world, and they all tell tales of budget woes, declining donations, and the retraction of permanent employment in the kinds of cultural institutions I'm trained to work at/in/for.  In fact, two indicated that they hire PhDs as unpaid interns because the market is so bad.  If I had a trust fund or well-paid spouse, I could consult full-time, but I can't make enough doing that to continue to, you know, live indoors.  All that being sad, they all know that I'm actively seeking new employment opportunities, and I will remain in close contact with them as I move forward.


Right, well, you said you had no idea how to begin your job search, but the best and pretty much only way to begin your job search is to talk to your contacts in the field.

I thought you said you wanted to work in a museum, but you also seem to be saying that you think there aren't any jobs available in museums. In which case I say: hey, tough cheddar! Not everybody gets to do exactly what they want to do. There's more supply of people who want to work in museums than there's demand for people to work in museums, that's just how "cool" jobs work. Anyway, if you can't get a job in a museum I suggest getting a job in something else.

My book recommendation is "Jobs That Don't Suck" by... well, I forget who it's by. Anyway, it has a good section, though, on curing yourself of the idea that the universe owes you a job ; it doesn't. Jobs only exist because people work hard, start companies, and then decide that they're so overloaded with stuff to do that they dip into their own damn pockets to hire other people.

If you want to eat, you have to provide society with sufficient economic benefit to justify your existence. So, get cracking, and quit feeling sorry for yourself just because the world won't pay you a hundred grand to sit around doing nothing all day.
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"Bart, don't make fun of grad students! They just made a terrible life choice."
bcohlan1
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« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2012, 9:47:54 PM »

If you want to eat, you have to provide society with sufficient economic benefit to justify your existence. So, get cracking, and quit feeling sorry for yourself just because the world won't pay you a hundred grand to sit around doing nothing all day.

Well that's harsh.
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alleyoxenfree
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« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2012, 10:01:37 PM »

I'm pretty severely depressed, and the fact that I actually make it to work, the gym, and therapy with some regularity feels like a total miracle.  Other than that, I've lost interest in just about everything else--my research, my teaching, my committee work.  It's all I can do not to lose my temper at my colleagues every single day.  It's a miracle that I don't drink my face off every single night. I cry every morning before I go to work.  I live in the middle of nowhere, with no friends, no family, and no romantic prospects.   I KNOW I have to leave...and I'm just starting to put together the "hows" and all that...

Having been in this situation - depressed, hated my job, there was nothing good about anything - I encourage you to manage your depression first, then make a decision about the job.  I left, got a decent job - good money but about 80 hours a week - then took on my depression.  Now I kind of wish I could go back to academia, but that ship has apparently sailed.  Find a decent counselor, it may take a couple of tries, keep looking for a new job.  I was amazed how soon my depression lifted once I saw someone who could offer some structure to my crazy thinking. 

Good luck!


Thanks for this.  Seriously.  I do find myself second-guessing this decision to leave, and am having trouble sorting through friends' reactions.  Do they think I'm crazy to leave because they're too invested in this system?  In any event, one thing I promised myself was that while I am figuring out how to leave, I am also going to put in place something that will make being here bearable in the meantime (or in the long run--I'm open to being surprised by something and deciding to stay here).  If it's ballroom dancing or working part time as a bartender so I can have contact with other humans, I've got to work on that, too. 

If you haven't been on the market lately in teaching, you might consider looking for a job in a place you'd like to live and seeing if a change of scene and college helps.  At least you will now that you didn't leave too soon.  The autonomy one has as a prof is hard to replicate (not impossible, but hard) and many of the odious elements of your current situation might give way in a different college and city.  Then if you STILL find yourself unhappy, you'll know it's a structural thing with the whole profession that isn't right for you.  Meanwhile, you'll be in a much better environment to jobhunt because you won't be in the middle of nowhere.

Alternatively, you could try to arrange a leave of absence from your job for a year, move to Favorite City and do some research and jobhunting and socializing, and go from there.
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crowie
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2012, 12:32:23 AM »

I know this might sound totally off the wall but if you are tenured and your job is not at risk, I wonder if you might take this coming summer off from research (and teaching, if you usually teach over the summer), and take one of those unpaid internships that they hire Ph.D.s into?  Even more crazy--and not easy but maybe you have friends there who can help you--apply for things in D.C. and move to Washington D.C. for the summer?  Just a thought.
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