Friday, December 27, 2013

Not Dead Yet But I've Given It My Best Shot

I was talking about adjuncting in my last post. I know you're all dying to know what happened. Well, I did not become an adjunct. No schools around the area had available classes. The market is so flooded in New City that no one has spare adjunct appointments. That's a depressing level of phenomenal. I did promise guest lectures but people have been lax in contacting me about them. I'm ok with that.

Anyway, I've looked elsewhere. I've had a phone interview with a company in the private sector, but that didn't go anywhere. I've had an interview for a data analyst job with a policy analysis-type center at a local university. I applied for this job back in October. They went through the whole process of looking for an applicant but then had to start over for some reason. I wasn't in the first run so I don't have much hope. They won't make a decision until next year probably but I suspect that one is an inside job. They have a lot of grad students that work with them. It did give me confidence that I could do that kind of job though.

I'm still applying for alt-ac jobs at local universities and consultant/misc. jobs at teaching hospitals. Some of them I'm apparently in the running for but they seem to be moving on an academic time scale (similar to a geologic time scale). I'm also applying for some part-time/minimum-ish wage jobs to make ends meet.

I have considered going back to school for another masters degree. I inquired about this possibility in Old City and was told I do it there without cost to me (PhD's are useful for winning competitive GAs). The field I have in mind is actually related to my old research, so it wouldn't be a stretch. The field is known to people and the degree would offer some flexibility in jobs for the future. I have been un- or underemployed for two years. Something needs to change.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I've been hunting for post-ac jobs here in New City. I've been considering starting my own consulting business. I have a friend who does business consulting and is willing to help me out. Somewhere in the midst of this, I thought about research. Here's what happened next:

I thought about a research idea. I did a bit of hunting on google scholar. I even did a bit of a thinking of how I would design the experiment, who I could talk to about it, and where I could find funding. All things which I think qualify as a knee-jerk reaction for an academic. The research, incidentally, was completely unrelated to the post-ac job hunt. The upshot was that thinking about such things did not cause me to start twitching. However, it did make me wonder if I would consider teaching again. So, I set up meetings with some academics in the area that I had connections with. This is a handy way to find local restaurants, if you're curious.

Everyone has been friendly. No one asks why I spent a year unemployed and no one tries to convince me the market is going to turn around or that I should just adjunct for awhile. They have offered to put my name in to adjunct but implicitly or explicitly express that this is a temporary solution.

Many departments in my field do not have funding for new faculty. The people I talk to suggest other departments that have more money hire folks with my background. They offer their lab equipment if I want to do research, free of charge. They offer ways to get a foot in the door and progress to a full-time job. In fact, all of them genuinely appreciate that I have been unemployed for a year and am adamant about maintaining boundaries in my life, if I come back to academics. That could be because I freely admit to burnout. There have even been suggestions of working in a specific department that does not even offer TT appointments so that I would not be required to take on graduate students. I was kind of shocked that people understood my unwillingness to contribute to the overproduction of PhD's, though they may only view that as me not taking funding from their students.

I'm not sure if I would take a job if it was offered but considering it no longer sends me into a post-traumatic stress episode. For the record, I am still looking at post-ac jobs. Academia is just a job, one I am trained for and good at, but nothing more. If I can maintain that boundary and have others respect it, I might consider a subversive life in the Ivory Tower.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I've been hunting for data analysis jobs for awhile. I even put a few apps in for corporate research gigs. The more I've looked into this field, the more confident I am that I can do this kind of work. That hasn't translated to getting past HR departments but I'm making slightly more progress of late.

One thing that has come up in my informational interviews around the area, is the idea of doing data analytics consulting. This could be anything as simple as sales data, association analysis (what stuff do people buy together, think Amazon suggestions), or even something as complicated as survival analysis (how long to customers stay around, why do they leave). I can program SQL and R. I can make excel dance. I can even program macros...on a non-Mac. Macs suck for programming macros. Honestly, you can do all that too. There are several websites out there that will teach you. But people don't want to do that and are willing to pay someone like me to consult on this for them.

This terrifies me on a number of levels. I'm sure I can do the work itself. It's the idea of owning my own business that scares me. I will freely admit to having no business acumen. I have no idea how to go about this. I suck at selling stuff. How do you go about finding your own free-ranging health care and retirement fund? Taxes?! I hate cold-calling and that's really the main way to find new clients. Referrals help but you need to start somewhere to get referrals.

Sometimes I contemplate how to go about this. Maybe start by offering data analysis services to charities. They usually need some numbers crunched for reporting and grants. I could run their numbers in exchange for recommendations and referrals. Seems like it might work. Perhaps I would offer data analysis to some small businesses and let them pay in trade (a month or two of gym membership in exchange for number crunching for a fitness center, for example).

Part of this whole elaborate fantasy has been trying to figure out what I would charge. Imagine it yourself. Do you charge by the hour or by the job? What is your time worth? Taxes? Benefits? What will the market support? I've hunted around for answers to all this. I'll save you the googling and sum up what I found. Start with what you would expect to be paid to do the job full-time for someone. Add in the cost of benefits, including retirement, and taxes. Now take that number and divide by 48 (weeks in a year) and by 40 (hours per week). You're not done yet. Consider that this type of consulting is usually a one shot deal. You need to factor in time to find new clients, advertising, administrative work. All that stuff that would be handled by other people at a consulting firm. Take the number you calculated and multiply it by 3 or 4 to account for all this other work you'll need to do. I came up with $125-150/hr. That number scares me. I'm used to grad student wages.

As for the by the hour or the job question: the consensus from consulting forums seems to be charge by the job. The reason for this is that you can't be certain how much time it may take you to do a job. Businesses often want the total cost (or at least max cost) up front. You trap yourself into a certain amount of hours and have to finish the job even if it takes more time than you thought - even if you have to work for free. Conversely, if you can do the job faster than people think it should take, you get a bonus. So now what do you do with your hourly rate? Time to come up with a menu and starting prices. Try doing some standard analyses and time how long it takes you. Add some buffer time and now you have a starting price. There will likely be negotiation. Be prepared for that. I've never negotiated myself, also terrifying.

And all that is before dealing with legal things, like going solely as self-employed or starting an LLC or something.

People can start consulting while in grad school. I'm currently unemployed. I have even more time I can put into this idea. It's just terrifying. But imagine if you could make it work, if you could make a career of it. Imagine making $5000-8000/month. Tempting, isn't it? How fast could you pay off your student loans with that? Own a house? Imagine how many shoes you could buy! Definitely tempting but so damn terrifying. I don't know if I'm ready for that. Could you do it?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Notes on an Interview

Time for a bit of debriefing on my interview last week. To set the scene, the interview was for an institutional research gig at my GradU. It was a number-crunching position for the university at large.

The first half of the interview was just with the associate director, who would be my direct supervisor. It was a bit of "this is what we do," since so few people actually know, and a bit of "here's my standard list of questions." Ze was a bit brusque but was also dealing with a phone call, an email, and two questions from analysts in the hour we talked. I had my list of questions to ask hit all ready and asked most of those that were not answered in the course of our talk.

The second half of the interview was with that associate director and some of the analysts. There were 5 analysts there. We all introduced ourselves and insanity ensued. One of the analysts clearly had English as a second or third language and was difficult to understand. Ze also asked a question about religion that several people at the table squashed and told hir that ze couldn't ask that. I felt really sorry for hir because they all pretty much jumped down her throat. Another analyst had 3 solid pages, single-spaced, of questions to ask me. The rest were just sort of flying by the seat of their pants. The conversation went off on several tangents with several topics set aside for their Thursday staff meeting. I had a list of questions for them as well and asked a few, but tried to avoid anything that might be sensitive in the situation.

All in all, I think it went relatively well. It was odd but they were an odd bunch. I don't mind odd. I'm pretty odd. Put all together, I felt like it could be a good fit for 5-10 years. Ten years would be handy because I could get the 10-year loan forgiveness that way. Loaners would never see that money, bwahahaha!

My only issue was that during the talk, the director pointed out (and the analysts kind of confirmed) that people who get into institutional research stay there forever. I like crunching data and the interview confirmed that they do a lot of different kinds of crunching and there's a lot of variety however, the idea that this would be all I do for the rest of my life is terrifying. And there was very little room to move up in the organization. It was definitely something to consider.

Additionally, there's drama at GradU. Serious drama. I'm worried that if I move back there I'll get pulled into the drama and revert to my bad habits as a grad student. Risking temptation seems to be one of those lifestyle factors you can't really measure ahead of time but it's still something to consider. And Boyfriend would be a 5.5 drive away. That would suck.

On the ego boost side, I ran into the professor I used to TA for in the parking lot. Ze gave me a hug and commiserated about being unemployed (ze was for awhile after hir degree). Ze said "If it's any consolation, all my grad TAs have sucked since you left." Aww, shucks, thanks. Ze used to call me hir Girl Friday. Good to know I'm irreplaceable that way.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I have an interview...but not here

So, news!

I have a job interview. It's for a data analyst position at GradU. There's just one catch...I don't live in Grad City anymore. In fact, I now live about a 5.5 hour drive away. Let me back up:

As of my last posting, Boyfriend found a new job in Ohio. So, we moved to Ohio at the end of May. The apartment is a little smaller and darker than our last one but we're making it work. It's giving us a reason to downsize our stuff some more. Boyfriend got to cut his commute to about a third of what it was at our last place. Trying to look on the bright side of life, as Monty Python sings.

I have not yet found a job in our New City. Currently, I'm sending out feelers and looking for informational interviews. The lack of a network in our Last City was a big part of my unemployment, I think.

Between Boyfriend's old job and new job, I applied for a position at GradU. It was exactly what I was looking for in a position. At the time we had no destination for where to go next, so it made sense to apply. Well, they took their sweet time getting to the interviews and we had already reserved a truck and put in a deposit for a new apartment by the time they got back to me.

I decided to take the interview, scheduled two weeks out. It should be good experience interviewing and I might be able to get some pointers to make my résumé more competitive. Maybe someone even has contacts in New City and could help me out. Seems like a good idea. Not sure what I would do if they offered me the job. We're just going to jump off that bridge when we come to it.

To sum up: my post-academic adventure now encompasses three different states and may soon come full circle. I'll let y'all know how the interview goes next week and keep you updated on my unemployment follies.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Here we go again

Sometimes, life gets bumpy. Boyfriend's company has hit some snags due to economics and politics. The result: he was laid off...indefinitely. Yeah, it sucks.

The implications of this include that we'll likely have to break our lease and find a new place to live. Without jobs, that may mean a move back to the parents' houses. Not ideal but it's better than a refrigerator box under the overpass. Both sets of parents have offered assistance but both are also retired. Moving is a headache. We're hoping that we'll at least be moving to a city where we have jobs waiting but the economy may not allow that.

On the upside, I can expand my job search from New City. This opens the door to some new possibilities that did not really exist in New City. It also makes it more difficult because the geographic constrictions are gone. Yes, Boyfriend still needs to finish the rest of his residency. However, this experience has taught us that we need to find jobs first and then work toward living near each other. If it happens this time around great, if not, we'll deal with that.

I'm now expanding the hunt to all of the Midwest + Washington, DC/Maryland. Still looking for research administration or data analyst jobs in the Midwest. However, there are several possibilities in DC/MD that appeal. I'm not a fan of big cities but if that's where the jobs are, I'll find a way to make it work.

There is also the possibility of a job at GradU. It's in the overarching grad school administration, not affiliated with my old department. The idea of such a job is appealing as it does not require me to deal with my old faculty necessarily while still living a city I'm very comfortable in.

We're trying to stay upbeat. Really. We have a chance of moving to a part of the country where we fit in better - where we can both get jobs. So, here we go again. Expanded job hunt. Building new networks. Another move.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Roads, Old Blocks

About mid-December of last year, I took a hiatus from applying for jobs. At the time, due to several unfortunate incidences, I was working full-time for Boyfriend's company. It wasn't great money but it was enough to get by. Since then, the hours have dropped to nothing. Obviously, this is not good for our financial health but we're still (mostly) afloat.

So, I've been taking the time to wander new roads for careers, rather than just applying to anything that sounds promising. Research administration and learning consultant jobs have some appeal. They use many of the skills I have and nearly all ask for a minimum of a masters, if not for a Ph.D. outright. They also ask for experience in education and/or research. I'm a little more optimistic about these leads.

Boyfriend and I have also connected with the local alumni chapter. At various points, we've both gone to GradU. The head of the alumni group has offered to circulate my resumé, like they have for several other alums. I'm working on revamping my resumé to include my research more centrally and to write a cover email that explains the kind of position I'm looking for.

I'm networking and focusing and hoping something comes from this. Of course, this may all be for naught...but that's another tale I'll tell if it comes to be.
On an utterly unrelated note, I'm working on a new fitness routine. It's all body weight exercises, not just lifting free weights. My goals are to be able to do an unassisted pull-up and multiple legitimate push-ups. It'll take awhile. I can barely lift half my body weight.

I'm also trying to start running again. This is easier said than done as I get really bad shin splints after about 50 ft of running. I recently used some of my limited tax refund to pay for new running shoes. The store I got them at has customers run on a treadmill and they videotape your lower legs and feet so you can see how you're hitting the ground. I pronate something fierce which is, apparently, not good. So I have new shoes that should help with the shin splints and I'll stick to running on trails, not sidewalks, for awhile.

So the plan is to keep looking for work, focusing on research admin and consulting jobs, and to take care of myself. Here's to keeping on keeping on.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Radical Shifts

For those who missed it, I have been working as a part-time administrative assistant. One thing I have learned from this job is that I cannot sit at a desk for extended lengths of time. Literally, if I don't need to be at the computer or the phone, I'm walking around or pacing or moving somehow. Trying to stay sitting just results in my shifting in my chair a lot or spinning around or moving folders from one side of the desk to the other. I think I used up all of my ability to sit still in grad school.

And no, it's not the result of too much coffee. I've tested that hypothesis already.

This puts a wrinkle in my job hunting plans. I have been looking for administrative or data analyst jobs. Jobs that would go well with those transferable skills one picks up in academia. The problem is, well, you have to be able to sit for a long time in those jobs. They're desk jobs. Since I seem unable to do this, a change in job hunting strategies is needed.

Now, I'm shying away from straight up desk jobs. I only apply to jobs that ask for at least a "Masters degree preferred." The description needs to include a large variety of tasks that seem an unlikely find in any schmo off the street. Of course, those types of jobs tend to be higher up on the corporate food chain and require experience in a specific field that I don't generally possess. This will be interesting. At least I have a lot of experience in project management, public speaking, teamwork, networking, and managing people (classes in academic-ese).

I've also taking to working out more. The apartment complex has a decent gym. The upshot of being underemployed is that I can use that gym during the day when everyone else is at work. I managed to do 4 legitimate push-ups today. Not "girl" push-ups or push-up variations. Actual push-ups. Not bad for someone still recovering from dissertating chub-up. I think I'll work to being able to do a pull-up next. Or running a 5k. I haven't decided yet. Working out has given me a lot more energy of late (probably part of that whole unable to sit down problem). Maybe I'll take up kick-boxing again. Who knows? Hope y'all out there Blog World have found a few utterly non-work related goals on your recovery path.

Special kudos to Currer whose recent post gave me the inspiration to finish this one. Good luck with your Coach!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Not Dead Yet

It's been a bit so I thought I'd throw in an update.

I'm still working for BF's company. I still like the people and my boss. It's their slow time of year now, so I'm not working much. I think I'm going to get a grand total of 14 hours on this paycheck. It sucks a bit but it's more money then we had before.

The end of the year is the company's busy time and there were some personnel issues, so I was working nearly everyday. I was getting used to it. I was feeling like a could fit in and make a life here. The paychecks were nice. The job wasn't ideal but there was some hope there. And then it hit the slow time and things, well, went to what they were originally meant to be and the reality of that was a bit harsher than I was expecting.

Dealing with being replaceable has been rough. Dealing with rapidly changing company policy that makes even my little job unnecessary has been rough. But the biggest issue, by far, has been working with someone who doesn't share my work ethic. There are few things more demoralizing while looking for a full time job than working with someone who doesn't appreciate theirs. I'll admit, it gave me a mental breakdown. I can't get an interview...ze's angling for a promotion.

I have to give a shout out to my BF on that last one. He came home to that after working a long day and still went out of his way to cheer me up and remind me to have a little faith. He found good opportunities, they just took awhile. I'll find some of my own eventually too. It's just easier to have faith some days over others. Yup, BF is all kinds of awesome sauce!


On an unrelated note, I'm working on a couple posts. One is about a radical change in my thinking about what type of job I would like. Hopefully I'll get that one out soon. Yeah, I know, I'm being a tease.