The Conscious Careers course gives you tools and a structure for making decisions about jobs even in difficult times. We help you determine what you have to offer and figure out what your real options are. Learn more and register here.
It’s not just that the labour market is awful right now.
Higher education is changing
More students. Less public funding per student. Major shifts in the balance of public and private funding, even in public institutions.
Stable or declining numbers of full-time, permanent faculty positions (what gets called “tenured” and “tenure track” in North America). Increasing casualization of both teaching and research positions. Salary decreases (in real terms) for most academic positions.
A lot of people have had their heads in the sand, or their hands over their ears while they loudly sing “La la la la la”. But it’s changing.
It’s been going on for a while. And it’s about to make a huge lurch in the UK following the latest budget.
More change is likely to come. And the higher education sector is not somehow unique. Similar things are going on in other sectors as well.
That ideal job might not exist
Are you going into your job search thinking that there is a job out there with long term security, good pay, and a reasonable workload?
Are you comparing every job opportunity to that job? The mythical “tenured professor” that gets talked about so much both by detractors and supporters of higher education as it used to be?
If so, it’s no wonder you’re frustrated with your job search.
Opportunities that fit
This is one reason why I advise focusing on what you have to offer and what you need: your best contribution.
People need and want education.
Research is valuable. Even supposedly esoteric research and scholarship.
The system might be changing but some of the needs the system currently fills will need to be filled regardless.
You can choose your compromise
When you are looking for work, you can’t demand that the job be changed to meet your needs and wishes for how it could or should be. But you can decide which compromises you are willing to make and which are not worth it.
If you decide to accept an academic job, you are accepting the conditions under which it was offered. If the current reigning ethos in that institution is that research is more important than teaching, that’s what you are agreeing to contribute to when you take the job.
You can investigate other opportunities, both within the higher education sector and outside it, that more closely align with your values, meet your needs, and enable you to make a contribution to something you consider valuable.
That might mean a position off the tenure track. It may mean a position in an administrative (rather than academic) department. It may mean something outside higher education altogether.
You also have a choice not to accept casual academic employment. One-term contracts, with no salary progression, especially if offered at the last minute, are not a long-term solution. (There are a few good reasons to take these a couple of times. I wrote about them here.)
There are other options.
You may need to do a bit of research to work out what they are. Luckily, you’re good at research.
Julie Clarenenbach and I offer an 6-session teleclass that helps you figure out the range of possibilities and articulate the skills and experience you offer a potential employer, academic or non-academic.
Next session starts in June 12 and costs $150. Find out more here.
You can also here me talk about these issues in the Career Corner at Congress 2011 in Fredericton, NB, on May 31, followed by a CV clinic.