So last week I wrote about how I think my new job is not the right fit for me. The question is though: what would be a right fit for me?
When I originally started looking for work, things were pretty dire. I needed a job. It wasn't quite desperate, but I need to get some income rolling in (which I think is pretty normal really). I thought I had some time to look for something that was going to be ok, rather than rushing out and getting any kind of job just to make ends meet. I had a deadline in mind and I was anxiously wondering whether something would come through or if I should start visiting all the bars and cafes in my 'hood with my CV in hand.
Eventually something did come through and I was thrilled to think that I had finally done it. I had finally managed to get out of academia and still have a job at least loosely related to my professional experience rather than having to work for minimum wage. I thought I had navigated the career transition successfully.
As it turns out, changing careers is more tricky than it looks. Some people argue that with any career transition there is an inevitable drop in status, and that you have to start at the bottom all over again. Other people argue that this is not so, and that the secret to a successful career change is marketing your transferrable skills properly. Another factor too, is making sure you do your research and know what you're getting in to (something academically trained people shouldn't have too much problem with). Lots of people who have successfully changed careers say that planning is the key, and not jumping ship too soon (however, they all had jobs to begin with, just ones that they didn't like). And let's not forget all the literature that says changing careers is now becoming the norm, with very few people staying in the one occupation for life anymore. Apparently the average is something like 6 careers in a lifetime, although where this figure comes from is anyone's guess.
In leaving academia, with defined career paths, long-term goals, institutional rhythms, clear objectives and a very famililar structured environment, I now find I am struggling with how to find the same, shall we say, 'clarity of purpose' that I had as an academic. In short, I always knew exactly what I had to do to build my career. I knew what my professional goals were (not KPIs, they're different) and I knew exactly how to go about acheiving them. This is what I am missing in my current role.
While I am grateful that I have a job (let's face it, there are millions of people world-wide who don't), I know now that this is not a career. I also know that having a career is important to me. I have done my time punching a clock to make ends meet, working in retail, hospitality and other similar occupations where you're simply a body that can't be replaced by machines. I have always been good at work-life balance and have plenty of extra-curricular activities to keep me entertained, so I don't have any major personal goals that would benefit from focusing on non-work time. I also know that I don't need to panic about being able to find any work, since unemployment rates are not dire here and I was able to find work in a relatively short period of time. I don't want to do any more study as I am still paying off my years working towards my academic career, so retraining is out (for now, at any rate - I do still keep fantasazing about law school, but that's another story).
I guess this all means I am stuck with making the most of the position I am in, at least for a little while at any rate. Which is fine really. I will survive. But perhaps the take home message for anyone else making the transition from academic to post-academic is this: what is it that you need out of a job? I have observed that there are different styles of career changers - those that need to make ends meet and fast, those that want more free-time, those that don't want to relocate every year or so just for a job, and those that hate all things academic. I am in the category of someone who loves academic work but can't survive on an academic wage. This means that I need a challenging and fulfulling career to replace the academic one that is unsustainable. This is going to be my struggle as a post-academic, at least in the short-term. What is yours?