Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fixed term, Alt-Ac and moving on?

I have 16 weeks to find a new job. Lots of people will read that and say 'that's loads of time' probably people who have been in a job for a long time, and have no real idea about how long such things take. The thing is I know that's no time at all. And I know I'll also probably be going into another job with an expiry date.

I've never actually had a permenant job. In 10 years since graduating from Undergrad, every job I have had has been fixed term or zero hour contract, sometimes both. And unless there is a supreme stroke of luck, I don't see it changing. This is particualry so in academic, even 'alt ac' jobs within Universities. And it's tiring.

On one hand it's not so bad-you always know it's not forever. And perhaps because I came from the creative world, where everything is always in flux and nobody stays anywhere for long, I've been ok with it. But it's also exhausting. No sooner have you settled into a job, you're looking for the other. And employers/colleagues can read that as disloyalty as well. If I mentioned to my managers that I'm already looking for my next job, they'd probably interpet it as having already 'checked out' of this one. Not so, simply a fact of living.

Say a job goes up this week, it's advertised for say a month, they take another 2 weeks to shortlist/schedule an interview. That's 6 weeks gone already. By the time they make a decsiion (not always as quick as you'd think) you accept (in an ideal world) check contracts, sign, then we're talking 8 weeks. Rarely do the stars align quite so perfectly, so 3-4 months before a contact ends, really you have to be looking and applying. Assuming there's anything to apply for. With 3 months (which is what I have now, give or take) to go, then you're actively looking and starting to apply. That isn't disloyalty, it's practicallity.

All of that is if you're lucky. In reality, it'll be temping for the months following the contract ending until something comes up and you get it.

All of this is not taking into account the landscape of academia. Not just actual lectuerships but alt-ac jobs too. In the last month or two I have seen lots of 3 month contracts that require a start within 2 weeks (often in cities not where I am, because frankly what are the odds). Even for those of us used to tempory contracts this is untenale.

The thing is I'm not even complaining about it anymore, it is what it is. I'm used to it, immune to it even. And if I stay in any University related role it is my future. Which is perhaps one of the many reasons it's time to step aside.

As I start this search, I do reflect on the academic or alt-ac route. And perhaps, despite still thinking maybe, just maybe it's what I'm somehow stuck doing, maybe it isn't. I haven't been happy in the particular role I'm in, that's no secret. I always thought perhaps there were alternatives within Universities I could do-but actually all they do is remind me of my failure as an academic. I was working in academic support, and it's a great job, and there's lots of vareity. But I went off, spent 4 years of blood sweat and (lots) of tears to get a PhD, only to end up back in an academic support role. I could have saved myself all that, and just worked my way to a different job in the support side. And while on the whole I do get the respect of having earned my PhD there's still the dimension that see you as 'just admin' and dismiss everything you've done between. Plus those on the outside looking in I know compare me to my peers with PhDs, who are in teaching or research roles and say to themselves 'Well clearly she wasn't good enough then' which might be right, but it still hurts. Perhaps if I left entierly I wouldn't feel that so keenly, that I'd failed.

As regular readers of this, and the sister blog (The Nerdy Theatre ) know, I'm a big X Files fan. And there are two quotes from that show I tend to live by. One has got me this far, which is "If I quit now, they win" That got my through a lot. (to quote Mulder again, a lot, a lot a lot) But what I hear in my head a lot more is another favourite X Files quote "There has to be an end...there's so much more you have to do with your life"

So perhaps, now at the end of yet another fixed term contract that's where I am. I didn't quit when it mattered, so 'they' didn't win. But perhaps there's a point where also you draw a line and say, no, I have more to do, and it isn't here.

Of course then the question becomes, now what?