My Breakup with the Tenure Track Dream (Part 2)
To read the first part of this series: My Breakup with the Tenure Track Dream (Part 1)
The full-time gig I had was a decent paying position with benefits. I am lucky that I live in an area where unions are active and pretty influential. Although I only had a multi-year contract, I had excellent benefits. I made enough to support myself and my child. I lived in an apartment in a beautiful suburb with good schools.
I think that the nature of grad school leaves you pretty thirsty, and when you finally do get some water, even in the form of contingent employment, you take some sizeable gulps to get some relief. Not all of my financial decisions were the best for the outcome I experienced, but I did manage to save several thousand dollars in an emergency fund and had credit cards as a backup. I did not prepare for failure; I prepared for success.
Over the summer after my contract ended, I kept applying for academic jobs without securing some form of longer-term employment to meet my basic financial needs first. I even submitted an article to a journal. This was a terrible approach. I think that I kept applying because it was all I knew, and I had lived this hand-to-mouth existence through grad school. It was just for now until I could (no, would) get a tenure-track position, I told myself. Days passed. I was in a state of panic and survival. If I had to do it again, I would have networked with every possible person I knew locally and applied to any decent job that I could find.
In mid-July, I realized that I could not sustain this approach and struggled with the real possibility that I would be homeless if I didn’t figure something out fast. None of the academic jobs were coming through, except for a one-semester VAP in another state, which in the end would not be worth it. I devised a plan. I would put my things in storage and move back home, across the country, and get a job there. Any job. When I could, I would ship my belongings. I was putting things and storage, and my apartment lease was ending. Someone else was moving into my home. I had a two-week wait without a home until a different unit opened up. My move turned into a road trip and a vacation. I ended up visiting my friend instead of moving in with her. She is incredible, by the way.
Next, I swallowed my pride. I didn’t want to uproot my son unnecessarily. I wanted him to have some stability and the better school system. I asked my former employer if it would be possible for me to teach as an adjunct in the fall. They said yes, and would be glad to offer me courses as long as they could. I also asked two local universities where I had interviewed during my job hunt. One said they didn’t have anything, the other, where I had given a job talk and an on-campus interview, was more than happy that I contacted them.
I realized that because a department may have rejected me for a tenure-track position when I had interviewed there, that it is pretty likely that I had some people fighting for me at different stages of the game. To get to the point of a campus visit, there is a decent amount of agreement among the faculty to invite you.
On a side note, my lack of holding a grudge against a department that rejected me was noteworthy to the chair. He worked as an adjunct before getting a tenure-track job, appreciated my character, and fought for me to have higher pay and benefits.
Next, how reading helped in the third part of this series.