Thursday, August 15, 2013

I did it.

I up and left.

I completely relocated to the city I wanted to live in, with no real job prospects in sight.

Smart move?  I am not sure right now - with no job to fall back on, it doesn't feel like the right decision.  It feels like a mess.  There is a university in the town I have moved to that does research in the field I have worked in, but it is the same old song-and-dance - positions need to be posted internationally (which means up to a year before anything materializes), and no funding to hire anyone.  And, it would be some stupid academic postdoc with no future after the funding runs out.  Sure, they like what I have done and would like me to work for them, but obviously I can't do it for free.  I knew this when I moved.  It seems stupid now, to leave a postdoc that at least paid me for about another year.  I try to rationalize my decision with the prospect of an actual career in another field.  I know I will be starting from the bottom again, and that is ok, but it is incredibly difficult to convey my skills to people that aren't familiar with academia.  I've had a couple of interviews outside academia, with some success, but no concrete job offers.  I am now a firm believer that it is not what you know (outside academia), but that you need an 'in' with someone in the industry.

In a way, it is liberating - I can embark on a new career, something with real potential in terms of future development.  But this is only an ideological argument inside my short-sighted envisage of the future.  Until I secure even the 'next job' or the 'temporary job', it seems as though I have made the wrong decision.  I was on the cusp of finishing a great deal of projects with my old postdoc; things that promised productivity (papers/grants/abstracts) in the next year.  But for what?  Another lost year on the academic job market?

I am very excited to be out of my former position.  But, if it doesn't pay off with some position somewhere, what's the point?  Don't get me wrong, I am not looking for management-type positions, I just need a foot in the door.  Is there anyone willing to give a smart, willing-to-learn Ph.D. graduate a chance?  I need a job to start in the next two weeks before my 'holidays' expire, and only time will tell if it will be bagging groceries or building sandwiches for the local coffee shop.

I need to make a living...  This point is not stressed enough in the post-academic-leaving circles...

Which brings me to the underlining point - my Ph.D. is completely useless.  Even the B.Sc. doesn't do me much good.  Is academia the route for you?  Maybe, if you are doing a professional degree (engineering, medicine, dentistry), but otherwise, I would say, "Think twice before beginning any degree program".  The old adage that you should do something you like is complete bullshit if there is no market for it.  How do you pay the bills, even with a job that you love, if no one wants to pay you for your services?  Although it is extremely difficult to see the big picture when you graduate from high school, ask yourself the question:  "Are there any jobs available when I finish my degree?"  Or, "What industries are looking for science graduates?"  Basic research at its finest.  That, my friends, is what I wish I would have done if I could erase the past fifteen years.