Thursday, April 3, 2014

Apprenticeship and its discontents

It is hard, so hard to grapple with the reality that I may well never have a long-term job in academia, and that I must perforce look for other work that (also) knocks me down in status to journeyman, if not apprentice.  I don't know if this bothers anyone else in this situation, but it disturbs me.

One of the attractions of professional academia to me was that it maintained, or seemed to maintain, the professional model of apprenticeship in training for master status.  Somehow this model of job training always made more sense to me than the idea of going to a professional program for a few years, sitting in classes, and then boom, you're suddenly a professional who's supposed to know how to perform a job in the real world.  Somehow I managed to overlook the fact that, historically, apprenticeship was often indistinguishable from indentured servitude, but that's neither here nor there now for me.

What is relevant, though, is that I feel either trapped at the journeyman stage as a professor, or forced back into the apprentice stage in any other industry.  Maybe I'll get over this once some likely job openings cross my desk or, lord love a duck, I am offered a job, but my immediate impression on looking for work beyond the ivory tower is that most kinds of employment that a pseudologist can seek require the employee to start with an internship — often literally so.  My gorge rises at the thought of someone demanding that I serve as an unpaid intern* in preparation for a job that may or may not be there at the end of the internship.  I fucking did that for eight goddamn years, motherfuckers.  I'm not a college student living in my parents' house who will work for pure experience.  I can't work for pure experience.  I am an adult and have bills to pay.

I am aware that a lot of my current misery traces to the degree of identity investment I have sunk into academia.  I cannot say for sure how much of my indignation is due to that, and how much to the hard calculations of my ongoing expenses.  I really don't want to be that person who says that he's too good, or too expensive, or too qualified to start at the bottom.  But the reality is that I have bills that I have to pay whether I want to or not, and I need a roof over my head and food to eat.  And along with that, I feel deeply ashamed at the thought that some employers expect me to be grateful for the opportunity to learn something in exchange for unpaid labor.  It's a variety of condescension that I haven't experienced before.  And it hurts.

*Not all jobs require this, and some of them pay their interns reasonably well, but I have already seen some jobs and companies/think tanks/whatever that demand an actual unpaid internship as training, with no guarantee of a job subsequent to that.


  1. Well, look at it this way -- in "industry," you might start at the 30K level, which would be about half of what you make right now. But you will have growth potential, unlike me, who will be making 52K for the rest of her life, essentially. Now, you could probably get a better job than me in academia eventually because, let's face it, only good colleges have psuedology departments and places like Heartland U that exploits their workers until they die won't hire someone in your field.

  2. (Blogger cut me off so continuing from my previous comment...) That said, psuedology is going to have fewer job prospects at the college level because only good schools are hiring in that field. So it's a big of a catch-22. English people can go to any college and get a job adjuncting. Perhaps you can't. But almost any job in industry is going to have a higher pay than an adjunct, and it will have growth potential. Unlike MANY academic jobs.

  3. The internship economy is an abusive racket, even for 22-year-olds. You should *not* have to start in an unpaid position, with your training and experience. The only time I'd suggest accepting that is if it were part-time and/or time-limited (e.g., 3mos) and could be done while doing summer teaching or otherwise supporting yourself--and/or if it were understood explicitly as a trial period for consideration for a full-time job.

    The friends I have who have left the academy for jobs in government or non-profit work (which is what I assume you'd be looking at?) generally moved up very fast, if they started in an entry-level job, or started somewhere more or less equivalent to a VAP/1st year TT professor, in terms of salary and responsibilities.

  4. I think you're being just a little pessimistic. Even if you're "starting over" in another line of work, your PhD, work experience, and skills will set you up for a fairly decent and well-paying entry-level position. I took about a 13% pay cut between my previous job and my current one. However, I have better longevity here, I'm happier here, and my pay stands to go up fairly substantially over the next couple of years.

    Don't sell yourself short and believe that you absolutely must take some unpaid, exploitative position. That shit isn't right even for a 22 y.o. recent college grad, and certainly isn't acceptable for a pseudology Ph.D. with real skills and experience!

  5. Do you have friends who've made the jump from academia to elsewhere? Does DOU have lists of such a thing? (It would be responsible of them to have them--but, well, reality.) I assume it varies greatly by field, and even by sub-sub-field, but perhaps if you could find people a bit like you it would help.

    I was where you were last year, and it was a bad place--I got swooped out of it, but only just barely. You gotta keep going through it, but it's gonna suck in the process. Sorry you have to do it, and I hope you can find someone who might be able to mentor you through the process somewhat, or at least provide ideas.

  6. No advice, just some comfort and well wishes, here.

  7. Good luck!

    I don't like the self-loathing tag. How about a more neutral "reflection" or positive "moving forward"? Don't reinforce that which is not deserved.

  8. Good luck, and what nicoleandmaggie and Bardiac said.