Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Career Reboot, Five-Year Plan

My work life so far looks like this:

2002-2008: Grad school
2008-2010: Bicycle Company
2010-2014: Extremely Bored Housewifery
2014-2018: Adjuncting Eternally

While I joke about it a great deal (renovations as a cure for boredom!), I also do not intend to keep doing this forever.

Last year, my long-term plan was: 1) do online databasing program thing; 2) ? ; 3) profit.

Then I picked up a lecture, which rendered me less bored but more despairing - I could, in fact, actually do this forever.  (OH, GOD.)  While the database-and-programming parts of the online thing are great, the MBA type stuff makes me stabby.

I thought about it at great length over the last months (while plastering the ceiling endlessly and going to PT and ferrying children around): What do I have that's good?  What do I value in work - what do I want my work to contain?  And what do I need to add or find, to feel that my work overall has value and meaning to me?

The current work situation has:
  • value: it is paid, but part-time
  • meaning:  I believe that the teaching I do is worthwhile and adds to my personal satisfaction and the world (in some exceedingly small way). 
  • convenience, proximity, and a fairly high degree of stability.* 
  • no summers (early May through beginning of September!  This is a LOT of vacation! Often too much...)
  • pleasant and professional colleagues
The current work situation lacks:
  • full-time value
  • enough intellectual stimulation to turn my brain on
  • variety
  • the ability to advance me towards anything else.
The database program:
  • costs value (I pay money for it)
  • lacks intellectual stimulation
  • but may advance my goals.
[I remain deeply, deeply ambivalent on working full-time.  We don't need the money - but I don't have a full-time income, and I feel insecure.  I like the flexibility - but I'm bored.  The children are small - but in a couple years they'll all be in school.  If a great job was available here, I would take it - but a mediocre full-time job doesn't seem, net, better than what I have now.]

SO, obviously, what I lack is mainly a) intellectual work and b) a clear path towards anything I definitively want, work-wise.

My five-year plan (now in year two!) is this:
  1. Database thing.  Work on the certificate, but slowly; for IT work at the university, working-on-it is probably as good as having-it, given the PhD I already have.
  2. Teach myself Python, then C++.  This is intellectually stimulating!  It is hard enough to be interesting!
  3. Use the programming to collaborate with the spouse on his research projects.  This is also intellectually stimulating, and will give me practical programming experience, i.e., a marketable skill.  It helps him for a variety of reasons (including undergrad turnover and, you know, the fact that I'm actually a trained scientist), so then my life is better because we're all happier.
  4. Even if all of this never gets me a different job, and I think it might eventually, I'm still happier in the meanwhile and most of the outcomes are at least modest victory conditions.
What most inspires me to despair is feeling stuck, feeling like all the other choices I have are unattractive or unacceptable ones (no, I am not commuting 90 minutes each way! no, I do not want to travel 50%! no, I do not want to move to Germany!).  This is my plan to feel, and maybe be, less stuck.  Wish me luck.

* Highly unusual for adjuncting, but this is a small town with an extremely limited labor pool.  


  1. I am always happy to see a reference to the Underpant Gnomes. They are a theme here where I work :) Other than that, well done for even having a plan. And good luck with being un-stuck and satisfied.


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