The benefits of a non-standard academic career
Years after obtaining their Ph.D., many people find themselves without a tenure-track faculty position, but still want to pursue an academic career. If you are in a similar position as I am, you are trying to maintain a research program to keep your career options open. Hopefully this is a temporary situation, but if it goes on for a while (too long for me), it is easy to give up hope. In this blog post, I endeavor to be optimistic and explore some of the benefits of my situation and perhaps yours. Although you may not have a secure position and steady income, there are benefits of a non-standard academic career.
- International travel. Even if you receive little or no salary for doing your own research, you can often use your grant funds to travel to attend conferences, conduct field work, and visit colleagues. I take advantage of these opportunities whenever I can. Although I do not receive a salary, I can often travel to foreign countries with all expenses paid.
- Your own choices. One benefit of sessional teaching (and there are not many) is that you can pick and choose which courses you would like to teach. Whether paid or volunteer work, you can choose how much you would like to work and what jobs or opportunities you would like to do (e.g., consulting, supervising students, giving seminars etc.).
- More time with family. Not working full-time or overtime has given me more time to spend with my family. I pick up the kids directly from school a few days each week so I can spend more time with them. My husband does have a tenured faculty position, so I am also available evenings and weekends if he needs more time to work. I also have time to volunteer with my kids’ school.
- Health. I think perhaps the number one benefit of having a part-time, flexible career has been improved health because of lower stress and more time for exercise, which results in a better quality of life.
Sometimes in my unique career situation I think that I am happy and content since I can make my own choices, spend more time with my family and live with less stress. However, I hope that this is still just a temporary stage of the road to successfully acquiring that elusive tenure-track or tenured faculty position.
When my husband and I started looking for faculty positions, we discussed these factors to come up with regions where we would and would not apply for jobs. However, it is important to remain flexible. You can find out more about the location during the interview; you might change your mind. Your list of possible locations also depends on the number of opportunities for your career and your success at applying for jobs. Good luck!
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