Ask the Grumpies: Questions about leaving academia

E asks:

I’m in my second year of a tenure-track position, but for multiple reasons would like to leave academia. Realistically, I may need to stick it out through the end of the spring semester, but my physical/emotional health has been greatly affected.

How much notice did you have to give? What kind of preparations did you take before giving notice? Do you have links to resources about others who have left t-t jobs?

You can, of course, quit your TT job mid-semester.  But generally it is best to do it at the semester break, just as a professional courtesy.  Bonus points for doing it at the year break and letting them know before the end of summer.  If you don’t have a job lined up, I would recommend, know for yourself that you are quitting in May — but don’t tell them until April or May.  (Or the latest you can get away with no longer lying.  That was a personal thing for me [ed: raised Catholic], I didn’t want to lie directly to their faces and say I’d be back when I wouldn’t, but I had no trouble letting them assume that I would.)  Don’t tell them right now, though, because the other faculty may treat you badly for the rest of the time you are there.  Try to go out nicely and politely, and protect yourself.

Don’t be a dick and leave them in the lurch mid-semester if you can possibly help it. But sometimes you can’t help it.  If you get the non-academic job of your dreams, then don’t feel guilty about leaving with two weeks’ notice if you can’t easily delay your start date to a semester.  In the absence of a rare job opportunity, giving 2 weeks’ notice is not unheard-of, but would be kind of annoying.  It’s legal though (Disclaimer: to the best of our knowledge… you may want to anonymously check with legal or with HR).

It’s perfectly ok to call in sick a lot for the rest of the year if you are actually sick (physically, emotionally, feeling awful, etc.).  Try to minimize the impact on your students, but take the sick days to which you are entitled.  See if you can put some classes online so you don’t have to go in as much, or give your students library time or whatever you can do to cut your losses and keep yourself sane.  Calling in sick also works with boring committee meetings.  Those are much easier to ditch than are students, and they probably will barely notice.  Show up to the high-visibility stuff.  Reduce the amount of time you spend commenting in detail on student work.  [#2 would still show up to all classes, assuming nothing communicable]

Before quitting, read this book, it provides things to think about financially in terms of your escape route.  Both #1 herself and #2’s DH took/have been taking a while to find new jobs.  You want to be able to have some time to be picky about jobs if you can (assuming you don’t find employment before leaving), rather than having to take something minimum wage right away, and in the best case scenario, you won’t go into further debt while unemployed.  It is important both to build up a savings buffer and to get your expenses down.  (Most likely you will not be getting unemployment payments because it is difficult to engineer a layoff from the TT.)  Just having an escape plan can often make the “now” seem more bearable.  Plus you can stop caring about department drama and say no to things more often.

What kind of job you should be looking for is going to depend a lot on the supply and demand in your field.  #2’s DH, for example, is working for a company doing exactly the work he was trained to do as a graduate student.  He’s also writing (and getting) more grants and doing more publications than he had time for back when he was teaching a 3/3 load with undergrads and going to faculty meetings once a week.  #1’s profession isn’t quite as marketable, but she’s still holding out for a research position related to her training and will likely be successful.  Update:  If you are in a tech field, check out Cloud’s book on the non-academic job search.

People in many humanities fields may have to get a job that doesn’t directly use skills from graduate school.  They may have to settle for a day job that, while using analytical thinking, organizational, and writing skills doesn’t involve reading novels, doing archival research, etc.  But, you know, also pays better.  #2 knows a couple of historians who still publish (and publish well), and go to the occasional academic conference (especially when it’s nearby) but have unrelated day jobs in consulting and finance.  One of them told her that even though he could now get an academic job at a university based on his publication record and had been invited to apply several places, he didn’t want to take the pay cut, so historical research remains a hobby.  Academia really is just a job, but there are other jobs too.  Research, like many things, can be either a job or a hobby.

Here are some other links:

Another person wondering if ze should stay or go.  With links!  This post has resources for people leaving academia (see comments for more links).

Good luck with everything!  Build that escape plan so that you can take a measured risk and remember that you are not trapped.  You will get through this.

Any more advice for E, Grumpy Nation?  Do any of you have links to resources about others who have left t-t jobs?

Should you battle feelings of inferiority by putting other people down?: A deliberately controversial post

Here’s our premise:

We don’t think people should feel inferior to other people.

Using feelings of inferiority to attack other people is not cool (even if they never know they’re being attacked).

There’s no point in negatively comparing yourself to other people because (with only a few arguable exceptions) someone will always be better on any dimension or set of dimensions.  Instead, focus on what you like, who you want to be, and how you can get there from here.

On personal finance sites, people will often say things like, “The Joneses may have that amazing house, but they probably have lots of credit card debt.  They probably have no retirement savings.”

But you know, some of the Joneses value housing or cars or what have you and although they are on track savings-wise, they’ve chosen to spend their money on the things you can see rather than other things you can’t.

And what’s really mind-breaking is that some of the Joneses got lucky and have high incomes.  Some of them made good choices when they were younger and are reaping the rewards of that now.  Some of them just have more money than you do.

And that’s ok.  (At some level we might want to argue about higher marginal tax rates and less corporate welfare, but for your average Neighborly Jones that’s probably not a first order concern.)

Yes, it might make you feel better to tell yourself that they have debt and you don’t.  Or they are stealing from their wealthy parents.  You can look down on them and lose all neighborly feeling.  And forget about learning anything from them.

And what happens if you find out that’s not true?  That they really are on track financially.  Do you go back to feeling inadequate and inferior?

The same kind of thing happens on mommy blogs.  The value-set is different than on pf blogs, of course.  Instead of houses and cars and retirement accounts, things like craftiness and cleanliness and “doing it all” (whatever that means) are the comparison sets.  But they say the same thing, well, this person with this pinterest page seems perfect, but there’s some area of her life that’s imperfect that she’s not showing me because she has to keep up her perfect persona.  (And the blogger saying this always posts the obligatory, “see my house gets messy so I’m not perfect” pic.  No offense to any blogger who has done this, but your house isn’t really messy.  Really messy is what you get when you don’t actually care if the house is clean.  And you shouldn’t have to pretend it is messy in order for people to like you.  You really shouldn’t.)

[Ah, you say, telling yourself that someone else has unadvertised weaknesses doesn’t hurt anyone… she’ll never know.  But the thing is, everyone else reading your comment gets the message that it’s not ok to succeed in all areas.  That we have to find and advertise weakness even where none exists in order to make people feel better.  It’s a way that patriarchy keeps strong women from achieving.  We’re always damned.]

We’ve posted on this topic before.   And I noted that I have work-friends who I admire who do everything I care about better than I do.  They’re amazing.  I could lie to myself and say their relationships aren’t as good or their kids aren’t as cute, but their relationships are good and their kids are cute (I do prefer mine of course, but that’s because I’m me and they’re my kids).  Heck, at least one of them is a great cook to boot.  For all I know they’re good at crafts too (who knows?  Not something we discuss at conferences.).  But I don’t have to lie to myself that they have hidden weaknesses.  Their amazingness about things I care about doesn’t diminish mine.  It just gives me something to shoot for (and means I have good taste in friends, and must not be completely obnoxious if they’re willing to hang out with me).

Finding our worth through comparisons of other people is never a winning proposition.  We are all amazing and growing in ways that are unaffected by other people’s accomplishments.  We all have our own preference sets that define what we care about.  We all have our own constraints that we’re working against.  We’re all different people with different starting points, different advantages, different preferences.  That’s a good thing!  There’s always going to be someone better at what we do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy and proud of what we’ve accomplished or enjoy what we like.  Focusing on our internal locus of control is a much better way to lose those feelings of inferiority than trying to tell negative lies to ourselves about external things we can’t control.

The patriarchy wants us to feel inferior. We don’t have to listen to it. The first step is knowing that it’s ok not to. We don’t have to be worse than other people in whatever way just so they’ll like us.

Or maybe we do have to pretend to be worse than some people in order for them to like us… but maybe those people aren’t worth being liked by. Because who needs friends who want to tear us down instead of build us up?

So no, we don’t think that people should use feeling inferior as a reason to claim other people have weaknesses. That’s really only a band-aid solution to feeling self-confident anyway. It’s much better to stop doing the comparison to begin with, because there’s always going to be someone “better” at whatever it is you’re comparing yourself on.

Ok, Grumplings!  Do your worst (or best… whichever!). 

Do you ever have that dream…

If so, tell us all about it in the comments!

The last one I had, I had to go back to highschool with #2 because we were both missing courses for our high school degree.  Mine was PE!

(My partner reports that everybody has that dream.  But probably everybody doesn’t dream about getting their PhD taken away due to a high school mishap!)

Holiday gifts for teachers

Ah yes, the holidays.  And gifts for teachers.

#2 recently sent me a link with ideas for gifts for teachers. “Comments actually useful here!” she said.

Silly #2… obviously she has not spent as much time on mommy forums and blogs as I have.

Anyhow, from my reading of the forums (etc.) all teachers want are gift cards to Target. Gift cards to Starbucks are ok. Gift cards to the Body Shop are not ok.

They don’t want your cookies. They don’t want your mugs.  They have mixed, mostly negative, feelings about chocolates.

(They might want booze! #2 suggests. And while that might be true, you should probably not bring booze to a K-12 school or preschool. If you’re gonna go that route, try giving a gift certificate to a specialty shop that sells both booze and food.)

They also enjoy, for real, feeling appreciated. They love heart-felt notes from students and parents. They want that even more than gift cards, if the teaching mommies on fora are to be believed.  Teachers are mixed on whether or not they want heart-felt homemade gifts from the students.  They appreciate the thought.

(Coffee! #2 suggests. Sure, coffee. If you know what kind they drink and they’re not just getting it for free from the teacher’s lounge. Perhaps that’s why they like the Starbucks gift cards, though not as much as the same value Target cards.)

Also note that you can make a directed donation for stuff to the teacher through the school and it will be tax deductible so long as the school is government or non-profit. Be careful though that they don’t just subtract money that they would have been giving to the teacher anyway. If you’re worried they might do that, then gift carts to Half-Price books or Walmart or Target or the teacher supply store will be a better option. Teachers do tend to spend a lot of money out of pocket on supplies for kids, which is ridiculous. As a society we should be better than that.

And no, not all students’ families give gifts.  And no, you do not have to give gifts.  Depending on where you live, most parents don’t.  And yes, a card or a note at the holidays is a great idea even if you’re not planning on giving a gift.

What do we do?  $20-$25 gift card to Target to each teacher DC1 comes into contact with (and DC1 writes a thank-you note for each teacher with the card).  Then a $50 card to half-price books “For the classroom.”  This year though we may consider giving a directed donation that’s larger because the teacher has been buying sets of books for the class out of pocket (Charlotte’s Web, Dear Mr. Henshaw, etc.).  We’re not really sure.  When we asked her at the beginning of the semester, she said she’d let us know if she needed a directed donation, but she never has.  We probably should have just written a check right then and there when we were prepared to do so (we’d brought the checkbook and everything).  We also give a much larger figure to the school’s annual giving campaign.  If we went to public school instead of private I’d feel a bit different about giving a gift-card, but public school teachers on fora say they’re totally ok and appreciated.  (And in this at-will no-union state, teachers make so little, that a $25 gift card might actually matter.)

Usually we give $20/teacher to the daycare too, including all the teachers DC2 has come in contact with.  This year it’s a bit tricky.  In the 6 mo period we’ve been at this daycare by winter break, DC2 will have only been in the new room a month.  The previous room was terrible, we hate the directors, but we loved the teachers in the 18 month room.  There are 4 teachers in each classroom (2 morning, 2 afternoon), for 12 teachers total.  And we’re leaving for the new daycare in January (though we usually give good-bye gifts when we leave a daycare, but we’ve never left acrimoniously before).  We’d like to give cards to the 18 mo teachers and the new teachers, but we can’t really leave out the last room if we do that.  And DH wonders if we should really be giving giftcards when the new teachers barely know DC2 (though by the time this post posts, they’ll have known her longer!).  We may end up not doing anything.  I mean, we’re already “those parents” at that school.  But I will feel guilty, you know?  (Probably we’ll end up giving $10 gift cards to everyone at daycare or something.  Split the difference.)

What do you think about holiday gifts to teachers?

Let us all love links (ongoing racism, part eleventy)

Here are this week’s links we’re reading.

Tenure she wrote (great title!) on no longer taking bad advice from old white dudes.  This just in:  sexist racist thief selling Nobel prize.

Until they were retweeted by a man.

 Note to myself that I should read and absorb and use this.  (#2 does applied stuff.)

This thing is cool.  I’m totally playing with it!

 5 practical things men can do for gender equality at work (and home!).

 on this: I note that it’s easier for men to skip the shallow work because women will pick up the slack for them

Seriously, f* the police. Also, this detail that’s not being reported like it should be.  Also, did we mention f* the police?  You wanna murder someone in cold blood and get away with it and you’re not picky on who you kill?  Consider a career in law enforcement.  Seriously, f* this!  You can take the DOJ’s word for it in this long report, or just read the summary, or even just the very first paragraph!

GO HOME, RACISM, YOU’RE DRUNK.  Death threats.  More deadly racism in Missouri.

Body cameras aren’t enough.  We are all monsters.  So much racism.  I’m linking this “F the police” moment for the last line of it.

How to deal (or not) with racism at Thanksgiving.  One of my colleagues says this is hir experience too.

Conversation with Chris Rock.

Elly Kellner is decent.  I like the video.

Great headline.

Save money with a morning wedding?

For someone who hates economists, this is pretty good economic analysis.

Facts about aging.

One of the things we’re trying to teach DC1 is that it’s ok to play with hard problems and to not expect a direct solution right away.

do want

A year in books.

mmm wild pig

This is what happens when you order ridiculously cheap clothing from Singapore (giggles).

This week’s Epic Parenting award goes to these people, who’ve been publicized all over the internet this week and are awesome:

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What else ya got?

Ask the grumpies: Emergency fund placement

Debbie M. asks:

Where are you keeping your emergency fund these days?

#1:  I’m keeping mine in a savings account for maximum liquidity.  Having just quit my job and moved to a different state, I am living off my savings and my partner’s salary these days, and my savings aren’t so big that I could usefully make a short-term investment.

#2:  Also savings.  We have too much in there right now for no good reason [well, now we’re saving up for a year of leave…].  Term shares (CDs) aren’t paying enough to make it worth my time to move into ladders.  I do have a secondary emergency fund that I keep in taxable index funds on etrade.  (Some day we will move everything to Vanguard, but etrade is currently our legacy investment place.)  And, of course, in a true emergency we could tap our home equity either by taking out a home equity loan or by recasting our mortgage.  Similarly we could take the money we contributed to our ROTH IRAs out (and allow the earnings to continue to grow).

Where are you all keeping your emergency funds?

What are we reading?

Mistborn:  A famous economist recommended this one to me so I read it at a conference!  It is good.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library:  I’m reminded reading this how much more safe American children’s spec fic is compared to British children’s spec fic.  There’s no danger in this book, very carefully and specifically every possible danger is neutralized long before it can be a concern.  Mr. Lemoncello is worried about lawsuits (or cares about first doing no harm) in a way that Mr. Wonka never could be.  A fun light read.  After I finished it, DC1 read it three times IN A ROW.  I only read it the once.

Drive:  It’s ok.  It seems a bit facile.  I’m not sure how useful it actually is or how much advice I’d want to take from it.

#1 finally read the first Libromancer book (where “read” means read the first two chapters really carefully and then started getting irritated at every female stereotype masquerading as a person, skimmed the rest skipping large chunks, rolled her eyes a lot, and read a few of the reviews online).  She agrees with the reviewer who says, “Hines seems to have a reputation as one of the liberal good guys in SFF. Which is odd, because every female character here is a dreadful adolescent male wank fantasy.”  She notes that the Princess books were gawdawful, all “rape as plot point rape as back story rape rape rapity rape,” along with dreadful adolescent male fantasy. (Again, reading reviews just now, I’m not the only person who noticed this– here’s a comic one reviewer links to!)  It’s sad when “As a human being, he really tries” is a fairly high bar.  Should be baseline human decency.  #2 has lower standards for female characters having to actually be characterized as people rather than paper dolls and is looking forward to the next book in the series.  We both agree that the series would have been much better had Seanan McGuire written it.  Of course, MANY things would be better if Seanan McGuire wrote them.  It’s weird because his Goblin series doesn’t have such cruddy female characters or plot points and is actually somewhat creative in terms of relationships and things.  But you know, no romance in there.  He’s not ending up as an adolescent male fantasy.  Or maybe 2-d characters just work better in the Goblin universe… that may be what’s going on– Hines does obvious farce well but sucks at real character development, relying on standard tropes.

A Matter of Taste by Richard Lockridge– this one without his wife.  It was a super creepy noir psychological thriller (not my usual fare).  First sentence is gripping though, “Although he was well into his fifty-second year, Mr. Oliver Hillard had not yet killed anyone.”  As always (n=3) with the Lockridges, the first chapter stands as an entrancing vignette, though a particularly creepy one in this case.

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger. The problem with Gail Carriger books is that after reading the one you’re on, you often need to have the next one right away. And the next one HASN’T BEEN PUBLISHED YET. This is especially true with the penultimate book in each of her two published series thus far. Patience, #2 (who has this on her amazon wishlist for Christmas), and wait for the last book in this series to come out so you don’t have to WAIT A YEAR to find out what comes next.

What do you recommend for holiday reading?  What don’t you recommend?

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