When you’re starting to think about making the commitment to start a PhD program, you hear about how difficult/complex the academic job market is, but you don’t really get what that means till you’re staring down the barrel of your dissertation while simultaneously trying to make a livable wage, eat well, get enough sleep, and figure out what to do next year. So far this school year, I’ve felt like a circus performer on most days, juggling more things than any person should. And although I haven’t conducted a vast empirical study to test my hypothesis, it seems that most of my friends and colleagues are in the same exact boat. I had a lengthy discussion yesterday with some classmates about how crazy (and a bit cruel) it seems that job and fellowship application deadlines are happening now for the next academic school year.
So how do people actually do it? What does one do when they think they might finish their degree this academic year, but can’t fathom how the job search is supposed to happen right alongside the writing of the dissertation? How do you know if you’re supposed to be applying for dissertation writing fellowships, jobs, or postdocs? What if you’re not 100% sure you’ll be able to defend your dissertation by April in order to graduate by May? What if you can’t have a lapse in healthcare? What if you find a job but don’t graduate? What if you graduate but have no job? What if?
I have a lot of “what if” questions, and despite all the talking I might do with my mentors and colleagues, it ends up seeming like an arbitrary set of choices that may or may not work out in your favor when you’re trying to conceptualize what life might be like a year from now. In an ideal world, I would either get funded for another year to write, or I would find a position in a school of education as a full-time professor, teaching a mixture of methods and foundations courses that draw on my experiences as a classroom teacher, literacy specialist, technologist, and artist. I have yet to find a job listing that meets this criteria, but a grad student can dream, right? In the meantime, I’ll keep at it with the job search on the Chronicle of Higher Education, keep poking around at various fellowships, and keep crossing my fingers that this all makes a little more sense come April.