I’m in the middle of a two-week vacation fill-in on a nearby rural route. It pays for 5.5 hours per day, but there are so many flyers (which have to be collated with the letter mail) that it’s averaging 7.5 hours, which also includes parcels. Then, I found out yesterday that I won’t be back on my usual 4-hour suburban route next week, and I was supposed to be on that one until August. They apparently want me to “reach out” to other post offices to find more assignments. I have no idea what they’re doing, have been doing this for about ten months, and still have no permanent status, benefits, pension, or route of my own.
I find it amazing that academia abandons tens of thousands of people every year and that some fields have almost no contexts for other types of career paths. I wish I had pursued an alternative career path as much as twenty years ago. In addition, if I had never pursued graduate school at all, I could have started working as a Customer Service Representative for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, an Order Support Agent for a call centre, or a Rural & Suburban Mail Carrier for Canada Post in my twenties and been approaching early retirement by now. I also wish I had continued composing music to a much greater extent after my twenties. I’m 56, have a Ph.D., and have accomplished a great deal, but I have never had any kind of continuing full-time job that pays a living wage.
Alternative-academic and non-academic career paths—and ways to collaborate both with other scholars and with those outside academia—should be discussed and enabled. Those considerations should begin during the time-frame when doctoral candidates have traditionally worked on remarkably narrow concerns in their doctoral seminars, research and teaching assistantships, exams, and dissertations. Fewer people should complete doctorates and attempt to become professors. Post-secondary education usefully establishes and consolidates one’s interests, as well as the ability for critical thinking. However, pursuing it beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree is unnecessary. I wish I had realized that a long time ago.
My self-employment business advisor is still optimistic that http://ourmus.net (a collaborative community for music history & culture) can move forward and be successful in making me some income. However, music scholars probably think that the way they do things (peer review, committees, etc.) actually works properly and that something also directed towards the public would not be sufficiently academic. Meanwhile, the music-interested public would probably find the site too academic. A “happy medium” may not be possible. My self-employment coordinator (different from my advisor) got me an unrelated appointment with an Employment Ontario job developer. However, that person has not really been of any use to me, probably because my background (in academia, music, and IT) doesn’t fit the types of jobs and employers she encounters.
I’m also now enrolled in an individualized job-search program. The employment counsellor for that (actually a friend from my past!) and I concluded that I should do my academic work, music-making, and IT/website activities on the side (“evenings and weekends”). For employment, I should use my local network outside of those areas to find some other type of work. The areas of work I have in mind could be in administrative assistance (at a business, social service agency, church, or school), arts admin (at a museum, library, or performance organization), retail (such as technology, musical instrument, and/or other music-related sales), or publishing (editing, web content, etc.). I have some people advising me in those employment directions, as well.
Meanwhile, I’m now lined up to do a book proposal for a “listener guide” about Rush’s music. So, hopefully that project will move ahead. The editors involved are both fans of Rush’s music, so that helps! In addition, four out of six of my conference paper proposals have been accepted this spring, although I’ve had to bail from two of the four for lack of money. The two I’m doing are about songs and mini-musicals in The Simpsons (in less than two weeks) and on the employment situation for popular music university courses (six weeks later). I also still have possible conference papers coming up in July and October.