I will be back to the victimizations tomorrow, but today I’d like to continue on the same topic I was on yesterday. A question I am often asked is what a former college instructor can do outside of a university setting. The other question is what on earth I would want to do outside of a university setting. The first question has an easy answer: a former college instructor (who was good at his job) has demonstrated excellence in writing, research, teaching (management), oral presentation, oral sex, and whatever skills and knowledge come with the subject the instructor taught. In theory, someone with these capabilities should be snapped up almost immediately by employers. However, as I indicated in my last post, it does not turn out that way because so many people have negative views of people with a Ph.D. Or maybe the lowly resume readers in HR were never forced to read a word with more than one syllable in it while they were in college. Same difference.
And that brings me to the second question: what I would want to do. A lot of businesses assume that a Ph.D. means that I don’t want to be working for them, that a Ph.D. would only be happy in the university. As you know about me by now, that’s not true. I’ve been amazed at how much there is outside of the university and I’ve seen quite a few things (that are legal in at least 25 states) that would make me very happy. I don’t much feel like going through a complete list, so I’ll offer up a take on my dream job… if it exists anywhere. And to get things started, I have a pretty little picture for you:
Okay, so it’s a cheap PowerPoint slide, but this picture symbolizes the kind of job I would like to have. To protect their jobs, educators spend a lot of time inflating students’ self-esteem and the kids often become arrogant and a little lazy. And then businesses hire them and have to figure out a way to make them productive. These kids need pretty little pictures if they are to pay attention to reading material and, like with the picture, they have a hard time deciphering anything that hints at their lack of unique awesomeness. It is my hope that a business will hire me as an educational deprogrammer who will
put these kids in their place explain to these kids what was done to them when they were students. Because I’ve worked in college teaching, I understand the psychological complexes that the universities are sowing in their students and I can speak with authority when I tell the kids that it’s not their fault that they need to change. (And let’s be honest: “it’s not your fault” is the only message the kids will listen to. Fortunately, it’s the truth.)
I’ve never heard of a job like this… but if your business needs help straightening out its recent hires, I would be happy to victimize them. And I even promise to be nice about it! I’ll be my usual happy-go-lucky self.
Many of my regular readers are probably familiar with three basic facts about me:
1. I have a Ph.D.
2. I am unemployed.
3. I blog anonymously.
The anonymous blogging thing may seem like a no-brainer to many of you. You probably think that a lot of my humor would turn off potential employers who are looking for someone a little less cruel, vicious, and outlandish. Of course, you’d be wrong… as usual.
Now that I have left the university, I am often confronted by people who believe that Ph.D.-holders are incapable of interacting with “normal” people or being an enjoyable colleague to have around. The education is supposed to turn you into a lifeless walking brain. Hooray for stereotypes, and all that other stuff!
But that situation is also liberating when I sit down to blog. If a company is ever able to attach my real name to this blog, what could they possibly say against me? No matter how brutal or grotesque I become around here, I will always be more wonderful on this blog than they think I’d be in the office. Despite that, I have no intention of going public with my true identity any time soon. That also means I won’t be posting any nude photos of myself; I apologize for the disappointment.
And there’s one more interesting fact to consider. After less than five weeks in existence, this blog is already inching towards Alexa’s top million websites for the past month. So… yeah. Stupid Ph.D. person can’t connect with other people. Right…
PS: If you would like me to post nude photos of you, please send them to me and I will consider putting them on my test blog. If you don’t want me to post nude photos of you, please send them to me anyway and I promise not to post them. It’s almost wonderful to live in a world where asking people for nude photos is less likely to get me in trouble than writing intellectual posts about philosophy or history. On the other hand, a world where nude photos are valued more than knowledge is a world where Sarah Palin can become president.
We regret to inform you that we will not be hiring you to be our new Bilingual Computer Screen Cleaner. We don’t care if you’ve spent ten years cleaning every glass object known to man; we need someone with in-depth expertise in cleaning computer screens. And while we appreciate your passion for computers and keeping your screen free of dust, we want a Windex specialist. And then you’re not even a native speaker of Norwegian! Even though you lived in Norway for 14 years, we demand that our new employee be a native Norwegian speaker because it is critical to success on the job. We understand why you applied but you’re a doofus for thinking we would lower our standards to hire you. Even though this job has been open for over a year, we will let it remain vacant until we get exactly what we had envisioned.
Squeaky Screen Inc.
PS: If President Obama is defeated in 2012, please consider applying for this position again. Once we have a more business-friendly president, we can pick up hiring. We don’t want unemployment to go down until the political benefits will attach to a politician we like.
Since ceasing my employment with The University of X a few months ago, I have been looking for a new job. I recently visited my undergraduate alma mater’s Career Services office (because they also help alumni) even though I was really worried about the idea.
The reason I was worried is probably not what you are thinking. You may not realize this, but the “Career Service” office is often not a “service.” For a moment, let’s forget that the college has a vested interest in having its potential donors be employed and making as much money as possible. There are other vested interests that many of you may not be aware of.
I’ll start with the big one. If you are enrolled in law, medicine, or another program that normally leads to careers in a specific field, the college needs you to choose that field for the institution’s sake. If too many law students choose to do something other than law, it can make the school look bad when rankings time comes around. (There are also a few industrious applicants who ask about this.) Some programs find a way around this in their promotional materials by telling people that “90% of our graduates are employed within 3 months of graduation.” What they fail to tell you is that half of those people are selling cosmetics door-to-door. I have a feeling that these graduates didn’t take on so much debt to end up selling cosmetics.
But back to rankings: if you consider going for a Ph.D., you need to understand a few things up front. Most importantly, a strong program will probably not accept you unless your application materials say “I want to become a professor.” Doctoral programs recruit new students based on the professor jobs its graduates receive. (And again be careful. Some programs will say that 90% of their graduates secure academic appointments after completing the degree. That number can include Visiting Assistant Professors who only stay at a college for a year or two. It can also include a large number of people who teach for less than what a Wal-Mart cashier makes. The key word to hunt for is “Tenure-Track.”) But if you are nearing the end of your program and decide that you want to do something else, you can often expect that Career Services will encourage you to pursue the career that typically flows from the degree you are pursuing, even if it is painfully obvious that you should be doing something else.
Moral of the story: Remember that your college has financial and reputational concerns of its own and Career Services exists to serve those, not you. This is why I love my undergraduate Career Services office so much. It’s in their interest to help me because so many people with graduate degrees forget about their undergrad colleges. In their eyes, I’m a donor in the making. And the undergraduate college’s academic programs don’t benefit at all if I choose one career path over another. Although it’s counterintuitive, and even though it really helped to also speak with a specialist who knows about the unique problems facing Ph.D.-holding job applicants, the undergrad institution’s office has been an excellent resource.
Things turn out better when Career Services’ goals match your goals.
We were not happy to recieve your application for position UNUD666 – Writing Supervisor, and we are kind of sorry to inform you that you are not qualified. We said that you have to have a degree in english and you don’t have one. Having that degree is the only way to become an expert in writing and grammer. Everyone in HR majored in HR and we know for a fact that you can’t have skills you didn’t study in college. Its offensive that you think you can supervise our writing. We have a talented english person in our office who proof reads all of our e-mails and and websites. You can’t do the job as well as him.
This post kicks off my new series on the joys of job searching. I never received the above letter, but it resembles the attitudes and errors I am slowly getting used to. Lots of English majors can’t write effectively because their professors were more concerned with filling their classrooms (a.k.a. keeping their jobs) and preaching on politics. I’ve seen plenty of English majors who could not write nearly as well as their counterparts in other subjects. Meanwhile, I’ve seen plenty of talented writers at WordPress and elsewhere who could never hope to obtain a writing job because they didn’t major in the “correct” subject.
And all of this begs a few simple questions: if HR personnel often can’t recognize correct grammar and spelling, what happens to the requirement that a resume be completely error-free? Do job applicants have to guess what errors the HR worker thinks is proper English? How often is correct grammar labeled as incorrect, causing a perfectly good application to land in the circular file?