Pic: waiting for your career to ‘take off.’
I sat in our grad seminar a few weeks ago and the topic was about job hunting and interviewing. I have some experience and wanted to share my journey.
As I sat chatting with our great grad students, I had forgot about the tenure track position I was offered and TURNED DOWN when I was finishing grad school. I had forgot all about it until that day.
I know people will argue that sometimes we should go for the job, the money, or the happiness. Other’s will say to never sell out, to wait.
And that’s what I did.
I had forgot about this offer and then quickly realized the next thing:
I COULD BE TENURED RIGHT NOW
But I don’t think I would have made it to tenure. The job was marginal (to me), the location was less favorable (to me), the quality of life looked dreadful (to me), and to sum it up: it wasn’t for me.
I burst into tears after that interview as soon as I boarded the plane. A mix of exhaustion, fear, and “holy crap” over came me. My flight was later grounded due to lightning and I was never so happy for an overpriced hotel room that I paid for. The department head called me four days later, offered me the job, and I said I had to think about it. I called him back to turn him down and he upped the salary but I still said no. I really NEVER LOOKED BACK (until a few weeks ago).
If hindsight is 20/20, then here’s the take away: I held out. I took a lower paying position, without any hope of tenure because it’s the kind of work I wanted to do. I took another position that was soft-funded with negotiations that performance would turn it into something better. I negotiated other benefits that were important to me instead of money when I maxed out the dollar signs. I was never unemployed and I didn’t even have a long enough memory to remember I turned down a TT job until seminar a few weeks ago. That’s how forgettable the “steady” job was, even at the end of graduate school. I was under employed but it never felt like it until I looked at my pay stubs because I wanted to see the long game.
Not everyone has the luxury of holding out like I did. It was just me. No partner, no kids, not huge bills hanging over my head. I could be tenured but I don’t know if I would have been happy.
I then said the thing that I felt was the most important, “leaving the profession was the best thing I ever did.” You can always go home, you can always go back, but you cannot waste the opportunity that plops itself in front of you, even if it’s not the “safe” bet. By saying no, my career took off. It took a while to see the tangible benefits and it was frustrating. I can recall many conversations with my family about how hard the struggle was. IT WAS HARD FREAKING WORK.
Be BOLD. Be UNCOMFORTABLE. My most formative growth has happened when I’ve been uncomfortable, pushed, and smack dab in the middle of some cognitive dissonance. If I wasn’t uncomfortable, I wasn’t learning. So get uncomfortable, get bold, and see where it takes you.