This week I’ve decided that I’m done listening to generic career advice because, frankly, very little of it is applicable to my life.
I was reading a Thesis Whisperer post earlier this week that pretty much reduced me to tears. Don’t get me wrong – if you are a generalizable early academic career woman, it’s a MUST READ. Seriously. Read it now. It’s well written, smart, and perfect for 99% of the population for whom it’s written. In it, Thesis Whisperer (TW) answers a letter from a recent PhD grad trying to decide what sort of job she should take – the temporary research positions (which she seemed to prefer) or the long term faculty position – both of which she was offered.
First, TW warns the grad to be skeptical of the advice of male advisors, as these things tend to play out differently for women than for men. She also describes how a woman taking fellowships and research positions over traditional (long-term) faculty positions must be mobile regardless of family or else watch her career dwindle into obscurity. Finally, she tackles the concept of the trailing academic spouse.
It’s a great post. It also suggests that I’ve done everything wrong and have no hope of making anything notable of my education and that I’ve also reached the pinnacle of any career I might hope to have. Crap.
The day after I read the TW post, I was chatting with the neighbor-women as we were waiting to put the kids on the school bus. Even though all of them (there were probably five that morning) used to be (high power, highly paid) professionals, they are currently career mom-wives. I am the only one of this group currently working outside the home (caveat – the part time health provider neighbor was not present that morning). These are high energy women. When they aren’t running the PTA or taking their kids to their tutor or to violin lessons, they are doing pilates, barre, or training for a 10k (often all on the same day).
Well, we were all standing around and as part of the conversation I mentioned that all sorts of alarming things had started happening to my body the minute I turned 40 this spring. They were sympathetic, of course, but then told me there’s no way I should take it all so lightly. “You got to go out fighting,” apparently, and fighting means two hour daily workouts, hair dye, botox/fillers, and a plastic surgery (before things really get bad so no one can tell you got it done).
Well, despite the fact that I used to run my own MedSpa (yes, I injected botox and fillers into people), I don’t have the time or patience for any of that. Apparently I’m about to lose some sort of fight without really trying.
Crap X 2.
All this impending failure sparked some serious contemplation and here’s what I came up with: I am not and never will be a career academic – I don’t want to be. Well, I kind of do, but I don’t – I like action in my life way too much to spend years writing a book, for sure. And I will never be a career mom-wife (as defined by my socioeconomic/geographic cohort), because I don’t want to be. I have different priorities. I just do.
In short, I am both and neither of these groups of career women – and because of how I’ve lived my life, I’m quite a few more, too. Therefore…
Generic career advice from pretty much anyone? It doesn’t apply. There’s no point in listening.