Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Short End of the Stick

I discovered a personal account by a female academic in The Chronicle of Higher Education's Site titled"The Womanly Art of Negotiation", in which she discusses the various struggles she faced negotiating her salary as a recruited assistant professor candidate.  Oh, also, she happened to be nine months pregnant while battling it out with the department over her contract.

Reading this article made me consider for the first time how negotiation is supposed to work, and how it actually works in the case of female candidates for employment.  It's not surprising to me that we live in a society that substantially values employing white heterosexual males over non-whites, or those who aren't male-gendered or don't identify as heterosexuals.  I am a part of one of the most prestigious university debate unions in the northeast, and beat out 45 other university teams (including teams from Cornell and Colgate) to make it to the semifinals of a recent tournament.  I was one of only 3 females who made it to the semifinals, whereas 13 males had gone through.  The top ten speakers of the tournament where all males, and predominantly white males at that.  Believe me, the message has been loud and clear that the value of intellectual and hardworking women hardly correlates to the value of men.

So, how am I supposed to combat the obstacle of my gender once I start (hopefully) receiving job offers?  Now, this may be a bit like putting the cart before the horse, however, I find it very disconcerting to hear that even when applying for positions in academia (where one would think existing hiring  biases around gender/race/and sexuality would be acknowledged and combated) that there are certain limitations to one's ability to negotiate based on gender.  Are we still really operating on that whole "we like quiet and submissive females" thing that the West is so popular for? Because from what this article states, as a female either you take an offer without asking anything in addition, or, you suffer through a nerve-wracking ordeal of negotiations.  The latter strategy being the effort of a woman who recognizes her right to state her worth in the market of ideas.  Although I champion these women who push back when a salary proves to be unsatisfactory, when so little ground is gained at the end of the whole thing it makes me wonder why institutions seem to get defensive when a woman asks for more? 

There is totally a stigma around women taking control of the negotiation process, and I think this is a huge deterrent for many female professionals who might not be happy with the salary they're offered to negotiate.  As the author of this article explained, many females in academia are just thankful they got offered a position in the first place, and don't want to jeopardize their chances by asking more of their employer.  Although it seems as if negotiating on your own terms as a woman is a somewhat grueling and stressful process, I've learned that employers are more likely to come to the table when you appeal for a promotion or raise in the future.  If you stand your ground from the getgo, the less likely you'll be shortchanged by your institution in the end.  All those women who accepted positions without blinking an eye, on the other hand, are less likely to receive substantial pay increases (since raises are usual performed as a percentage increase of a current wage, and when you start with a lower-than-average wage then your net raise as a whole is low) or promotions.

For part-time work and internships, I've been quick to accept the offer on the table.  I mean, I'm lucky as a college student to get hired anywhere, right? Wrong.  Now That I'm about to graduate, I want to educate myself on how best to a)plan what I want my career to look like, and b) understand what my value is as an employee/academic.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Survivor's Guilt

While perusing the Chronicle of Higher Education's website, I came across an interest piece titled “They're Mad as Hell” by Leonard Cassuto, an English professor at Fordham University. He was writing to explain further the implications of an article he had recently written about the importance of providing professional development skills to doctoral students before they enter the job market, titled “Changing the Way We Socialize Doctoral Students.” Both pieces are very interesting and discussing the various points Cassuto makes could certainly take up multiple blog entries.

However, what I found to be truly interesting was a term Cassuto used in his piece, “They're Mad as Hell” - the term being “survivor's guilt”. As a tenured professor in one of the most competitive fields of academia, Cassuto explains that he is flooded daily with questions from graduate students asking him what is his secret to success, and how these students might work to emulate him. Reflecting on his own experience searching for a job after receiving his PhD, Cassuto writes, “Like so many graduate students, I didn't start thinking carefully about the job market until it was upon me. When I got a good job, it felt less like an achievement than an improbable success in the lottery.” This certainly indicates a major issue about how an institution of higher learning might go about fostering career development for graduate students. When potential graduate students, such as myself, find themselves faced with professors who are unable to particulate any real reason why he or she got the job, then that to me is a problem.

Cassuto sees this as being a problem as well, and he finds himself unable to give the advice his students need from him because he himself never received such information as a graduate student. He managed to “survive” without it, and miraculously landed a job. But graduate students today can no longer just settle to survive. In an age where there's an increased percentage of students pursuing higher education after college, students need to be able to have access to resources that will help them conceptualize their graduate experience as another step in their overall career development, and that the degree itself doesn't guarantee a job.

Now, I have totally caught myself prodding my advisors and professors for insights on how to manage the path to securing a career in academia, and I've been given responses that reflect this feeling of survivor's guilt. Like, “Things were different twenty years ago-” or “I got this interview purely because I knew so-and-so.” Frankly, I think professors are selling their students short by this sense of nostalgia, and I feel as if professors should be held accountable for knowing how to navigate the job market in today's higher education system. I certainly don't want to be another jobless person with a PhD, and I don't intend on being one. I am slowly starting to educate myself as to what role my PhD will play in my career development, but not having professors who are mindful of how the PhDs function in students' career development today robs me of a potentially vital resource.

Articles referenced:


Monday, January 24, 2011

On Starting My Job Search

It's 2011, and I'm graduating in 4 months.  The gravity of this fact hasn't quite hit me yet, and so I find myself thinking "there's still time left".  The truth is though, the sooner I start the whole "job search/application" process, the less anxious I'll feel about having to leave behind my nice and comfortable role as an undergraduate student.  At this point in time, I have two part time positions: one interning as a Career Assistant in Vermont, and one working as a sandwich maker at a deli in New Jersey.  I know for sure that I don't want to work in the deli after I graduate (or at least after the summer after graduation if I end up getting accepted to a graduate program next fall).  Having worked at Career Services part-time for the past four years, I have started to learn about potential career areas that would be interesting to work in.  I enjoy working with others, specifically as a peer mentor.  Also, I enjoy being in a work environment that also allows personal development.  Ideally, I hope to find jobs that includes both elements.

So...I know what kind of things I'd like to be doing, but I'm not exactly sure which career field to choose.  The prospect of working in a higher ed office appeals to me, because it's what I have been doing and it's something I enjoy.  But in my job search, I don't want to limit myself to applying for solely positions in higher ed.  I once thought I'd like to work in publishing, but now I know that I want a career working more directly with others - as opposed to being shut up in an office all day scanning through pages of documents.  The task I feel I'm faced with now is finding positions outside of entry-level positions in higher education to apply to.  There are always positions for secretarial work that I could qualify for, but if I were to consider that line of work I would work toward getting a job as an administrative assistant - something where I could have certain projects and tasks that I could be responsible for.  What I feel I'm lacking is the knowledge of what positions are "opening up", because even if it's not my "dream job" I would at least like to find a professional position that I would have a reasonable chance of being hired for - even if it's not full time (as long as it's not deli work).  This research component of the job search is what I find myself struggling with.  Otherwise, I have a bulked up resume, cover letter drafts, a decent GPA, people willing to serve as references, and the will to apply to numerous positions.  The question I am now left with, is "which ones should I apply to"?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On the Work/Life Balance

Hmmm, this prompt is a surprisingly difficult one for me to write about.  Perhaps an indicator that I need to work on the work/life balance is the fact I haven't entered a career development blog in a few weeks (oops!).  My negligence of this dear little blog I feel like is related to my inattention to setting up some "me" time, where I can feel free to self-reflect, whether that be through blogging, reading, petting my room mate's cat, etc.  As the fall semester draws to an end, and exam dates/graduate application deadlines approach, I feel as if I'm sort of a deer caught in the headlights.  Like other students, I feel a huge weight on my shoulders, but when faced with the choice of just working nonstop or pacing myself, I have a tendency to choose the nonstop option.

Up to this point in my undergraduate career, this has worked out pretty well.  However, now that I'm in my senior year, things are not going as smoothly as they had in the past. Usually in the last two weeks of school I would just keep my eye on the prize, isolate myself from all distraction, and just motor through everything until I finished.  This year, though, I found I began to start this "self-cutting-off" around Halloween, hoping that if I started disciplining myself earlier, my productivity would increase.

Not so.  I have found myself feeling like I'm just going through the motions of attending class/reading/handing in assignments, rather than really enjoying myself.  I suspect the culprit for this ennui is not just a bad case of senioritis, but rather an inability to just take those moments to exhale.  In other words, I've let my focus shift away from what my wants and needs are, and instead have focused on what I'm "supposed" to be getting accomplished.  Physically, this has had some ramifications, as I've had some not-so-nice health issues this semester most likely resulting from not taking care of myself.  Additionally, I've found that I've let my work consume me, and that even when I am supposed to be enjoying dinner with friends/at a movie with my boyfriend, I'm still worried about a deadline or an assignment.

Thanksgiving break has been sort of a blessing in terms of my attempt to strike a balance between work and life.  Due to canceled travel plans, I arrived at my home unexpectedly early with only my computer, and a small bag of underwear and toiletries.  If I had things my way, I probably would have packed a sack of books, a few notebooks, and my laundry; however I had no choice but to work with what I had.  As if I didn't already feel limited by arriving home with only a few of my belongings, I plugged in my laptop only to discover the internet had broken.  Great - not only did I not have the books I needed, but I essentially had no connection to any of my work materials.  After frantically calling the internet service, I began my two-day wait for the new modem to arrive.  I thought those two days would be torturous, and at first, they were.

However, as time passed, I began to take comfort in the fact that I didn't have to be doing work at that very second.  Instead of staring at my computer screen, I went out for ice cream with my mother, did some vegging on the couch, and -of course- played with my cat Manolo.  When the new modem arrived and was installed, I felt a new sense of ease about the work I needed to get done.  Every morning, with a hot cup of coffee, I would sit for an hour or two and get done what I needed to - but the catch was I allowed myself to be free from my computer for the rest of the day to just hang.  For the first time in a while, I felt comfortable with the work/life balance I had achieved while home.

I'm struggling to keep that balance, now that I'm back in my messy Burlington apartment with 100 chores to do and exams around the corner.  I'm working on it though, and that I can feel good about.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Prompt 2

"What steps are you taking as a sophomore/senior to ensure that you have professional work experience before the year is over?"

I truly believe that my work at Career Services has given me some of the best training for a professional work environment.  However, I my goal is to also expand other skills that I feel will help me in my post-graduate career pursuing a career in media-studies education.  One of the projects I'm currently working on is helping produce a television program to be featured on Burlington's local network Channel 17.  The television program is to feature weekly live student debates.  Although I am not necessarily working with a professional production firm on this project, I am collaborating with UVM TV and the UVM Lawrence Debate Union (which I have been a member of for the past 2 years) to create this program.  I want to apply the skills I am currently learning in an introduction to video production class I am taking. 

Understanding the production aspect of media studies is something I haven't really honed in on during my undergraduate career, so I am taking advantage of these opportunities to further my knowledge of production.  I look forward to being able to list "assistant producer" on my resume, because I feel like it will show that I am well-rounded in the area of media-studies.  By diversifying my experience from purely critical studies to being a part production projects, I can better market how my variety of skills are truly an asset.  Whether it's applying for a PhD program, or applying for a position in the media industry, my goal is to make myself seem as competent as possible about media studies.  Now that I am in my senior year, I feel that learning about production will be key in marketing myself post-graduation.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Prompt 1

"What is your strategy for searching for part time jobs? How does this affect your suggestions to students looking for part time jobs?"

Hmm, searching for part-time jobs can be quite tricky.  Certain students' time availability as well as ability to do said job can pose some huge limitations on getting a part-time job.  Not to mention, in Vermont location is very important for many students who predominantly use the bus system or walk, so commuting is also an issue to consider.  My own personal strategy for searching for part-time jobs starts with observing which jobs seem to be employing people like yourself.  This sounds shallow, however, if you walk into a store/restaurant/office and see that there is more than one college-aged person employed there, you might politely ask what job title that person is employed under.  It could be they are just a part-time intern, or they could be an employee.  If students already work in that office/restaurant/etc., chances are that the management offers positions with some flexibility for students that require little or no experience.

If you would like a part-time job where there seems to be no college-aged people who have been hired, ask to speak to the manager about entry-level part-time positions.  The worst thing that could come from asking is that you get "no" for an answer, but be obliging and thank them for taking the time to answer your question.

Always provide a resume when applying for positions, even if it's not required.  A well-polished resume could very well make you stand out from the slew of other student applicants, and although it might not insure a job offer it will certainly make an impression on the person hiring (i.e. when a position does open up you could potentially be the first person they contact). 

Also, cast a WIDE net.  Literally, sooner or later you're bound to get a bite, and if you don't get a response than follow up with the hiring manager by phone to double check that they received your application.  Persistence pays off, so that means not only checking in personally at establishments you think may be hiring, but it also means checking craigslist, local newspapers, and asking friends who are employed if there are any foreseeable job openings at their workplace.  On-campus hiring events like the annual babysitter mixer could be a great way to network and learn more about local part-time jobs.  Also, Catamount Job link can be a great resource, especially with its new resume upload option!