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Are you one-half of a dual-career academic couple?
Are you an academic - and here I’m purposely enlarging my circle to include all of us alt-academics - who is the partner of another academic?
In my case, I’m the alt-academic and my partner is the - well what is my partner? The “normal” academic? The “regular” academic?
And what do my partner and I talk about when we are not “at work”? Our jobs, of course. Our school, of course. And of course, our higher ed careers.
My question is - when my partner and I talk to each other about our academic jobs - are we giving each other good advice?
There are at least 3 reasons why I might be giving my partner bad career advice:
1 - Objectivity: It is impossible for me to be objective about the strengths and weaknesses of my partner. In my eyes, she is perfect, and everybody else is not. That might be a slight exaggeration - but I’m thinking that we all view our partners with particularly rose-colored glasses. How can we give good advice when we can’t be objective about the person that we are advising?
2 - Proximity: Here I’m wondering about the challenges of being a dual-academic couple at the same institution. Is it possible to give career advice to your partner about navigating the same institution that you are also trying to navigate? Don’t we bring to the conversation all of our biases and misperceptions about our school that we are laboring under - and that most likely we don’t know that we are suffering from? There are probably some informational advantages about working at the same school in terms of generating valid career advice - but any mistakes in analysis or perception are magnified over two careers instead of one.
3 - Equality: I’m a trailing spouse. Many - if not most - members of dual-academic career couples are in the role of leading or trailing partner. Saying that the academic labor market is difficult to navigate is perhaps the understatement of the year. The reality is that every dual-career couple most deal with issues of equality, power, relative status, and different levels of job security and career success. These issues of equality - if that is the best word to describe these dynamics - constitute the environment in which every dual-career academic couple exists. How much issues of equality help or hinder the degree to which we give each other good advice is an interesting question to ponder?
Are you part of a dual-career academic / alt-academic couple?
Are you giving your partner good career advice?