All good grants come to an end… and the one that has supported me half-time at the university for the last almost-three years is just petering out… Sigh. Unfortunately, I also just found out that NSF turned down another grant with which I am involved that would have funded me half-time on a related project for the next three years. This leaves my work options slate wide-open (although we will resubmit the grant in July for a third round, which that may provide options for next fall).
A paycheck has it’s appeal – and as I worry about mine slipping away, a job prospect has floated into my inbox that I could certainly follow up on. This would provide a steady and reasonably good income - nothing to sneeze at! It involves doing research that’s not quite in my field, but that could be interesting, and perhaps working with students, although it also comes with some administrative and clerical duties. It’s at the university, working alongside some good people, it’s half-time (I consider 20 hours perfect, this puts me home in the afternoons with my kids) and I’d probably like it … but…
This feels like a rebound job. Like jumping into a relationship right after being dumped, it’s a quick fix to ease the pain. Do I want to jump right into it? It is hard to say no. Or should I take my unemployment as an opportunity to give myself an exploratory period? I have projects galore I could spend my time on. I have a book waiting to be resurrected – I haven’t worked on it seriously for years; I think it has potential and it may lead in exciting directions, although it may not pay off financially. Alternatively, I could search for a job more along my lines of expertise, or at least look, so I could feel that I controlled my career more. This is a difficult, time consuming task. And risky. It’s quite likely I wouldn’t turn up anything as good as this – or it would take a long time. And in this time I would be “unofficial” – I would have no academic connection. (By the way, I think a great website for someone inclined to put it together would be one that connects part-time research opportunities with the specific skills and expertise of alternative-track academic parents).
Such is the fragileness of soft money positions in academia. I need to do some soul-searching, weigh some unknowns, but the answer won’t be obvious – this I know, because in fact, when I took my last job, I worked through a similar conundrum.