Whitney DeVos, a literature PhD student at UC Santa Cruz and former UCHRI research Intern, interviewed me in the summer of 2014 as part of our nascent Stories from the Field series. Whitney was a remarkably sensitive and articulate interviewer, encouraging me to engage with issues and ideas I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to others about before. After watching our interview, however, I was concerned that some of my responses to her questions didn’t fully address what my experience in transitioning from graduate school to the working world was really like. So, at the risk of being a bit solipsistic, three follow-up points I’d like to make:
- Realities of graduate school. In my interview I certainly engaged in a romantic remembering of what graduate school entailed. Although I did go to graduate school without any clearly-defined goals for employment post degree, I also recognize that, as Karen Kelsky put it in a recent presentation at UCLA, the “door has shut” to that kind of thinking. And although I do not mention it in the interview (though I do talk about it in my introductory remarks at the San Diego Humwork workshop), I relied upon loans to subsidize my living and professional development expenses during graduate school. Personal experiences aside, however, it’s very important to me that Humanists@Work speaks to the realities of graduate school experiences for students today, while still honoring the intellectual interests that that inspire students to pursue advanced studies.
- Waiting for the right job. I wouldn’t want to even imagine offering advice to graduate students about how long they should wait for the “right” job, or even what this job is supposed to look like. My decision to wait a year, if necessary, for the perfect job was made in consultation with my husband. With an infant daughter at home, we made hard choices about how to live so that we could provide the kind of care we wanted for our daughter and pursue our professional goals. The reality of our situation was not pretty: we were often late paying our bills, including our mortgage, and depended financially on the generosity of family, who helped us through this precarious period. I went without health insurance for many months. The position at UCHRI was the “right” job because of the opportunities it offered, which included health insurance and a steady paycheck alongside the rich intellectual environment and program administration responsibilities you find at a research institute.
- To all the working parents. This video was recorded after several nights of little to no sleep. My daughter, who has chronic health issues, was sick once again, and I was up most of the night to care for her. I probably should have rescheduled our interview. But Whitney and I were all dressed up! As working parents know too well, 9-5 responsibilities don’t end just because we had a bad night (or two or three). I’m incredibly grateful that I have sick leave, so that when I do need to stay home and care for my child I have paid leave to support me.