Wednesday, 3 July 2013

'Dear Jeremy: Your Careers Issues Solved!'

Saw a familiar-looking problem in The Guardian's 'Dear Jeremy' column (agony uncle specializing in careers advice). Sounds familiar?... I think it belongs right here, on the 'I-Hate-My-PhD' blog.

Dare I follow my dream of being an artist or film-maker?

I am a 29-year-old woman finishing off a PhD, which partly I applied for because I had a taste of teaching in higher education and liked it, and wanted to give academia a go; but partly just because you have to do something in life and I had not much idea of what else I could do.
I now realise maybe academia is not for me: I like teaching, but the most important thing on an academic CV is not the teaching but the quality of your research, and I am not enjoying this at all. I love learning, I love writing and communicating, but sitting on my own bashing out rigorous, academic, straight-laced prose with perfect formatting and footnotes, which will then be criticised by other academics – I don't love any part of that.
All my life I seem to have gone for second best – I have had dreams and ambitions but end up going for Plan B, because Plan A is scarier. Plan A is a dream of being an artist, or film-maker; but I know I am missing a lot of skills which you need in order to succeed at these kinds of jobs.
I will be job hunting soon and I am scared I will just do what I always seem to, which is panic and take some Plan B job to support myself , which ultimately I don't like and can't do, and which once again will take up all my time and leave me no freedom to do the things I love. I want to do what I love and get paid for it.

(Jeremy replied: )

You already know what you ought to do – and I'm happy to encourage you. It's not too late, but in a few years' time it may be. Go for Plan A.
You've been scared to go for it so far for two overlapping reasons: you're naturally a slightly diffident person; and you have an active imagination. So you imagine being a fully fledged artist or film-maker – and then realise, entirely correctly, that you don't yet have the skills or experience to be either. Of course you don't – nobody starts with fully fledged skills. Just remember that some of the best film directors started as humble runners, delivering film, making tea, running errands.
You need to be a little bit pushy and very persistent. Try everything you can think of to get a foot on a ladder, however lowly. Film companies need researchers, for example. You're more qualified than most for a job like that, and the practical rather than academic application of research should suit you just fine. It wouldn't be scary at all, and you'd be on the right road at last.

(Then underneath, some readers replied with this:)

• Take Plan B. I left university to follow my dream of working in theatre. More than a decade later I am barely scraping a decent wage. My joy in the work has long been subsumed by the monotony of trying to get paid, while my peers elegantly move on with their comfortable lives.RookieLee

(and this:)

 Surely there are art or film clubs at the university where you currently study. Plan A seems very nebulous; find a Plan B that is liveable with, if less than perfect, and live your life. SpursSupporter

Certainly makes for an interesting read... (I love the 'Jeremy says: Go for Plan A!' - and then 'Readers say: No, don't do it. Do Plan B'... :)

See also (with all readers' comments in full) :

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