Friday, August 18, 2006

Can PhDs Get Regular Jobs?

Can a PhD get a regular job?

Like say, "bather for our grooming dept," or "part-time barista," or "optometry asst." or the real ticket: "highly motivated Sales Professional" at "Walla Walla County's #1 Volume Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge Store."

I ask this question as I look at my shrinking bank account and the lack of open academic positions that I am qualified for in this town of 5 institutions of higher education.

For the first time in quite a while I will not be working 60+ hours a week teaching.

Sure, I could go to town on dissertation writing and get 'er done, but I know it won't take 40 hours a week for the next 9 months to finish it. I am already more than half way done.

I could knuckle down and force myself to use the time to submit my MA research for publication at another journal, but that certainly doesn't take a whole lot of time - maybe an hour here and there tops.

Projects around the house? I can invent projects 'til the cows come home.

However, none of this solves the money problem. My house needs a new roof, and I've got student loans to pay off. Plus, I like to travel, buy books, and drink those expensive frou-frou coffees from time to time.

So, I ask the question, could I be hired to be a used car salesman?

I use that non-gender neutral term because around here, I wouldn't be surprised if you had to have a masculine name, voice, and appearance to be hired. But, you never know.

The way I see it, I've been fired from every food service oriented position I've ever had so I probably shouldn't look into pouring coffee. That leaves 3 other great jobs I could potentially be occupied with. Should I wash dogs and cats (I love animals), work in an eye doc's office answering phones and printing out receipts (good lord I'd go nuts), or try to use some of my PhD level psychology to manipulate people to buy cars I wouldn't buy myself (I would be damned good at it)?

If you're a PhD who has failed in academia, can you get a regular job?

How do you do it? What do you put on your resume? In your cover letter?

Do you lie and omit your educational background?

Why would you not hire someone with a PhD, especially a useful one like in psychology?

8 comments:

psychgrad said...

Could you teach a course or RA for someone? Don't places like Chapters hire graduate students?

Holly said...

What is Chapters?

Daphne said...

A few thoughts:
On the dog/cat washing job- can you imagine what you would smell like after washing stinky doggies all day?? Wet dog isn't the greatest of scents...

Why not look into getting a position at a local vets office as a vet tech? You would earn dollars while learning basic veterinary care (always good to know) and would get a discount on the twins vaccinations and other vet care, vitamins, possibly food, which is helpful to the bank account.

psychgrad said...

Oh...maybe it's called Indigo in the States? It's a big bookstore...

Holly said...

Have never heard of Indigo. As for big bookstores, the US has Borders and Barnes & Noble - neither of which has a franchise here. I worry that me working in a bookstore would just make me resentful of the time wasted earning minimum wage when I could be reading those books instead.

The vets around here do hire techs and assistants, but the ads say they want a "registered" or "certified" person.

I thought about applying for the reasons you noted Daphne but never could figure out how to sell myself.

Do I mention the educational background or not?

The question remains, how do I frame myself, my skills, knowledge, and ability?

An idiot said...

These comments may seem stupid, but I'll give it a try.

** Project manager - you skills planning, conducting, and analyzing what went well and wrong may be good for traits for a PM or a job like that. Perhaps you can find one in your locale. There's always a wedding/party planner like I've seen on TV recently . . . Those are PM-like jobs. Is there a friend's (collegue's)function you can demonstrate your organizational & delivery skills?

** Related to the above - How about just plain absorbing information and coming to a conclusion what is effective or not (make a decision). Your education teaches you to look at point/counterpoint, data, and then conclude. That's what many of us outside academia do and it's a valuable trait.

** Marketing Research. When I was in grad school, there were many in my Ag Econ Dept that went to work for AmEx analyzing who would respond to those many annoying credit card mailings I seem to get. Perhaps someting in the Wine Industry. I hear there's a lot of interest in it and it's new.

** Regarding the Vet Tech, etc. What additional training will be required? Is it a degree or is it one or two classes to be "certified"? Perhaps that is something you can do if it takes a little formal training. I'm sure explaining what's up will not make the Vet's office worried you'll leave so soon (or you are overqualified).

** How about layout for a printing company? You have laid out posters for your conferences. Again, the tourism/wine industry may be good here, if they are hiring

Here's what you've demonstrated being a Ph.D student, which can be used as skills: 1) Worked with collegues, superiors, and subordinates (RA's, advisors) effectively to bring a good result, 2) you've planned projects (research & classes) with a specific goal and delivered it with success (and learned from the difficulties) -- Perhaps a basic course in formal PM will make you quite marketable, 3) you can layout posters & publications for effective presentation (perhaps with some honors) using sofware, and 4) You've put up with working for superiors (your advisors)

In brief(kind of) those are the skills I think a grad student takes out of grad school (or at least that's what I took out of my MA program)

twf said...

Go to a temp agency. I think they'll take just about anybody, and the job changes from day to day. Go to one that specializes in office temps. Do some filing one day, be a receptionist the next.

psychgrad said...

An idiot's comments seem pretty smart...ironic...

I think mentioning your PhD status depends on the job you're applying for... If it's a "in the meantime" (a.k.a. crappy job until you start your career), you may not want to mention it...I'm not sure...

I would think, though, that with your skills, you should be able to get some sort of research position. Or even work at some sort of outdoor museum...