To infinity, and beyond (next year!)

Ten weeks from now.  Ten!  That’s when I’m expecting to submit my PhD.  I’m terrified (rightfully, I think).  Not because I don’t think it’s very good, but because I’m worried about next year.

Like any good PhD student I’ve been applying for loads of positions for next year.  I’ve sent in my fair share of applications for postdocs, fellowships and bona fide full-time teaching positions.  My biggest issue, I think, with these lecturing positions for which I am applying is my actual lack of PhD yet.  It’s all well and good to say I’ll be submitting soon, but until I actually do I could just as well be lying.  So why would universities want to take a chance that I may or may not be completed by the start of term when one of the conditions of the job is having a PhD.  I understand the logic behind it, it makes perfect sense.  I just don’t like it.

Teaching Cat

It has left me worrying about what I will be doing next year. At least for the past three years I’ve known what to expect — work on my PhD, including researching, writing and revising.  For the past two years I’ve also been teaching a few seminars.  It’s great to have the experience (and the little bit of money it pays).  I’ve realised I quite enjoy teaching; and I think I’m fairly good at it.  But for all the great things teaching seminars have done, it has not led to a position next year.

Ideally I’ll find a full-time one year (well, more than one year ideally) postdoc or lectureship post at a different university (to help boost the CV) that actually pays decently. Worse case scenario is I teach a bunch of seminars at my current university on the typical temporary contract I’ve been working on recently and have absolutely nothing else.  Even that ‘worst case’ wouldn’t necessarily be that bad as some of the seminars are on a different course, so would diversify my teaching portfolio.  The biggest issue with that, of course, would be the amount of work required.  Not that I object to hard work, I quite like it.  But since I don’t live especially near my university, I would try to cram everything I need to do into one or two days on campus.  So six to eight hours worth of seminars, office hours, essay feedback (when appropriate), possibly other sorts of meetings, maybe going to workshops or other academic talks and getting whatever materials I would need from the library.  That doesn’t include the journey to or from campus, which, depending on which buses/trains I manage to catch, can take anywhere from two to four hours.

That doesn’t even include the time required for lesson planning, reading the literature for class, obtaining the required materials for handouts or presentations or marking.  If I have six classes, say, with an average of twelve students, that would be seventy-two essays to grade and, knowing my luck, all at the same time.  Or perhaps it would be six to eight weeks of continually marking twenty to thirty essays.  That might be worse, who knows.  Hopefully I’d have some time to do some of my own research/writing, too, whether that’s for articles or adapting my PhD into a book or something else completely.

I’ve got numerous applications out there and I’ve mostly heard ‘no’ from them so far.  There’s a few where I haven’t heard anything yet.  That not knowing, for me, is actually worse than hearing no.  The limbo of the unknown is filled with anxiety.  Do I get my hopes up about my chances?  Do I even think about it?  Do I start preparing for interviews?  How long do I wait until I email somebody about something?  There’s a few positions that are still open and accepting applications, so I’m not even really thinking about those (yet).

Obviously no one can predict the future or actually know what tomorrow can hold.  But I like to at least have an idea of what to expect.  If I have to do a bunch of reading for teaching six or more seminars, I’d like to know so I can read some of the material beforehand.  If I get a lectureship, at least I’d know something about the position.  If there’s a postdoc, that’d be great, too, because then I could focus on that project.  Not having any idea about any of them at the moment has left me a little scared.  Anyone have any advice or similar experiences?  Am I overreacting?  Am I under-reacting?  Am I just totally stupid and should instead focus on finishing this PhD to the best of my ability?  Well, yes, but that’s not the point…  It would be nice if I had some idea of how to plan for my future, that’s all I’m saying.

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