Friday, October 10, 2008

Hunker down.

It's funny how these things happen all at once.

I had some major shit going on when 9/11 happened. It lent an even stranger perspective to the already-nightmarish quality of my life at the time.

Now I'm seriously wondering about switching careers and how I'll make a living, not to mention giving up on what I've been working so hard for, and look what happens to the stock market.

My timing, as usual, is perfect.

So I woke up this morning with the clock-radio blaring about the latest drop, and I find myself grateful that I have, at least for the moment, even a piddily salary coming in. At least for a few more months, anyway.

Then I was thinking about some of my friends and other people in my lab.

And I realized, it could be a lot worse for me. I should be grateful.

I could have a mortgage or a house that I needed to sell. Thankfully, I don't.

I could be leaving now, instead of later. At least I have a little hope that things with the market might get better (?) before the shit really hits the fan in terms of my employment options.

I could be one of the grad students who is about to defend, but has not yet found a postdoc position (or an industry position, good luck with that).

I could be my friend who is already unemployed (whether I helped her with her interview or not was, as I suspected, irrelevant).

I could be my friend clutching a Canadian passport and talking about how her industry job is in such a specialized niche, she's going to have to get out soon before her company goes under. She's ready to run in a split second if McCain gets elected.

At least what I have on my side right now is: uncertainty.

Which in some ways, means I still have lots of possibilities. At least my fate is, at least not yet decided.

It's not clear what I should do, and that was kind of driving me crazy. So it actually makes me feel a little better than the rest of the country is also in a panic!

More consolation: if I fail now, I can blame it on the circumstances. Who's to say that, even if I had done everything perfectly, this same series of events wouldn't still have torpedoed my chances?

So I find it oddly comforting that the world is slipping on its axis.

It's hard not to picture the doomsday scenarios. The ones where our landlord suddenly decides to kick us out, but we can't sell any of the stuff we thought was at least worth a little money, because nobody is buying anything, so we have to leave it out on the street. What a waste that would be. Then we would have to leave, with nothing more than we can carry.

In these scenarios, the world turns black and white, like old movies.

Or as a friend put it, in the worst possible case, we're a whole generation of people who will have to move back into our parents' basements.

We'll have to do this either because we have no savings and lost our jobs, or because our parents' retirement savings are worthless, or both.

Won't it be fun, to hunker down with our families? You know how I love my family!

So I've got that "waiting for the other shoe to drop" feeling, which is kind of silly since I think I've been kicked in the head enough lately.

Now I'm expecting that any one of the following would really seal our fate:

a) a pandemic, like the bird flu in Germany jumping from chickens and ducks to humans

b) another hurricane or other natural disaster that costs the country a fortune and sends more people scrambling for a place to live

c) someone to attack the US while we're clearly not ready to respond

In that last scenario, I picture myself and mrphd having to join the Army.

Do you think they'd give me lasik surgery? That would make me so much more useful, at least in a military capacity.

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At 9:40 AM, Blogger Becca said...

"More consolation: if I fail now, I can blame it on the circumstances...
So I find it oddly comforting that the world is slipping on its axis."

I'm not the only one who feels this way!

At 9:53 AM, Blogger chall said...

I think it is right to think about the "it's not as bad as it could be" and maybe try to adapt and live to that.

I know that it isn't easy. Trust me, I'm in the same boat here. Or at least I was this summer when I was about to leave my post doc (had to leave due to funding) and not having any options and then I got asked to stay ... I know this is not my future but really, as you said before, industry isn't really hiring that much now, but I can make it as of now.

I don't have a house or children - although sometimes I wonder if that would've helped me if I had kids earlier since now it seems impossible to have them.

And of course, as of now - knock wood - I have a job. For me the key tihng is that if I loose my job I need to move across the pond and then I'll be back in my parent's 3 bed room condo.... no job, no love and no place to stay.

I have decdided to worry about that IF it happens. And live in the now. Strangely, that is sooo hard.

I wish you the best of luck though.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Come on, get a life. Its not as bad as the media is making it out to be, and if you are buying into their sensationalism, you need to re-evaluate your ability to be a cynical, unbiased scientist. The one good thing about being a postdoc, is you'll NEVER be unemployed. You may not make six figures, but you'll always have a job and livelihood if needed.

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I felt a bit like you did... Here we were, postdocs, not sure what was going to happen-- in a state of panic; now everyone else out there starts to feel a little more like us.

It's kind of like the PI who says that there are a lot of alternative careers; talks about a postdoc who in the 90s was successful-- back in the day. Totally out of touch; then science is no longer beautiful when the pay-line gets crappy. When reality hits the fan, that's when everyone seems to be a bit more understanding...

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

I'm almost glad to NOT have a 401(k) yet.

I'm getting a little concerned that more academic searches than normal will get canceled this year.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 7:35 pm wrote:

The one good thing about being a postdoc, is you'll NEVER be unemployed. You may not make six figures, but you'll always have a job and livelihood if needed.

Um, how long does one have to be unemployed in your definition?

My currently unemployed post-postdoc friends would definitely disagree with that statement.


What makes me ill is that a lot of places had already put out their ads for openings when the market crashed, but when you contact them now they say their budget has been frozen.

So while it looks like there are some advertisements (although definitely fewer than last year!), even those are probably overstating the reality.

And we have yet to see the worst of it, supposedly the real recession won't hit until January/February.

This won't be a good year for jobs, that's for sure.

At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My currently unemployed post-postdoc friends would definitely disagree with that statement."

I just have trouble believing that a postdoc can be unemployed for any significant length of time (say more than a few months), except under out of the norm instances. Such as, living in an area where there are very few options for postdocs, losing one's job, and refusing/ being unable to move to a better place. Labs are always looking for postdocs. If you have postdoc experience and can't find a job, I think you need to reevaluate your career choice.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 6:58,

That's a good point. We should be willing to live anywhere, right?

One friend has been out of her postdoc for too long to go back as an academic postdoc, since most places have put limits on those positions (no more than 5 or 6 years after PhD). No, she had an industry postdoc position.

Another friend has a sick parent and can't move too far away (say a 1-hour flight radius). That is limiting.

But yeah, that was sort of the point about the post, you know? Thinking about leaving science BECAUSE THERE AREN'T ENOUGH JOBS IN ENOUGH LOCATIONS.


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