Notes from the Underground

On this ominous anniversary day of my graduation and I still don’t have a job, I wonder what is going on in the field of education? After investing sixty thousand dollars in my career and one hundred resumes later, I am beginning to consider the possibility that I have chosen the wrong stock. However, unlike the floundering market when it’s easy to accept a gamblers fate and take a loss, having made an investment of time and scholarship in the field of education somehow doesn’t seem to fall into the category of fate but rather it was supposed to be the category of safe. How could I have gone wrong? While medical doctors have to put in their time after graduation as a resident making somewhere in the range of forty thousand dollars a year while busting there ass with haphazard work hours and lengthy stints of time with little sleep – there is a solid, secure light at the end of that tunnel. A light that’s worth a six figure salary, a cell phone, and a MD license plate that is more than a guarantee that you could actually use it on the highway without the fear of having to pay some blue suit a hundred and fifty dollar ticket. A Ph.D. in education, I am figuring out, holds a lot less cache on the highway and even less in the market place. Has it always been like this or is my case just another reflection of a depressed economy?

The worried glances from my family and friends remind me that there is the question of my self worth. Answering questions and deflecting reproachful comments about my “job search” is common place and repetitive. For example, Are you sure you looked in this week’s paper? Or – Maybe you should take off the letters Ph.D. from your resume so that they will consider you for anything – you know, until something better comes along. Most people don’t believe that I am not doing something wrong to deserve my unemployment. Have I some surreptitious file somewhere that even I don’t know about? Have I carelessly misjudged my character, capacity to educate, my ability to write a cover letter, perform well on an interview? Why after spending so much time working day and night (and money!) to complete my undergraduate degree, a graduate degree and now a Ph.D. while working full time and raising a family – do I have to hide the fact that I have a Ph.D. to get a job? When I was just a Masters, I was told that in order for me to be competitive in the field I had to have a Ph.D. and now all of sudden this is the reason I am not getting a job? Perhaps it’s the fact that to do my job, organizations are not willing to pay a Ph.D. salary. Perhaps my Ph.D. degree just hasn’t got that blue stamp of approval from the traditional ivy-league institutions that continue to dominate education politics. Perhaps I don’t have the right relationships.

Relationships. The last job I interviewed for lasted for about six weeks. After believing that the job was tailor fit for me and having won the support of the leading lady… The Dean told me that if I had been interviewing for a graduate faculty position I would have been offered the job in a heartbeat. However, since it was an administrative position, he thought it was better to higher someone with “relationships” at the DOE. (Later on he wrote in an email that he couldn’t understand why I haven’t been getting any response to teach at the colleges… perhaps its because you started your career as a Spanish teacher… hmmm, that’s a theory.) Relationships? Relationships? I can do relationships. If you actually get me out of my house and introduce me to the real world, then relationships I can do! Trust me. I can do relationships. How can I meet the people that I need to meet to get ahead in my career when no one is opening the door to the gallery?

But when it comes to relationship etiquette, in this case, I was lucky. Because after one hundred resumes and about a handful of interviews spanning the length of a year’s time, this Dean called me two weeks after the interview to tell me personally that I had not gotten the job. More than half of the interviews that I have prepared for, attended and entertained for more than an hour and a half each time (and that does not include the ones I had to write and research for…) ended with out even a call to let me know that they were going with another candidate. One sent me an email six months later. I know what it feels like now to be discarded. If educators can treat each other this way, then what does that say about the character of education today?

So, the people in the know are suggesting that I meet people in the field. You know, get out, get some advice, make some connections. Not an interview, per say – a meet and greet. After I did my first one, I got the feeling I was in one of those seven minute dating events. Coffee? Yes, thank you, that would be great, smile, sit, look around, make eye contact, hello, how are you? thank you so much for meeting with me, yes, she is a doll, how did you guys meet, and of course, here’s another copy of my resume and so on. I almost wanted to yell out, I don’t smoke and exercise regularly! Then there’s the apparently innocent question that right out of college would be harmless, even expected. Why, this is the signature of the American dream. Eyes square on me, I am asked the notorious question. What do you want to do? What do I want to do? I smile. I laugh. I fidget with my heavy bag and swallow the dry taste in my mouth that I adopted from the train ride from Poughkeepsie. I really want to burst out crying and then I realized I am trapped like a monkey at the fair. I try desperately not to climb up on the table, grab my hair, jump up and down, spit, scream, sneer at the sincerely generous “meet and greet” in front of me. What do I WANT to do? Well, my dear sir, a year and a half ago I thought I’d join a faculty, but hey, no one called me. I thought that I’d go into consulting and promote my fabulous, unique and artistic line of consulting services, but apparently no one had the money to pay for me. I thought I’d be a writer, a painter, a teacher, a researcher, a director, an assistant director, an associate, a manager, a trainer, a specialist, an educator. But apparently, there has been no opening for me in any of these things. So, what do I want to do? What do I REALLY want to do? Well, first of all, kind fellow, I want to make money. I want to be able to pay for my house and buy a new car, because the one I have makes so much noise my neighbors are beginning to complain. Can I say that? I need health insurance for sure, how long has it been? Well, to tell you the truth, long enough that I am beginning to wonder if this is a permanent condition. I want to work. Can I just say that? I mean I am thirty-seven after all, and since I am not just out of college and I have a Ph.D. in education, I think that hey! In the very least, I can be honest and say, that really I don’t really give a hoot what I do, but whatever it is, it would be nice if it happened soon. Or if I say that, will I be driven further and further away from the real world into “the underground?”

What is going on in the field of education? Or is it me?