Overeducated, Underemployed, and Mighty Productive

Given 175 seconds, you could listen to 3/4 of this song
Last night, I applied for my 175th academic job position in three years. Yeah, you read it right: one hundred seventy-five. If each of my applications were a mile, I could travel to Vegas from home. If each application were a single second, I’d have time to listen to your average top-40 radio song. Keep in mind this number doesn't include all my non-academic job applications, and yes, there is an ever-increasing number of those as well. I’ve easily topped 200 job applications within the past three years, ever since I scored my PhD.

So I toil as an adjunct at a job I really, really love, teaching students I adore and chatting about subjects that make my toes curl. But I don’t make enough money to pay my rent, and that’s a fact.

Am I alone in being underemployed? No. Am I alone in feeling my superior degree has made almost zero difference in my life? No. Am I worse off than most Americans? Well, yes, financially speaking, but definitely not qualitatively. Am I just one more underpaid, overworked, and cranky worker? Yep. Am I a pretty average educator suffering during an economic recession in which education cuts leave us poor and unemployed and students stuck with underpaid and overworked teachers and professors? Boy, howdy! Does any of that make me feel better? Not a smidge!

Me doing what I do best -- and cheaply
I’m a sociologist. I teach students – and did I mention I love teaching?! – all about cultural and social inequalities. I’m currently teaching a Marriage, Family, and Relationships course, and we’re discussing the boomerang generation (a pretty White and middle-class notion that posits more and more kids are fleeing the nest before boomeranging back to Mom and/or Dad once they find they can’t make it, a phenomenon that has actually been more common throughout history than we give it credit for). My students tend to nod in a “well, duh!” way when we discuss this, and I’m dismayed to know fewer and fewer peeps expect to make it nowadays without dual incomes and/or extended family networks.

What happens when my sister and I
combine our evil, cat-loving forces
So, as it always should, it comes back to me. I’m not exactly financially solvent right now. If I don’t find an academic job sometime soon, I’ll have to find a sympathetic family member and move in with her (clear out a room, LJ!). Thirty-seven years old and a proud member of the White, sorta-middle-class boomerang generation.

Or heck, maybe number 176 will pan out.*

* Note from one year later: it was number 179. :) 


  1. Room ready --- come anytime!

    Seriously, thanks for writing about this. It will do ppl good to hear that they are not alone.

  2. Thanks, LJ. I imagine it makes all three peeps who read my blog feel good for a minute, anyway. ;)


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