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I've got an (exciting?) problem, career-wise.

The facts are these:
I took a p/t reception/admin job at a small family-run arts organisation in the spring, started work in June, and everyone there is really lovely. The plan was to spend 15hrs/week there, which would bulk out my income from my 14.9hrs/week research contract, which also started in June.

The research contract ends Dec 1st. The small arts-org work is ongoing, albeit with erratic hours including evenings and weekends.

My plan was to use the time away from the 30hrs/week paid work to do my own academic career advancement stuff. So far, this has not happened. The arts job ended up not being 2 days/week, but 2-4 part-days/week. On the whole it's quite intense, customer-facing stuff; I'm also tending to work across mealtimes.

Arts job has zero opportunities for advancement, and a raise is unlikely given how tiny they are. Unlike all the other academic work, it isn't a fixed-term contract. (In fact, there's no contract at all, not even a zero-hours one; no benefits, no sick leave. Since my last paycheque included a percentage buy-out for holiday pay, I'm pretty sure that means I'm officially casual staff.)

The current situation:
I've also agreed to do some teaching work this fall. Juggling everything is going to be a nightmare. Dropping the teaching would give me more time for academic work + arts work, and one of my struggling student friends could pick up the work. Teaching will pay about the same as the arts job, and will be better for my professional development as an academic (teaching things I haven't taught before!), and will probably be fun.

On the other hand, I have been saving money for the last couple of years. I could quit the arts job, live off savings, and focus on generating work that would add to my academic employability. Book proposal (a book contract is essential to getting a permanent full-time job, everyone says so, plus I want it). Publishing some papers. Co-writing funding bids.

As it stands now, quitting the arts job would mean I'd be 80% unemployed come December, and 100% unemployed come April. I've got reasonable chances of getting myself attached to other research projects, but nothing is certain. If I run down my savings (starting in December) I won't be in desperate circumstances until this time next year. 

If I power through this term, I'll probably just about keep my head above water, deliver what I need to on the research jobs. I won't be any closer to finishing the all-important book proposal. I mean, I had three houseguests over the summer, and am otherwise burned out. Maybe with the fall starting up I'll magically find energy and have a routine and... juggle things more effectively?

Other little things that maybe, in context, seem bigger:

If I worked full-time hours at the small arts org, I'd make maybe just enough money to sustain myself. If I wanted to save any money, I'd have to move somewhere cheaper. There isn't any path for advancement within the organisation itself, so I'd be building up skills/experience to take elsewhere. The work isn't exciting, and it leaves me too wiped out to do my own work. Also, my consistent work day is Wednesday, which means I'd miss every single meeting of an important weekly research series.

The small arts org, despite my asking them, hasn't swapped me to a different tax code. I've set up a separate savings account in which I've been depositing the payroll taxes that haven't been properly deducted. Yay, added stress.

Speaking of added stress, the commute is a pain. It's either navigating erratic meandering bus routes, cycling along terrifying roads, or walking an hour/65min each way. On what they pay me, I wouldn't be able to afford a car.

So, the problem:
I can ditch the understimulating, actively stressful, sometimes-has-fun-moments arts job in favour of making my working life even more precarious. Working several part-time jobs can sometimes feel like a convenient excuse - even if it's also a genuine one - about why I'm not producing the writing that I want to. Mentally changing gears between the different jobs is exhausting. I joke about my accidental career in theatre: this was never meant to be how I'd spend most of my time, isn't fulfilling in the long term, and has entirely obliterated any kind of stable sleep schedule I might've had.

There's a fair chance that I'll get more fractional research work over the next few months, potentially even a year's work on something that I've been helping to develop. 

I'm not happy with how things are going, the small arts org isn't the best place for me, but I'm not sure I've got the confidence to quit and hope for the best.*

*hope for the best and also make the fullest use of the mentoring and research development support that I'm taking advantage of via my current university-employer, AND ALSO continue to network (meeting a colleague for lunch tomorrow to spitball some research plans) AND ALSO apply for fellowships etc.  


If I stay at the arts org, I'll still have to draw on savings in the spring. Why not do that while well-rested? (Because I'd have more savings to draw on, I guess.) Leaving feels like something an exciting person does, someone who isn't terrifyingly conservative when it comes to having a stable income. But the stable income is a dead-end, and I feel like I need to break free from low-value, high-exhaustion work in order to permanently switch gears to doing something more exciting.

I didn't move to the UK to do a fancy degree so as I could eke out a living as a receptionist in tiny organisation. Even in the short-term, it doesn't feel like a means to any end.

...that's probably why I woke up with an incredibly stiff neck today, and it's gotten worse as the day went on. Argh.

ETA: Extra work was offered, and I've accepted. This is the riskiest thing I've ever done. Currently drafting resignation letter to the arts org. Reminding myself I shouldn't stay at a place just because I know they'll have to scramble to hire someone else and struggle to cover all the shifts. (Reminding myself that I want to move beyond working a kind of job where "covering all the shifts" is a factor.)  <3 all. This entry was originally posted at http://charloween.dreamwidth.org/463845.html, where there are comment count unavailablecomments.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(no subject) - amnisias - Sep. 13th, 2016 07:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 13th, 2016 08:51 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's entirely stressful. Hugs gratefully accepted. I'm having another meeting today, which may possibly end up netting me more research work in Oct/Nov/Dec.

I do like your phrasing, "pre-employment limbo". The idea of pre-employment sounds so much more positive than "unbroken vista of unemployment and despair".

I'm grabbing all the mentors I can, going to step up the networking... and still probably won't quit the low-value job this month. Argh.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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