Kathy Elrick

Kathy Elrick
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
December 31
Ex-grad student, desperately seeking way back. Wannabe politico, die-hard protester in the couch district. Single malt whisky appreciator, Scotland lover.


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NOVEMBER 4, 2011 1:40PM

Degrees of Separation

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            Still continuing the job search while working part time for the lawyer.  There have been few hiccups to disrupt this chaos that is now routine yet overwhelms my mind with a malaise that would make a nihilist grin.  As the days pass by without anything substantial to feel or report about except a constant feeling of “what now?”, I am learning patience in the presence of pressure and uncertainty.  My mother calls it growth, even though she wishes she could help me through it better.  I see it as a revelation of the goods and the bads I avoided while being in school for such a long time.  I am definitely made aware of how spoiled I was while living within the “college bubble”.  But regardless of figuring out what I want – scratch that – need to do, this economy is the pits.  

            There is no way school could have ever prepared me for this economy.  The only thing I’ve honed from school for this is a sense of self-effacement and passive smart-assed assessment.  However, regardless of the economy, the job search itself would be somewhat difficult for someone like me, because of the lasting effects of the “bubble”.    

            My first reaction after graduating and not having a job set up was rejection – not of me, but me rejecting the degrees.  Who really wants someone with a Masters, much less two?  I asked.  What are they good for?  I can’t plug them into a job search engine and find anything linked to them that isn’t a prof job that needs a PhD!  Any local college will only give maybe one class to a non-seasoned adjunct, and if you’re lucky it would be in the Spring semester, which would mean waiting.  Then in the broader search for a job, I rejected the degrees as I tried to figure out how would they help or hinder my chances with an employer.  Will employers disregard me because I have degrees, yet not the “right” experience?  Do they see me being overqualified and thus unhire-able?  

            As I continue to job search, learning about the job site lingo and the ins and outs of temp agencies, I passed that initial reaction.  Not out of finding a solution to it, but rather out of trying to find alternative solutions; what can I do with what I know?  So my 2nd reaction has basically been to ignore them, think like they aren’t something I have to deal with.  What have I been doing for the past five years? 

            But even this is part of the first reaction.  It’s just a part of the rejection.  However here I am forced to mine the resources I have better.  It makes me more aware of hey, I can do that.  Or hey, being a grad assistant really did make me a good candidate for office work.  Look at that part-time/temp people, I can type like a madwoman!  It’s taken me a while to say that I have experience along with the degrees, but I still have yet to figure out how best to sell it when it’s not in the main interest of the employer.

            Then the 3rd reaction is more an admission, that I still have a soft spot for this stuff.  For one thing, I shouldn’t be so callous of those pieces of paper that a year ago I told everyone and their mother I wanted so bad I could taste the printer ink.  I now have skills I wouldn’t otherwise have without all that hard work, and it was hard work to be motivated to write not one, but two theses in the span of a year, not to mention one through email and Skype.  Even though writing this out is a pat on the back, it’s a reminder that I spent five years doing this, I must have liked it.

            And that soft spot isn’t just memories, or building a skill set, but it produced another goal of wanting to be a college professor.  And to do that I need to go back for a PhD, as the job searches have repeatedly reminded me.  But this isn’t going back to the “bubble”.  It’s different now, because money is more than ever an issue.  The money issue isn’t solely about the cost of the degree, but even to apply.  The GRE now costs $160, and that’s without looking at what it costs to prep to get a decent score!  

            But when I had just graduated I didn’t have a gut feeling about getting the PhD.  No, what I have been feeling, and honestly still feel a bit, is desperation.  This is a remnant of the bubble.  That desperation is not about getting the PhD because I want the PhD to be a professor, but to stifle problems from the job situation.  And I admit, I was a user - I used student loans to get this far.  And there is a limit to how much you can take out (or is healthy to).  But using student loans wasn’t just to continue the bubble, it was because I wanted to see how far I could make it.  I honestly wanted to try to grow as a student to see if I could get to being a professor that way.   

            Whether or not that did help, I can’t say.  It’s definitely taught me that I was blind to many factors that if I had slowed down a little I could have calmly faced instead of feeling the pressure of my own whiplash.  But as I now start month #3 of hard job searching, I know I want to go back, and I will hold onto knowing I am capable of something, even after two months of silent rejections from entry level job postings.  And if I have to, I will wait for the PhD.  But I will not sit idly by in the mean time. 

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