Words, bits, or what?
January 15, 2013 9:48 AM Subscribe
After a torturously long stint in grad school, I’m trying to figure out what to do next. The only things on my resume are my education, a couple of summer jobs from the early 00’s, grad-student stuff (TAing, running a colloquium for a few years), and some part-time adjuncting. Should I 1) try to get a job in publishing or some other word-related field, or 2) pursue my burgeoning interest in computer programming? (If you’ve got a plausible 3, I’d love to hear it.)
posted by DaDaDaDave to Work & Money (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Ten and a half years ago, I went straight from undergrad into a Ph.D. program in English lit. After a few years in the program, it began to dawn on me that I didn't really want to be a professor of English, but it took me until last fall to work up the nerve to tell anyone about it (for reasons I'm discussing with the therapist I recently started seeing). Now I'm trying to finish up my thesis as quickly as possible while thinking about what to do next. My non-academic work experience is basically nil. I have only a vague idea of what sorts of jobs there are in the world or how you get a good one. I’m planning on talking to my school’s Career Services people about job-search mechanics, but right now I’m trying to figure out what kind of job I want to aim for.
I've been telling people that I might want to work in publishing, but that's mostly because I feel stupid saying "I’m not sure what I want to do," and publishing seems like a field where a person with an English degree could plausibly find tolerable employment. I wouldn't mind working in publishing, but I have no active desire to do so.
For the past year and a half or so, I've been getting increasingly interested in computer programming—not for any particular reason, just because it's fascinating to me. I didn't take any CS classes in college, but now I really wish I had. I've taken a bunch of Udacity and Coursera courses, taught myself the basics of a half-dozen or so programming languages, and read a handful of books (most notably Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs and the Kernighan/Ritchie C book; right now I'm halfway through Cormen et al's Introduction to Algorithms). It's getting to the point where I'm idly thinking about whether I could turn this interest to some practical purpose, but I’m not sure how to do that without spending several more years in school. I have no experience programming anything but little toy projects and apps for myself, none of which would impress anyone if I put them up on Github or whatever.
My extremely patient wife has a great (non-academic) job that pays enough to support both of us in the short term, so if necessary I could spend some time as an intern or volunteer or student. However, it would be nice if I could start contributing some money to the household sooner rather than later—more money than the peanuts I’ve been making as a part-time adjunct, that is. We live in NYC and have no kids.
So should I try to get a job in a field I’m at least sort of vaguely qualified for and keep the computer stuff as a hobby, or should I focus on trying to turn myself into an employable programmer even if it means another few years of apprenticeship?