What should I do when I grow up aside from be taller?
April 10, 2013 10:09 AM   Subscribe

For the last 12 years, I've worked as an adjunct English professor. It's time for a change.

So 16 years ago when the world was young and college students still remembered rotary phones, I taught a writing class as a GA. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life until that moment. For the last 12 years, I've been an adjunct prof. I've tried, three times to get into a PhD program so I could get tenure/fulltime to no avail. Now I'm getting close to forty and 1 working semester to semester is just too stressful 2 working without health insurance because I'm an adjunct is sucktacular 3 I'm getting very depressed in my job because I teach the same courses. I love my students, but it's not a challenge and with no hope of promotion/fulltime/pay increase there's a lot of "What does it matter?" My students love me and that's wonderful, but I'm getting to a place in my life where I don't want to struggle to pay bills because I'm teaching courses I don't even want to teach, but it's what's available. Not to mention my pay hasn't increased in seven years but the cost of everything else, specifically my apartment, has.

So, now, what do I do? For the last two years I've really wanted to change careers, but change it to what? Every time I think I hit on the answer, I'm told "Oh no no no, you don't want to do that without relevant experience or there are no openings or whatever." Yet, seemingly people DO change careers and while I've worked as an adjunct English prof for 12 years, I'm pretty confident I have skills that can be applied to other careers.

Important information: I'm disabled, specifically mobility challenged, so any job requiring lots of walking or standing (like sales clerk) is out. I don't think teaching high school is an option. I had a very bad experience early in my teaching career that convinced me college was the way. I do love NYC and would like to stay here, but I'm ok with moving to another city even across country. If you need to know my specific skills (I generally teach composition courses, specifically business writing and academic argumentation/thesis writing.), I can tell you but I don't want this question to be waaaaaay long. I do love dealing with people so a job that involves regular interaction would be great. (And no I can't be a bartender because standing for long hours is out.) Any thoughts? Perhaps a career coach?
posted by miss-lapin to Work & Money (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh I should add, I love living in NYC but I'm not opposed to relocating as long as it's not to Oxsnot Alaska.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:10 AM on April 10, 2013

Maybe you could have some sort of one-on-one business related to consulting or tutoring? Helping kids write their college essays? Tutoring high school kids in language arts? Coaching college students on writing? Coming up with a course tailored to company employees who need writing skills? (My law firm hires writing consultants, for instance, and has them teach a group session and meet with people for one-on-one sessions.) For any of these, your 12 years as an English professor would be an impressive credential.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:17 AM on April 10, 2013

I don't think teaching high school is an option. I had a very bad experience early in my teaching career that convinced me college was the way.

This was my first thought, of course- that you should apply for NYC Teaching Fellows. I don't know what your bad experience was, but it might be worth reconsidering. You can make decent money teaching in NYC, with benefits.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:17 AM on April 10, 2013

A former college professor of mine actually just published an article on leaving academics even though you're tenured. She taught writing and non-fiction classes and has become relatively successful at freelancing. Her class was actually one of my favorites.

posted by forkisbetter at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I want to suggest that you look into being an administrator of an academic program and that you look into working at a college writing center.
posted by Pineapplicious at 10:40 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I often say that NYC Teaching Fellows is a way to take the best, brightest, most enthusiastic young people and convince them to never be teachers. Teaching is hard. Teaching in high need public schools is harder. Teaching in high-need public schools with only minimal training is . . . well. . .you get the picture. This is not to say that there aren't some great teachers to come out of the NYC Teaching Fellows program (I personally know a few), but I always sort of wonder if it has a net negative effect on teacher recruitment.

For you, OP, I know you think that teaching HS is not for you, but I would seriously reconsider if it's only one bad experience. Particularly, you might find teaching at a private (i.e. prep) school rewarding - the students are (sometimes) more motivated and you don't have to deal with as many extracurricular issues. I know of at least a few people who have made the transition from teaching college to teaching in prep school high schools.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:43 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: How bad my first experience was:I was attacked by a student on my first day of teaching. I ran to the office (luckily across the hall). The school refused to suspend the student and said they would transfer him to another teacher. And this was a PRIVATE school. The student's family had money and so...the school was looking the other way.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:51 AM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: Also for people unfamiliar with the tutoring scene in NYC, it's very VERY competitive. I was a professor at NYU for 5 years with a "tutoring agent" (no joke) and still barely had a handful of clients because I was going up against profs from Columbia, Harvard (seriously), etc so basically I think education as a field is out for me.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:54 AM on April 10, 2013

There's some decent, though basic, advice in the book So What Are You Going to Do with That? — about how to market yourself as a career-changer, keywords for a good resume, how to explore other careers in informational interviews, that kind of thing. It's mostly basic stuff you've already probably thought about, but it can be useful to have all the basics laid out on paper anyhow.
posted by RogerB at 10:57 AM on April 10, 2013

Have you thought about instructional design? I'm looking at it right now as a possible career change myself, so unfortunately don't have any insider info on the field.
posted by whistle pig at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

What about corporate communications or corporate training? That sounds right up your alley. Big corporations actually need a lot of people who are good teachers and good writers, specifically to do in-house training. Sometimes specifically in business writing!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:09 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Freelance editorial services: developmental editing or copyediting, depending on your bent. You're in the center of the universe for that, so check MediaBistro for networking events and classes. You may feel like you don't need classes, but they're typically short and not to expensive, and give a good feel for client expectations. Freelancing will not fill your requirements for stability and health insurance, but may pay better than adjuncting.
posted by libraryhead at 12:05 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agree with corporate training or consulting/training in business writing. You might find a market with ESL business folks.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:13 PM on April 10, 2013

It sounds like you work at a 4-year school. Have you considered community college? They generally don't require a PhD, and if you love teaching and students, then it might be just the thing.

I love my students
My students love me

These are encouraging signs. I work at a community college and I find it very rewarding. I am not stuck teaching the same classes term after term (which may be the case at some schools), but we require our faculty to spend time teaching at all levels (of course, the levels at a CC are lower than at a 4-year, but there is certainly room to explore and create).
posted by klausman at 12:35 PM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

How bad my first experience was:I was attacked by a student on my first day of teaching. I ran to the office (luckily across the hall). The school refused to suspend the student and said they would transfer him to another teacher.

Well, unless this incident resulted PTSD that keeps you from entering a high school ever again, I would suggest regarding this as a one-off event and trying again at another high school, now that you have several years' experience teaching under your belt. The benefits of leaving adjuncting for health insurance and steady salary doing what you're really good at (teaching) are not to be underestimated.
posted by deanc at 1:24 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you fluent in French? A friend of mine was fluent in Japanese and had a good job as a translator for a Japanese bank.
posted by brujita at 3:03 PM on April 10, 2013

This is probably one of the fields that you've been discouraged from because there are no openings, but what about getting an MLS and working in an academic library? Teaching experience at the college level would definitely be a plus.
posted by katieanne at 3:29 PM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: I'm a four ft six disabled woman. I'm unlikely to dismiss such an event easily.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:29 PM on April 10, 2013

I will second Eyebrows McGee that your experience in teaching business writing is a very good credential for doing consulting work where you would be hired by businesses to help teach their staff writing skills.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:41 PM on April 10, 2013

Do you have savings to help transition? If you're considering klausman's advice to look for a community college position, community colleges (at least here in Alabama) cannot pay travel expenses for job candidates, so interviews will likely be on your own dime.

As klausman said, there's much to recommend a CC position over a 4-year college or university. The teaching load is relatively heavy (I teach 5 classes a semester), but there is no pressure to research or publish (and if you've been teaching part-time for so long, you're probably teaching at least that many classes already). I teach my classes, grade my papers, and I'm done. Tenure (again in Alabama) is much lower stress than at a 4-year school. Get hired for your fourth year, and you're tenured. No high-stress successive reviews by promotion and tenure committee, dean, provost, etc.
posted by fogovonslack at 7:10 AM on April 12, 2013

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