What do adjuncts do over the summer?
April 16, 2014 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm an English adjunct and the end of semester (and my employment) is 20 days away. My dept isn't hiring adjuncts for summer. The community colleges in my city don't have any openings. Where can I find work to survive the summer?

I have an MFA in Creative Writing and I've freelanced in Graphic Design for several years. I applied to the few graphic design jobs posted to the university job boards, but am worried I won't get a position. I followed up on one application and discovered that they were already nearing the end of the interviewing process. The office worker told me that if I am going to get an interview, I should hear from them in the next few days. But what if I don't hear back from them? Or any of the offices I applied to?

I've been applying for design jobs, because I'm very tired of the low pay, huge workload, and lack of job security that plagues adjunct work. I can't handle panicking every semester over whether or not I will be employed for another semester. It's too stressful. I am responsible for too many bills and too many people to not have consistent employment. I just want a normal, 9-5, year-round office job, please.

But one thing that worries me is that perhaps I am not good enough for many of the design jobs I come across. I am very good at print and graphic design. I am okay at CSS and HTML. I am not familiar with PHP or Javascript or things like that. But so many design jobs I'm coming across are asking for you to know ALL of these things. So, I don't bother to apply for these jobs. However, a friend of mine says I should apply anyway and just "wing it" and learn what I don't know on the job. I don't know if that will go over well with a future employer. Are you really expected to be good at every single thing in a job posting's description? I am planning on trying to become more familiar with these programs, but I need a job now. Or at least in 20 days.

Ahhh. This is so stressful. I feel like I have wasted the last three years getting this degree. I should have gone to design school and become a "real" designer :(

I would love to hear what other adjuncts have done to survive the summer. Or how other adjuncts made the transition from working within academia to working outside of it.

Thank you so much for all of your advice.
posted by joyeuxamelie to Work & Money (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What's on Craigslist?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:17 PM on April 16, 2014

Are there any summer camps for gifted and talented kids around you? When I was in grad school, I knew some people who got summer gigs at those places.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:19 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you thought of temping while you increase your graphic design skills, a stopgap while you transition?
posted by Aranquis at 6:20 PM on April 16, 2014

You could teach summer school...

Are you eligible for unemoyment?
posted by spunweb at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you may be eligible for unemployment, depending on your state. Check it out on Google.

Industry jobs are different from academic jobs in terms of requirements. I don't think I've ever gotten a non-academic job that I was 100% qualified for. So yes, apply to ones that you don't know 100%, just don't lie about your missing skills.
posted by wintersweet at 7:21 PM on April 16, 2014

It's not true that every designer needs to be able to code. Apply for everything and let them tell you no. Learning front end development wouldn't be bad for your career if you were up for it but it doesn't sound like you are.

Make sure you have some kind of spiffy website (Wordpress, squarespace, etc.) with a couple of examples, if you have any you can show off. Maybe try to figure out doing a wordpress child theme. You just want to show that you're conversant with how a site is put together.
posted by bleep at 7:27 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some I have known teach summer sessions at boarding schools.
posted by deanc at 7:42 PM on April 16, 2014

On average, men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the criteria, and women only when they meet 100%

Apply for the jobs. Whats the worst that can happen, you don't get them?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:00 PM on April 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Things I and friends of mine did while between gigs: unemployment, if you can. Temping -- especially check to see if there is at temp agency that supplies your institution as university admin jobs are well paid and actually quite interesting. Private tutoring. Working for private teaching (or testing) institutes (Kaplan, Oxford Seminars).

You can also get TESL certification, which costs some money but is very helpful if you have a grad degree and teaching experience.
posted by jrochest at 9:14 PM on April 16, 2014

If you've adjuncted for the past two semesters you're almost certainly eligible for unemployment. In fact, you're also eligible for partial unemployment based in a reduced income if you get some teaching work this summer but not as much as you've gotten previous semesters.
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:10 PM on April 16, 2014

If the job title is Graphic Designer it shocks me to hear they are asking for PHP and JavaScript. I wonder if the jobs are having requirements put in there that you will never use / aren't really expected to be totally fluent in (not unheard-of, especially in tech and web design).

Just another voice from the crowd to repeat - apply for the job even if you don't have all the skills.

You also might find luck searching for jobs based on tools you use - illustrator, photoshop, etc. I frequently see jobs with titles like "Marketing Coordinator" that would be great for a graphic designer.

Best of luck.
posted by kellygrape at 4:45 AM on April 17, 2014

@bleep: I'd be very willing to learn front end development, especially if it makes me a better candidate. I'm just panicking because I'm going to be unemployed in 19 days. I'm really willing to learn these skills, but I need to secure employment first.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 7:50 AM on April 17, 2014

As a short term solution (I know nothing about design), have you checked some of the student services that might lose full-timers in the summer? I know that some of our adjuncts work in the Writing Center or the advising office during times when there are not enough classes for everyone who needs one.
posted by bibliowench at 9:28 AM on April 17, 2014

I would definitely look into tutoring. And if you can stomach it, the local high schools might need teachers for summer school.

However I also am surprised that graphic design jobs would require web/coding skills. Agree with kellygrape that you should look at marketing and marketing communication gigs. They're usually looking for people who can write and do graphics.

Since you have concrete skills and are looking for short gigs, it would probably be worth it to see if you can get any contract jobs through a recruiter (i.e. temp agency).
posted by radioamy at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

To answer the question in your title, when I was working as an adjunct, over the summers I . . . worked as an adjunct. I'd teach 6 or 7 classes during the regular semesters and pick up about 3 summer semester classes. It's rough; I always made it to August on a wing and a prayer.

Tutoring might help fill in the gaps - how were your SAT or ACT scores?
posted by chainsofreedom at 10:23 AM on April 17, 2014

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