I want to move. I don't know if I can. How do I deal?
August 23, 2016 11:16 PM   Subscribe

I’m a tenured academic, and my once-pretty-great job is now… pretty not-great. But lots of factors mean that even in the best case, I’ll be here for a while, maybe a long while. How do I find a new position? How do I deal emotionally with the possibility that I won't, at least not soon?

I’m a female associate professor in the quantitative social sciences. I have two young kids (3 and 1) and work in a research-focused university in Australia, far from my family (I’m American and they all still live in the US). I originally took this position about ten years ago, straight after my PhD, because my spouse is from the UK and he didn’t really want to live in the US nor I in the UK. Plus we’d both always wanted to live in Australia, there were a few people in the department who I could collaborate well with, and we really like the quality of life here: sane politics, universal health care system, reasonable standard of living, good work/life balance, great climate.

Fast forward ten years, and my collaborators have moved away (especially one in particular who I ended up forming a joint lab with, call him Ted). Even before that it was pretty clear to me that, aside from Ted, it was a bit of an intellectual desert here in terms of finding people I had research interests and approaches in common with — my questions and method are much more widely investigated in the US, and the focus here is on very different things. While Ted was here and I was often on maternity leave etc the situation was fine and between those things and Skype collaborations overseas I felt more-or-less happy with how things were going.

But now Ted is gone, and the great distance between America and the UK or Europe (both of which have many more researchers I have anything in common with) looms larger than ever before. I feel deeply isolated here; after ten years of trying to form any kinds of intellectual connections I have very few (other than those that I’ve brought in myself, like postdocs, but those are temporary). To make matters worse, now that I’m pretty senior I am ever-more aware of the political trends and funding situation and it’s become clear that there is no money or interest in hiring anybody more like me, not even to replace Ted: the entire push in my university is away from the topics I study and the approaches I use. It’s gotten so I feel bad even hiring postdocs. Even though I think I’m pretty good, I would be the only person for them to come all the way across the world to work with, and I don’t think that’s a good career move for someone at that stage of their career. There’s no long-term job for them here and they wouldn’t be making any other valuable connections.

As I get older I also feel the personal isolation more too. Now that Ted is gone I have no close friends here (aside from my spouse, of course). Both of our families are across the world. We have no safety net, the kids hardly ever see their grandparents, etc. I feel like I spent half my life on Skype or the Internet because there is so little for me here. And it’s not for lack of trying: we have loads of friendly acquaintances, we belong to playgroups and various other groups with the kids all of the time, I plan and organise outings with my coworkers, I have coffee with friends… it’s not like I’m sitting closed up in my office all day. What we lack is anyone really close and I don’t think it’s happening. I historically tend to make few very close friends and there’s just nobody here I click with like that. And no family. I am close to my family and I miss them a lot.

I’m miserable. I’m seeing a psychiatrist and on medication for depression, I try to exercise, the kids are fine, etc., but the only thing that’s keeping me roughly on an even keel is daydreaming about where else we might go. I feel trapped most of the time. I wonder if this is what I spent decades of my life working for, and I feel like it’s all a big waste. I question what I’m doing with my life, who I am, and who I want to be.

The long and the short of it is that I want to leave. The problem is that I’m a tenured academic and there just aren’t that many positions out there. Most are in the US, which is fine (my spouse is now willing to move there if everything else seems fine). I feel like I have a pretty strong record and pretty good connections — I’m routinely invited to give talks at prestigious workshops and so forth, for instance. But I did just have two kids in the past five years (with all the career interruptions that entails) and I haven’t been able to travel internationally to deepen those connections or make any new ones for almost four years. Also, my grant-winning experience is in another context that may not translate (and with far less overall money available, so even though I’ve done well by Oz standards it doesn’t look very good compared to the huge and varied US grants available). Plus, my citation rate is excellent for Australia but (due to its isolation) not nearly as impressive someone at my career stage in somewhere more central like the US. So I just really don’t know how possible a move even is or if I’d be competitive anywhere that would have more people I had research interests in common with.

To make matters worse, the places I have the most contacts in are places that we really really cannot afford to live. My spouse is a freelance artist, which on the plus side means he could move pretty much anywhere with me career-wise. But on the negative side it means we have to live somewhere that we can support the family on one salary (effectively), while living in a house that’s large enough to have an extra room to serve as a painting studio for him. We have a nest egg and could afford about a ~$500K down payment on a house, depending on exchange rates, but that’s it. And that means that many places where I have contacts and/or might have good jobs, like the SF Bay Area or Vancouver or Boston, are probably right out.

My questions:

1) Especially for people in academia: any advice for getting another job? I’ve been told that for more established positions it’s often as successful (if not moreso) to contact people you know and see if there is scope/interest in creating a position for you, rather than trying to wait for a job posting. If that’s so, any suggestions for how to do that? Advice along those lines? Me and my imposter-syndrome self quails at the thought but I’ll do it if that’s what needs to be done. Alternatively if there are other possibilities I’m not thinking of, I’d love any ideas out there. I feel like I’m going around and around on this. Please do take my word for it that there’s really very little where I am though. I’ve spent years trying and I know the place very well.

2) For everybody: How do I remain sane and on an even keel in the meantime? Even in the best case it’ll be at least a year before we go anywhere (what with job search and the logistics of moving a family across the world). But more likely, I’ll be here for years. I’m finding it very difficult to maintain my emotional equanimity at that thought. I’m also really hesitant to do job-related things like take on more PhD students or post-docs, design new courses, etc., that I would do if I were in it for the long-term. (If nothing else I think that would be really unfair to any students; but I also just can’t stomach thinking about being here that long). But if I don’t do those things, then I’m making my CV worse for when I do go on the market, and I’m guaranteeing that it’ll get worse here.

*sob* More generally I think I’d appreciate any advice here at all, I feel pretty unhappy and trapped. And guilty for feeling this way because I know my situation could be worse in so many ways. But that doesn’t make me feel any better, it just makes me feel ungrateful on top of unhappy and trapped.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
i can certainly empathise as a fellow social sciences PhD (but very much an ex-academic though) - for the job stuff, if you haven't already, check the forums at chronicle of higher education, and you will be able to get solid advice. For the mind/mood stuff - it is so difficult to be in limbo and it sounds like you may need to hang in there for a while, sending hugs. I found mindfulness practice and running helped, hope you find something that works for you. Good luck!
posted by coffee_monster at 11:57 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your ideal job may exist somewhere else, but it's likely to come with a lot of strings attached. One thing to do is, and you might have already done this, if you have trusted friends/colleagues elsewhere, it would be worth getting some honest feedback on What It Might Be Really Like On A Daily Basis to be at an institution that you would be a good fit at. Higher Ed institutions all over the world are undergoing convulsions and redefining what is expected of them and of academic positions. The US for instance has changed a lot in the past decade. Don't just ask about research opps with colleagues - ask about workloads, where that workload is directed, teaching/class loads, meetings/committee/admin work, student quality, all the other stuff, etc. An important one is the ongoing organizational restructuring of many universities, with a new focus on schools/departments as economic units, and so on. All this also affects how you would present yourself. But yes there is probably more grant funding in the US than elsewhere. Hope this helps, good luck!
posted by carter at 12:30 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I echo the suggestion above to try to get honest opinions from other colleagues/peers about their academic jobs outside Australia. I'd then work on the 'what compromises can we make' list, or a priority list - e.g. would you be able to stick your current job with its intellectual isolation, if you did have a strong family/friend network? Would an intellectually stimulating job be OK without the network and with a much longer working week/higher pressure? etc. Would a non-academic job be something you considered if it improved your personal life and helped you move somewhere you wanted to live? It's much easier to formulate an escape plan if you've got a formula for what is and is not going to be acceptable; and it's much easier to discover what compromises you'll have to make if you know what it is you really want.

I'd also strongly encourage you - with apologies if this is obvious - to look at any and all visiting fellowships and similar opportunities. I realise these are hard with family commitments, but anything that can a) improve your CV and b) get you into a new working atmosphere for a month or six would be worth doing (and c) may be a way to network and sound out possible future employers).
posted by AFII at 12:41 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Take this step by step. Small steps also count.

I'd start with former colleagues of yours, since those would be the easiest to deal with in spite of any imposter syndrome. Have any moved abroad? Ask them what they've done to get around the logistical problems you've mentioned (differences in Australian academic CVs versus US ones). Ask them to ask any other expat academics they know as well, regardless of field or country of origin.

Plan your conferences for the next year. Who is likely to be there? Maybe write a few people beforehand who are prominent in your field saying you'd like to meet up with them to get a sense of what's going on in the academic scene in their region, something you scarcely get to do because of geography. When you meet them do mention that you've been feeling academically isolated and are strongly considering a move, whether temporary or permanent (see below). Given what you said about funding this might not be possible, but is there any chance at all you could organize a conference of your own?

You might be hoping for an immediate or one-step solution (and you may find it!) but for now, consider your moving a concrete decision you have made and realize that if it takes two or even three years to happen, that's okay. Set up a timeline for this current year, marking points by which you want a certain amount of progress toward your goal to be made, and remember to review and extend it every few months.

It might help to remember that one factor of depression can be a strong feeling of powerlessness, so start making concrete steps toward your goal, even if those steps feel small.

At the same time, be flexible and strategic. There are multiple ways to get to a better place, and they can build on each other. Are there visiting professorships you could pursue? Can you suggest them to people in interesting departments? That's one way to make strong connections and broaden your CV. Does the US have to be your immediate goal? Even if you are set on living there ultimately, you could still look for work in productive departments in Europe or Canada, either of which would bring you closer to your goal, geographically and otherwise. Don't avoid pursuing options in expensive cities: first see what kind of offers you get, decide how much space you actually need (kids that young can actually all live in one room, it's okay; you can rent instead of buy (also okay!); the city might have good options for cheap shared artist workspaces); evaluate what kinds of lifestyle tradeoffs you would be willing to make; maybe your husband could take up part-time work or even agree to work full-time for a predetermined amount of time to boost your savings -- the point is, deal with these considerations when they actually become relevant, and pursue as many potential options as you can right now.

With respect to your guilt, this obviously varies but the existence of *too many* doctoral or postdoc positions isn't necessarily the problem most applicants are dealing with. You can be honest about what your department can and can't offer and let your applicants make the decision that is best for them given their own personal constraints. With respect to ruing past decisions and feeling you've wasted time: that's kind of part of the human condition. One thing you can start to do is build a mental list of the things you like about living in Australia and the experiences and knowledge from the last ten years that you value. Don't compare them to what hypothetically might have been in another area; just take them on their own merits, big and small. Keep an additional list of things that you love or that make you happy that have nothing to do with your work or location. Keep adding to both lists for as long as you live there and let yourself feel good about them from time to time. And if there are any things you've always wanted to do in Australia or that you can't do elsewhere, now is the time to do them.

Best of luck.
posted by trig at 12:51 AM on August 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

If you happen to be in Sydney I've got the perfect social scene for you to tide you over. A zillion clever academics and plebs like me (worst post grad everrrr) at a semi-regular open house. My house. And a billion kids. It's wonderful chaos.

I also happen to know you'll make friends with the cohort of parents your kiddo goes to kinder with. It truly happens. Please memail me even if you're not in Sydney.

You're not the only isolated American academic to be in/near my circle. I dragged two in to my book club to save them from this agony. Well, some of it. But they hadn't found their people. And now they have. I hope. Massive hugs possum. I have had your pain, and I have seen this pain in people who have become dear friends- because I recognised it.

Memail me. Xxx
posted by taff at 1:00 AM on August 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

Full disclosures:
- I'm currently working in the tech industry, having only completed my undergrad degree thus far – grad school is somewhere in my future, but the point is that I'm not truly *in* academia right now.
- (Conflict of Interest) I am also an alum of Oberlin College, which I humbly submit as a potential destination herein – feel absolutely free to reject this suggestion! I just read the question and thought... "I have to say something!"

With reference to looking at institutions in the States, have you heard of/considered Oberlin? It is merely an undergraduate institution, where teaching is the main focus (over research), so if that doesn't sound interesting/applicable to you, then by all means disregard this comment. My experience is certainly biased by my lack of experience elsewhere, but I claim that most anyone interested in making intellectual connections would very likely be welcomed/feel at-home (especially in the social sciences). It is a lovely place to be. And, if you enjoy music, a better spot would be hard to find.

Hasty advertising aside, the reason that I suggest this spot is that it seems to match some of the constraints that you detailed – you are an associate professor in the quantitative social sciences, your spouse is a freelance artist, and you would likely need to be able to live off of the (one) professorial salary. Oberlin is a small liberal-arts college town roughly 45 minutes southwest of Cleveland by car – which is to say, it's a great place to teach, and property is cheap there. In fact, property is cheap in the entire area – buying or renting a house is much more affordable than most other places in the US. And, moreover, there's an active art community at the college, in the surrounding area, and in Cleveland – which may be a draw for your spouse as well. e.g. The Morgan Conservatory, run out of a repurposed warehouse near downtown Cleveland.

Unfortunately I can't offer any useful career advice that others wouldn't be able to articulate better than I – only this recommendation of a potential location. Do with it as you see fit!

p.s. I've lurked around metafilter for years at this point, but it was actually your question that made me finally sign up, to write this comment. I hope it's not out of line! ^_^;
posted by =d.b= at 2:35 AM on August 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm going to tell you what I would do, though I am much lower down the hierarchy than you. Maybe you wouldn't be best off doing exactly what I say, but my point is that changing jobs is WAY more doable than you think it is.

There's LOADS of work in the quantitative social sciences right now, not to mention quantitative anything else. It's not like your speciality is underwater basket weaving, or asterisks in the third draft of Anna Karenina. You have lots of transferable skills. So what you need to do is write a CV that emphasizes your strengths. Dismiss your weaknesses as irrelevant.

Being in the UK, I would go to jobs.ac.uk, look for any advertised posts that are remotely suitable, and send in my application in exact conformity with their preferred format. If they require a cover letter, take their job ad/description and turn it into bullet points addressing exactly how you match each requirement. The opening paragraph should be nothing more than "I am writing to apply for $POST. I believe I match your requirements in the following ways:" and then the bullet points. For example if they want "four years' experience of banana bending" I would put "- five years' experience of banana straightening" as one of my bullet points. If they want "expertise in extreme lacemaking" and I had no experience of that, I would put "- interest in extreme lacemaking", unless the thought of extreme lacemaking bored me unconscious in which case I would just leave it out. Do you see?

Now maybe that technique is more suited to the less high-powered jobs, but I see some pretty high level jobs advertised on there so it's worth a go.

Academics always seem to think they have far less power and fewer choices than they really have. For every tale of "boooooo I'm so powerless and unemployable" I've read from academics in their thirties, I could've written the same thing myself in my thirties when I was in my "successful" career in industry. The thing about life, and making your way in the world, is that it is simply not easy. Jobhunting is going to be a hard slog and you are going to be literally beaten up by rejection until you aren't any more. I don't want to paint the wrong picture here. But just because it won't be fun, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Take the emotion out of it and be a battering ram.

tl;dr You are not especially disadvantaged by being an academic, so take heart. YOU CAN DO IT!!!
posted by tel3path at 3:26 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to SF or Vancouver, but just so you know, if you have 500K for a down payment you can absolutely buy a lovely house in the Boston area. For that amount of money you could probably find a nice home and pay cash (no mortgage), depending on how big you need your home to be. I guess one question I have for you is where do you stand on teaching? You didn't really mention that in your question where you focus on research. Do you love teaching? Are you only interested in a position at a research-focused university with PhD programs? Or are you open to a position at a regional teaching-oriented public university that may not offer graduate degrees in your area? If you are open to these other options then the number of opportunities will be considerably larger. If you want to consider that option then you should probably start developing a statement about your teaching philosophy as it relates to undergraduate students, and also how you will develop an undergraduate research program--which is huge in the US right now. Then start applying.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:42 AM on August 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

I’ve been told that for more established positions it’s often as successful (if not moreso) to contact people you know and see if there is scope/interest in creating a position for you, rather than trying to wait for a job posting.

Targeted opportunity hires (which also go by other names as well) definitely happen, but are hard to make happen, if that makes sense. I've seen a couple of people get hired this way, and they did it via low-key reaching out to colleagues saying basically "If you hear of any opportunities, let me know, I am on the market." My sense (but not based on data) is that most hiring, even at the advanced levels, still happens through advertised positions that are either for senior hires or are open-rank.

With a downpayment of that size, you can probably afford to live almost anywhere in the US near a university, with only a few places excepted, so I wouldn't worry as much about that side of things to start with. Some universities in expensive locations offer housing assistance, too, so there may be more options if/when you get to the offer stage.

I think your smart move is to a) keep publishing as fast as you can, b) apply to open positions that fit your interests, and c) be strategic in what conferences you attend, while also reaching out to people you know to see if they know of any opportunities. You should probably also consider a two-step move, where you find a one- or two-year visiting position (like a sabbatical replacement) as a stepping stone to getting back to the US and therefore having an easier time networking and searching.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:47 AM on August 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

It is job market season in the US and if I were you, I'd apply. Maybe even apply for assistant level positions. You won't be able to evaluate if you can afford living somewhere until you have an offer.
posted by k8t at 7:22 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to citizenship or residency issues, but this is also a situation where people often use semester or one year research and writing fellowships (like SSRC, Wilson, etc) as a base to search for the new job. Applying can be a lot of work but it buys you breathing space and carries prestige.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:46 AM on August 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Perhaps try framing this as one year to make the best connections that you can for a future move elsewhere.

Look for:
International panels or professional organizations where you could do committee work and meet others.
Professional conferences that would allow you to scope out other campuses and make connections.
Opportunities in your present job that allow you to position yourself as a great prospect elsewhere.

Also, what conference can you organize at your campus to bring your peers to you?
posted by calgirl at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2016

I second the advice to hang out in the Chronicle forums, if you haven't tried that already.

I'm in the humanities, but also mid-career, and I'm at an institution and in a small department in flyover US that's changing in ways that are downright depressing. I am very intellectually lonely, and I maintain contact with my colleagues in my field of specialization, with whom I have the friendships that matter the most to me, a lot like you do: virtually. I would give a lot to have at least one other colleague in my department in my field of specialization, or even in my college, or even at another uni in town - but it's not going to happen. I don't feel like I can leave (not only because of the job market but also because the environment here is excellent for my kiddo, and I have a two-bodied problem complicated by divorces and re-partnerings and previous children; it's really a six- or seven-bodied problem at this point).

Don't discount the possibility, though, that you're just flat out burnt out. Two young kids, post-tenure: you sound to me a lot like you're doing some reassessing that's really normal ("I question what I’m doing with my life, who I am, and who I want to be"). I know I've felt really at sea since tenure. You've spent so long working so hard: for the degree, for the publications, for the job, for tenure (and with marriage and kids thrown in)....and then you get tenure, and you're like, "Well, now what?" And most of the advice I've gotten says to just take a breather for a while (like for a year!), to give yourself some space and time to enjoy the security your successes have bought you; you'll figure out what happens next. For me, that's been really hard because I'm so habituated to the go-go-go of academia, which I like(d), but it is a painful state of mind when you're go-go-going... nowhere, and when there's really nowhere to go not just because of logistical constraints, but also because you've achieved all of the main academic career goals.

Others have been giving good advice about taking the steps you need to take to move at this career stage. In the meantime, as someone who really can't move, here's what's been working for me to keep sane:

1. I travel to where my people are between terms. I don't know if this works if you have to keep a lab up and running all the time. I got this idea in part from friends who are academics at an institution they like well enough in a geographical location they hate. They save money throughout the term and then in the summer rent an Air BnB for 8-10 weeks near their families in the geographical location they love. They sort of imagine themselves as living in two places: in their college town and in their summer location. Would it be possible to start prioritizing travel to spend extended time with your family/friends as something you just do every year for a good long while between terms?

2. I started trying to live a more balanced life. My intellectual life in [specialized field] is really important to me; it's been the core of my identity. Perhaps, though, too much. And so I have pulled back from my department's and institution's demands and the rat race of publish and perish, and I have tried instead to really enjoy the time I can spend with my kiddo and with my partner. I've also read more things for fun, taken classes, gone to the gym, made ridiculously complicated recipes, etc. Now, I keep a list of all the things other than my academic work that make me happy and that engage me (from music I'd like to listen to, movies I'd like to watch, books I'd like to read, places I'd like to explore, projects I'd like to play around with, skills I'd like to learn), and I try to remember that it's an incredible privilege and luxury to have the time and space to pursue those things. Were I in an environment brimming with folks in my subfield and buzzing with academic activity -- that would definitely be exciting and it would suit me, but it would mean that I would likely feel pressure all the time to be ON and productive, and then I would lose some of the richness I get to cultivate where I'm at now.

3. I've also decided that the isolation is a weird opportunity for me to experiment with my academic work. In the absence of similarly specialized colleagues, I've started thinking differently about my research -- its larger implications and weird niches or problems I might try to tackle in creative or unexpected ways. In some ways, it has been really good for me to hang out with not-academic acquaintances and colleagues who do not specialize in what I specialize in and to stretch my interests as a (necessary) result. The nice thing, too, about tenure is that it buys you some time that you've never had to take a break from doing research the way you've been doing it and to play with another topic, another method, another way of writing it all up and disseminating it. I actually made a syllabus for myself in [new topic] and worked my way through it. And I thought of it, somewhat unexpectedly, a lot like I did the things I listed above: as a new hobby.

4. I have re-oriented my service work towards community building. Post tenure, I have prioritized bringing in guest speakers, setting up reading-writing groups, and organizing events that promise to offer some intellectual camaraderie around topics that I'm selfishly interested in. I doubled down on trying actively and by some force to forge the type of environment I wanted to be in. And I have reached out to faculty who share my interest at universities within a 2-3 hour drive, and I have had some success finding occasional outlets for the kind of heady intellectual engagement I crave with them and at their institutions. Maybe this would be possible for you, too?

And in the meantime, definitely apply for jobs and reach out to contacts. People make mid-career moves all the time; don't let your imposter syndrome talk you out of a job you haven't even applied for yet, never mind been offered. There's always a job candidate with a more impressive CV than you out there, but hires are about need, fit/chemistry, and luck. Everyone who has made it to your career-stage is a competitive job candidate. Including: you.

Hugs and hang in there!
posted by pinkacademic at 8:20 AM on August 24, 2016 [7 favorites]

First of all, you have my sympathies. I spent four years in a really isolating job before I managed to get out, but there were tons of difficult tradeoffs involved.

Repeating what other people have said: apply broadly. You have job security, if not satisfaction, for now, so go out on a limb and, as they say on the Chronicle of Higher Education fora, apply for the damn job. Every remotely probable damn job (and even a few reaches). Even if it's in a sligthly different subfield or department. Think about how you can re-frame the kind of work that you do, or pick up a new research interest. Try going for administrative jobs--my institution is all over anyone who knows how to write a grant, and in addition to various deans and deanlets who are supposed to write/encourage/connect with grants, we have a separate grants office that's just about helping faculty get grants. Most of these are tenured positions; a few or not. You have to think if you'd be ok with being a contracted employee instead of a tenured prof if you want out of your current situation. Drop lines with personal and professional connections that you're looking to move, though think about how discreet you may have to be depening on your university's politics.

Have you considered the "alt-ac" side of things? Would you be happy plying your skills for a thinktank, or a government agency, or a nonprofit? Those all might expand your geographic opportunities.

Finally, just on a side note, think more about geography and commuting with your partner and family. 500k might not get you a house in Boston, but it will get you a palace an hour outside of Boston. Are you willing to put up with a commute for a better overall living situation?

And finally finally, in the interim: have you scoured all the other parts of your university for connections? Maybe there's someone in the humanities who's desperate for close friendship, too... Or even people somewhere else in Australia? (I know it's a very large country but still more manageable than flying to the UK). When I moved to the middle of nowhere for my first job I basically cold-emailed a friend-of-a-friend several hundred miles away who was the closet person I "knew" and asked if they'd hang out with me sometime...and now they're a very dear friend of mine. Ironically, I've now moved even farther away but see them more frequently!

Good luck!
posted by TwoStride at 8:28 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you sound crispy on the edges. Can you do a sabbatical? This would allow you some space and a chance to build longer term connections in a target area.
posted by jadepearl at 8:53 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you would consider leaving academia, you could look at positions in data science at tech companies. Data science employs a lot of ex-academics in quantitative social science and the pay is a lot higher than academia.
posted by pombe at 9:17 AM on August 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

First of all, $500,000 for a down payment for a house is so much! Many folks aim for 20%.

Next this does sound mid-life crisis-y. I second the recommendation to take a one year sabbatical, and spend that year in the US. See if it's really what you all want.

If you can't take a sabbatical, what about spending your summer in the US?
posted by bluedaisy at 9:24 AM on August 24, 2016

You must be close to a sabbatical, even a half one. What does your Chair say? Can you find a colleague in one of your candidate locations who would do a joint project for a term or even a year?

On the destination side, Vancouver is eye-popping right now. I would not target either UBC or SFU unless given very favourable terms. But.... what about UVic? Victoria is a great place to be. Most of Southern Ontario or the Maritimes would be even more affordable. The transition to a Canadian system from an Australian one would be about as smooth as possible I would think. I've had colleagues who have gone both ways and it seems to be pretty seamless.
posted by bonehead at 9:28 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

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