It’s high time for an update here. Bit of a moan coming up, though, so stop reading now if you’re not in the mood.
As many of you know by now, I want to return to Britain permanently to be with A. and refocus my life. It’s a decision that has evolved slowly over time and which feels right.
I’m not the type to just up sticks and leave, though, so I need to find a suitable job so that I don’t have to rot in a corner, my brain doesn’t turn to jelly and I don’t end up a financial burden or a couch potato.
The search is proving tough, though: those of you who have been in this position will know what a rollercoaster it can be in terms of investment of time and energy, emotions, and impact on your self-image. I’ve only really been looking seriously for a few months and it’s not as though I am unemployed or a direct victim of the recession, but I can still feel my confidence ebbing a bit again at present and am hoping that having a bit of a moan will be cathartic.
What makes it all harder is that I love my job here – not only is it decently paid and secure contractually, but I’ve really grown in to it, feel very much a part of the department, and I love the intellectual and social stimuli the teaching brings.* And I have been given to believe that I am good at it. I’ve been lucky, and I’ve been spoiled – I entered into teaching English with almost no previous experience, but determination, conscientiousness and my own love of language study gave me a basis I was able to build on quickly and, I hope, effectively. Twelve years later, I’m experienced, know my stuff and have produced huge amounts of teaching materials, including paid contracts for books by a well-known educational publishing house.
I want to continue working in the areas I enjoy, so the jobs I am looking for in Britain are a mixture between university ELT positions and educational editorial / publishing work, also in ELT / dictionaries. I’ve applied for about 15 positions so far, but the majority of my applications seem to end up in a black hole, as most potential employers simply don’t contact you if they are not interested. Receiving a rejection letter is a short, sharp slap in the face, but as someone said to me recently, at least it shows that they are treating you as a human.
It’s also extremely hard to get any feedback out of people if you don’t even make it to the interview stage, but my main handicaps as I see them, and from what little feedback I’ve had, are:
- no teaching qualification or MA in Applied Linguistics (most jobs list one or other as an essential qualification)
- no research profile (this only affects some of the university jobs, thank goodness, but it is a Big Deal for those who do require this)
- not enough editorial experience – if I did get an editorial job I’d almost certainly start in a very low pay bracket, essentially a 40% cut from my present salary
I got left in a rut by an unpleasant interview experience a couple of months ago, but I struggled hard to get my confidence back and applied for 8 jobs in April. No positive news so far (and barely any news at all), so I can feel myself beginning to slip down again. Instead of picking up the gauntlet and selling the skills that I have in a way that perfectly suits the job description, I am back at the stage of “can’t do” or “don’t have”, and all the well-meaning reassurances of “you can do” and “you do have” sometimes ring hollow, as I realise that I don’t really know who really knows what I can do. Do I?
I’d always been given to believe that I was a well qualified person: straight “A”s as far as the eye can see, and numerous letters after my name. I guess the ease with which I got through my academic education “on paper” and the sense of security I once had in possessing certificates is partly what makes me less well prepared for this challenge ,and less robust in the face of not being successful, than many other people I know.
I just have to get used to the fact that the likelihood of my MA and PhD in medieval studies being a real trump card in any of my applications is very small, not least because I have no interest in working in that area. Yes, I milk the transferable skills idea, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
I’m not giving up, but I need to work hard to get out of this phase where every new job ad I see gives me an unpleasant, pressurized feeling and hinders me from feeling inclined to give it a go. I might in due course have to open up to alternative strategies such as freelance work (translation, editing, coaching, writing) or – gulp – becoming a kept woman.
* Nevertheless, I definitely don’t want to be still here in a few years’ time, for quite different reasons I won’t go into here.