Destination: Technical Writer - Decisions

I got offered a job in the corporate world less than a month after I started looking.

To give non-academics a little perspective on why this is astonishing, is to give an explanation about the academic job market and the time it takes to land one job offer. I’ll try to do it one sentence: In English, the job market opens in September, and by March, after the 3+ rounds of interviews, you might have an offer. I did ‘very well’ on the market, garnering several interviews, more than 2 campus visits, with no official job offers until July of this year. By July, I had already taken the technical writing job.

Getting to a place where I was comfortable taking a position outside the academy took some doing. As much as I could say here about capitalism and my thoughts working for the market, I won’t do that here because it’s not fruitful. Instead, I cover why I would choose to try corporate work when I am trained to be a professor.

The #1 answer is food: I need to eat. I also need shelter. Without a job, I can have neither. Despite how well I did on the academic market, I had no job, and no offers when I graduated in May. No income coming in = no food.

No matter your political beliefs, qualms with corporate America, or beliefs about what you deserve: without a job, and no safety net (I am not married and my parents are working class), there is nothing.

The #2 answer for me is curiosity: I have been in graduate school for a long time. In graduate school, we make a small stipend. No United Statesan could live on the stipend public schools pay their graduate students. For the non-academic readers, here is an illustration: I have always had all my taxes returned to me because I have always been below the line where I make enough to have to pay taxes.

Any person should be curious to know how it feels to make a paycheck that has a comma in it. I fall into that category.

Not only was I curious to know what it was like to make enough money to support myself without taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans every year, but I was curious to know what the post Web2.0 office environment was like. Granted, I have been a secretary, a file clerk, and a receptionist many times in my late teens and early 20’s as I made my way through Community College, but being someone’s teenage secretary is a much different game than being a well-educated 30-something professional.

Last: Technical writing is a sub-field of rhetoric and composition. It is a viable profession and one that I have plenty of unofficial training in because of my fellowships, designing teaching documents, giving workshops and presentations, and many other duties as a graduate student. The deciding factor for me was that if I didn’t love being a technical writer like I love being a college instructor and composition researcher, I could take my work experience and go back into academia, as long as I maintain my research and publications, and my networking.

An important piece of advice someone I respect very much gave me that I feel the need to pass on was this: When you are making all the money, don’t put on the golden handcuffs and trap yourself in your high paying job. That way, if you want to go back into academia, it won’t be that difficult, and you’ll have put all the extra money into savings for a cushion.

The decision was not difficult in the end. And when the offer came, I spent one long 24-hour period really thinking it over, got hungry, and took the job.