I thought my life, professional and personal, was pretty grand. My husband and I had been working “grown-up” full-time jobs in education just long enough to afford our own house, which we’d just decorated. This may not seem a grand accomplishment for thirty-year-olds with master’s degrees, but it was for us. See, we may be the poster children of the student loan bubble population. Both of us were first-gen college students, both had our undergraduate degrees covered by financial aid and scholarships, and both went immediately from graduation to graduate school (hello, student loans). However, master’s degrees in sociology and English plus beginning our first years of adult, married life in the economy of 2008 = less-than-lucrative income. For example, we both taught part-time at community colleges while holding down a multitude of other odd jobs. Ultimately, we both wanted to be full-time college teachers in our home region, not across the country hundreds of miles from family.
For a few years now, we’ve been staff members by day and part-time faculty by night. However, between the two of us, we don’t come close to making what some of our lesser-degreed friends make, and we work full-time and part-time now to do even that. Naturally, when a full-time faculty position opened, I had to apply. After all, I’m a writer. I needed summers off to actually do what I went to school to do.
Furthermore, with the pay increase, we may even foresee paying off our student loans. We were psyched, and so was everyone on our small campus. People kept telling me the job was mine, and even though I didn’t expect to be handed the job, I had no reason to believe I didn’t have a strong shot:
1. I was well-liked.
2. I gave a strong interview and teaching demo—or so I was told both by people who mattered and people who didn’t.
3. I already do this job on a part-time basis.
From the beginning, I had thought of my application for the position as a win-win: I liked my current full-time job, and I liked my part-time job. If I got the full-time teaching position, great—more pay, and I wouldn’t have to work part-time anymore; if I didn’t, that’s fine: I hadn’t lost anything. However, at the end of the day, a more credentialed outsider beat me. Not getting a job at a place I already (and continue to) work has come with a slew of adult lessons I hope you learn the easier way:
1. Forget what you think you know and what other people think they know.
I had many friends and co-workers cheering in my section, and they offered encouraging words, compliments and advice. While it was helpful in building confidence, I should have known that their words meant nothing to those who would be judging me. Say thank you and be confident, but know that no one knows anything for certain. If I’d paid less attention to what we thought we all knew, I may have spared my feelings a little at the letdown.
2. Never Say Never.
You’re never too old to find a new career path, even if you thought you were on the only path you’d want to be on for years. Before this experience, I thought I would work for the place I currently work until I retired. I sang the praises of my employer and thought I always would. However, I realize now that I have always had the goal of teaching full-time and when that possibility was taken from me, I felt stuck. In my adulthood, I’ve always been striving for something, whether I was working toward a degree or just working toward finally having lucrative income in education. Nevertheless, working full-and part-time wears on the body and mind. I knew I would burn out doing both eventually. I’d worked full-and part-time for three years and a multiple of simultaneous part-time jobs for two years before that. The burnout occurred when I realized I’d been working toward nothing. The looming possibility that I might teach full-time drove me to continue part-time. Even though I didn’t know when it might be possible, I kept going. Plus, it was extra money that my full-time job doesn’t pay.
However, disappointment has shown me I have to make a new plan. One perk of working in education? You can get another degree for (almost) free. Though I would’ve had no desire to go back to school again prior to this experience, I am now signed up for a class toward another master’s degree. I need a new plan: something else to strive for now that this window has closed. Goals propel us forward and without a new goal, stasis sets in. Therefore, I’m trying to transition from post-secondary to secondary education, a world that will open more career opportunities. Let’s try it.
3. Never underestimate your own pride.
Undoubtedly, one of the most difficult aspects of not getting the job was everyone knowing how much they wanted me to have it, how much I wanted to have it, and how much I didn’t get it. There was no one who wouldn’t know because we all still work here! I don’t consider myself a very prideful individual. I take pride in my appearance, my house, my family, my husband and our relationship, and my work; but I don’t typically sacrifice for the sake of pride. I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong and I don’t have a problem apologizing.
However, it was much more difficult than I thought to face all the people who knew I didn’t get it. It’s been more difficult to face the people who didn’t give me the job and with whom I must still work. I’ve hidden from them in the grocery store when we used to chat by the produce. I’ve avoided large gatherings where I knew they’d be. Even though I did nothing wrong, my pride took a fall for wanting what I didn’t get and having to suffer the consequences daily. That was a fall I didn’t anticipate.