Tuesday, February 16, 2010

pressure cooker?

I've been traveling/otherwise busy, so I'm only just catching up with the news. So I didn't hear about the recent academic shooting until I was reading FSP's earlier blog. When I went to look for it, it had gotten buried. Here's a news link.

In some of the discussions about the shooting, one topic seems to come up a lot: that academia is a stressful, pressure-cooker environment. Now, I know how hard a lot of professors work, and the PhD/post-doc process is a long slog. And being denied tenure is devastating.

But seriously. When I was in consulting, I was running full-scale field projects - coordinating with and supervising contractors, dealing with angry abutters and their lawyers, trying to keep my picture (and any lapses in whatever) out of the news trucks that were parked next to where I was trying to work, working 70-hour weeks, and generally keeping about 15 different balls in the air. Just check out my "field rants" tag.

I've been laid off. I've had friends who were laid off who were the only ones working in the household, and they were living paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes the layoffs had no warning signs of trouble other than a new management team. A family member lost a job and became one of the millions of people who eventually gave up looking for work and finally called it "early retirement".

Where is this industry safe haven of a secure job with good benefits and no stress? I know that the grass is always greener on the other side, but if academics think that "outside" work is a cakewalk, maybe they should try it for themselves.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't presume to understand what was going on in the shooter's mind, but it's entirely possible that she might have already been all too sympathetic with your concluding thought.

Cannibal Panda said...

(Clapping). I feel the same way, but you express it in a more eloquent and insightful manner than I ever could. I suppose that is why I enjoy reading your posts so much; not only are your posts interesting, but your talent for writing provides for a great read.

Husband once got out of the Army and during that time was let go from his job unexpectedly. It was shocking and stressful. As a result, he returned to the military. It's not optimum for me because I'm always transferring, but at least there is a certain job security in it. That alone goes a long way- as you said.

Chuck said...

In defense of academics, the supply/demand ratio in there profession is much higher. Nobody has ever walked up to me in a supermarket and asked if I want to work as an assistant professor at their university. I have been offered drilling jobs this way. Also, the lack of real-world focus and professional development associated with higher degrees means that students automatically look to academia first when job hunting. So academia is certainey more competative, even if the physical conditions are less demanding.