Work To Live, or Live To Work?

I’m almost at the end of week five of jobsearching.  I still don’t feel too bad - I knew from the beginning that this would take time, and I can still afford to hold out for a job I actually want.  However, over the past few weeks, my jobsearch has narrowed somewhat, as I’ve thought about how far I’m actually willing to go for work.

Even though, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times previously, work is a very big part of my identity, I’m starting to feel that, as long as I get to research, write, have ideas, and work somewhere I don’t mind spending a large chunk of my time, I’ll be happy.  I’m not particularly bothered about working in a certain industry, I just want to do those things, and not have to spend a ton of money and/or time getting to a certain ‘dream job’.  Publishing in particular has really started to lose its appeal for me - there’s so much competition just for two weeks of barely-paid work experience, entry-level jobs are inevitably in London, and their salaries don’t justify the £6,000 a year it costs to commute from out here where the house prices are relatively reasonable.

Besides that, I think however much I was being paid, I would actually really resent paying all that money just to go to work, and spend what would probably amount to four hours of my day faffing around with buses and trains.  I’m just not sure any job is worth that, for me.  Not when, as it turns out, there are jobs out here in the sticks where I get to use the skills I want to (all the interviews I’ve had so far have been fairly local), and I wouldn’t feel like I was just going home to sleep each evening.  Well, for the past few weeks, nothing suitable has come up to apply for AT ALL, but I think (hope!) that’s because lots of people are on holiday during the summer, and the job market will pick up next month.

As a result of some of the questions I’ve been asked in job interviews, I’ve also been considering the size of company and type of manager I’d like to work for.  Having basically worked on my own at home for three years (four, if you count my Master’s, which involved one day a week in classes), I would find it super weird to work with loads of other people, though it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.  I have been asked what management style I’d prefer, and I always say that I’d hate to be micro-managed, because I’m so used to just getting on with things and figuring stuff out for myself.

Part of me would love to work from home, as it’s what I’m used to, and it would totally eliminate transport costs - at the same time, though, it would be nice to dress nicely and put on make-up to go out to work!  But I like being able to make my own schedule around the other things I need to do, and what my body is telling me; at 27, I’m starting to suspect that my allergy to very early mornings is a permanent part of me, and not just the long-continuing effects of adolescence.  Sometimes I see jobs in London, and while they look very cool, I can’t help but think I easily do them from home and have a nicer life.

This all harks back to the post I wrote the other week, about my fear of being judged for my post-PhD career choices.  I said then that I’m not interested in becoming particularly senior, I just want to do work that I enjoy and uses my skills.  Well, I think the expectation that I will get some amazing job carries with it the idea that the most amazing jobs are in London.  But I want a work-life balance more.  And, weirdly, my PhD has actually prepped me to desire such balance, as I’m after the same flexibility and autonomy I had as a student.

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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK