A reader e-mailed to ask:
I would be interested in seeing issues related to negotiating two academic household careers covered (i.e. negotiating spousal hires, career strategies, how to find a meaningful career where your spouse has gotten a position, etc.)
What this situation really highlights is the fact that whenever you are job hunting there are several factors in play, and not all of them involve the content of the job itself.
You are not the somewhat monastic scholar whose entire life is his intellectual work, undistracted by personal relationships, hobbies, or anything else. You have a full life.
Do you really have to be prepared to go anywhere?
I find it less than useful to advise candidates that they have to be prepared to go anywhere. It assumes that you’d rather risk your marriage, live far from friends and family, perhaps in a place you really don’t like, than do anything other than have an academic career.
It also allows people to believe that if they are really prepared to go anywhere they will get an academic position, something that is not at all guaranteed in the current labour market.
While it is true that you cannot bank on getting an academic job in the location of your choice, you can choose your compromise. Is it more important to have a particular kind of job? Or to live near your partner? Or even to live near other family or friends?
Do you really want any academic job or are there types of institutions that suit you better? Maybe you are prepared to go anywhere for a particular type of job, but do you want to move away from your partner for a job that you really don’t think is right?
This will involve some really difficult conversations with your partner. These conversations will really get to the heart of how important your relationship is to each of you. No one would blame you for being terrified.
You could limit your search to places where there are several universities within commuting distance of each other. Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Halifax all have several universities, especially if you expand your sense of their boundaries to include places within a two hour drive, or are willing to teach at a CEGEP or a community college.
You could also expand your search beyond academe, as per Liz’s excellent suggestions. You might even find that there are options outside of academe that are a better fit for your skills and interests than a tenure-track position.
Your decision isn’t permanent
You may have made a lifetime commitment to your partner but the nature of your relationship will necessarily change over time. And you don’t have to make a lifetime commitment to an employer, or even a career.
Career planning is never over. You will always need to ensure that you are doing what you need to do to make sure that you can take advantage of opportunities that arise down the road; opportunities that are a better fit for the family life you want then. Or the career priorities you have then, because these will shift, too.
And once you are in a position, performing well, and really making a contribution to an organization, your employer is much more likely to make concessions (on hours, teleworking, or even spousal hiring) to keep you there.