Employment and Identity
I have been on the academic job market since last summer. In a few cases, I managed to be a finalist for posts, but the reality is that the economy forced state and private universities to freeze hiring or even cut positions. However, since I completed my doctorate in May it is not as if I am a "stale" candidate, thankfully. I made the wise decision to search early and learn what universities need.
My ability to continue freelance writing is also a good thing, meaning I remain active intellectually instead of focusing only on the job market. I cannot imagine doing nothing but pursuing work -- it would definitely leave me more dispirited. Writing fiction is also a great outlet and holds some promise.
I am writing about employment and autism, a project I will post to The Autistic Place as the research and writing progress.
Work matters. I describe myself as a writer and teacher. These labels, for a variety of reasons, are my identity. If I were a parent, I'd probably list that as my most important role in life, but the vocational interests would remain important to how I view myself.
Not having a teaching job at the moment does affect me. I enjoy teaching about writing, design, programming, and more. I like to learn and teaching is a great way to learn. I view writing, even my fictional works, as a way of teaching others.
Some people with ASDs have told me they answer "What do you do?" in unexpected ways. One person with autism, who has a job, said the answer is "Play with my dog." I like that answer, since I love my cats, but I can see why that would confuse an employer. For a lot of people, that answer seems to downplay vocational identity. How important is this person's job to him or her? An employer might not be able to tell.
Work is important, even what one does is "volunteer work." We do identify and understand people by their daily roles. I'm wondering how my answers during interviews represent me to employers. Memorized answers do not work for me, though I have tried to calculate the "correct" answers to demonstrate who I am.
At least I know I'm far from alone on the job market.