Friday, June 26, 2009

A Matter of Timing

Effort alone is not enough. The sage understands that your efforts must be directed toward options available, and must be applied at the right time in order to achieve success.
~ Today's Daily Quote from The TaoWoods Center ~

Today's Taoist message really speaks to me as I seem to be an individual who tends to do the right thing -- most usually -- at the wrong time. I constantly seem to arrive far too early in the process or far too late in the game. Had I preformed my right action at the right time, there's a very good chance my efforts would have a modicum of success. Unfortunately, when one is out of step with the rest of the world, good timing seems evasive.

I'm sure that part of the problem owes to my Asperger's. Being unable to decipher social clues and markers makes it very difficult to ascertain when the time is right. However, I think a larger role is played by luck (even though I don't really believe in that concept). Circumstances -- often ones beyond my control -- congeal at just the precise moment to make a right time-right moment the wrong time-wrong moment.

Here's one example. In the late 1980s, I decided it was high time to find a new vocation. I did an analysis of my strengths and weaknesses. I looked at my collegiate record for elective classes I had performed well in and interested me. I soon discovered that politics and philosophy fit the bill.

I thought for awhile about what a person could do for a job as a political philosopher. I studied the labor trends in my sector of the country and soon discovered that community college teaching held promise. The projections showed that this segment of the labor force would be increasing in the near future.

So, I set out to find a smallish university (as you know by now, I HATE crowds) that offered a degree in some form of political philosophy. I soon centered on two: Pittsburg State University (PSU) in Pittsburg, KS and New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) in Las Vegas, NM.

Of the two, PSU had a program more to my liking. The official degree would be an MS in Social Sciences with a political philosophy emphasis. At NMHU, the degree would be in public affairs, but I could use my electives to strengthen the philosophy aspect. I thought it would prove beneficial for me to obtain a broader degree because it should mean that I could teach several courses across the social sciences spectrum since I already held a BA in sociology (plus a second BA in journalism).

After debating back and forth, I settled on PSU, mainly because my mother had been diagnosed with cancer and southeastern Kansas was far closer to central Arkansas than the more mountainous and beautiful northeastern New Mexico.

Regardless of my initial reasoning, PSU was a good choice for me. During the second year, I became a Graduate Teaching Assistant and established some fairly good relationships with the social services faculty.

But a funny thing happened to the labor market during my two year tenure at PSU. At about the time I enrolled in my first class, major universities began their academic purges. Schools were trying mightily to cut costs and began to figure out that adjunct professors were a far cheaper bargain for introductory courses than full-fledged professors. So, a great many of the large and mid-sized universities and colleges decided to follow the corporate model by laying off and outright firing legions of Ph.D. professors which thereby changed the entire dynamics of the available labor pool for community college teaching positions.

Before I set off on this trek, all one needed to get hired at a community college was a Master's degree. To be certain, possessing a doctorate improved your chances by tenfold, but most PH.D. holders weren't so interested in the much lower pay scale. By the time I graduated, there were scores of unemployed university professors now willing to work at lowly community colleges. I made this painful discovery as I hit the interview trail and kept missing out on jobs that were going to men and women with a higher degree and prior experience.

In fact, at many community colleges, announcements started REQUIRING a Ph.D. to even apply. I certainly don't blame them because there were so many highly educated (yet unemployed) people to choose from. Holding a simple Master's, all of a sudden, didn't cut it any more for too many schools.

If I had begun my switch in vocation only one year earlier, I would have graduated the year before the almighty glut and my chances for securing a job somewhere would have been enhanced immensely. With one year of experience under my belt, I would have been in a far better position to compete for employment the next year.

But alas, I made the right move at the wrong time and suffered the consequences. Unable to find work as a community college teacher, I worked a spell as a Mitigation Investigator with my dad's law firm and later took a job as a deejay with a local radio station for minimum wage.

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