[427/441] Third rail

Trains that are powered electrically can be powered in one of a few different ways.  They may receive power from overhead lines, or they can be powered from an electrified rail on the tracks.  The latter is also known as the third rail.  It is 600 volts of deadliness for a person who steps on it unprotected.

For that reason, the “third rail” is often used as an expression for a dangerous topic of conversation or debate.  As it turns out, there is a topic of conversation which is a third rail to me!

For about the last year, I have realized that my graduate study is about to finish, and I will soon have my PhD (in June, assuming all goes well)! Naturally, this means that I will have to find a job afterwards.

But, starting from last April, when I was at a student conference, the career panel at the end of it started filling me with doubt, fear, and intimidation. They described academic jobs as something where you have to be “excellent in all areas.” Though, at that point, I had a ton of experience with teaching, I feel that my research was not “excellent.” This conference really imposed the Impostor Syndrome onto me.

And it seems that throughout last year, this intimidation showed in my work, basically just “going through the motions” of my research, and not being active in my professional development.  When I was back home for winter break, I always feared the question, “What are you going to do after graduation?”  I have buried my head in the sand for too long, and that question was a near-surefire way to shut me down.

I guess, given that I categorized this topic “Asperger syndrome” that my response to significant stressors tends to be a Shutdown, rather than a Meltdown.  My personality has always been pretty passive and reactive as opposed to assertive and go-getter, as I described in the lighter context of game strategies back in September.  Therefore, I don’t fly into a rage, but simply get quiet and retreat.

However, I know that I have to shed some of the passive personality in trying to sell myself. I know that I post frequently on this blog, which sells some of my creative aspects, but in terms of my professional aspects, I have been very passive. Yet, I have started to apply to jobs, and the starting of it has renewed my confidence… particularly for the lecturer positions.  At some point, I would like to become a tenured professor at a teaching-focused college.  But for now, since I got such a late start on the job search, I will have to temporize with a non-tenure-track position.

However, my M.O. in life has seemed to be slow transition, and this may be yet another step. We will see… it is not unheard of to have these temporary positions change into tenure-track jobs at the same institution!

I still don’t enjoy the question since my job status is still mired in uncertainty, but I am less likely to shut down when asked at this point than I was over the winter break or earlier.


Today is the four-hundred and twenty-seventh day of Mission 441. Fourteen days remain.


3 thoughts on “[427/441] Third rail

    • That’s a good point. Then again, there are “standard conversation starters” which happen to people when they are at various stages of life.

      Thanks for reading my blog!


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