Unlike those in academia, my schedule runs (roughly) on the calendar year. As of February 1, 2015, I will no longer be a Knauss Fellow. Kudos to the incoming class of fellows (I’m looking forward to placement week; look for future posts on specifics of the Knauss Process). But it’s out with the old (me) and in with the new.
I’m remaining intentionally vague about my own future employment options. Having said that, the Knauss class as a whole have a few different avenues that we can pursue that require very different strategies:
1) Academia: From whence we came we shall return. Most of the Knauss Fellows are in the program because they wanted to leave academia. This is completely understandable; even many academics have problems with the system in which they participate (see just about any academic blog). However, there are a select few that either, A) “left” academia with the intention of returning, or B) left with the intention of never returning but realized that non-academic life wasn’t for them. The first option is for those that have a strong research background and weak policy background, but know that they want to have a career in academia that is informed by policy. The second option is/was part of my personal calculus. When I took this position, I figured that I would leave and never want to go back, or leave and realize that I really wanted to go back. More on that later. Regardless the motivation, the process of find an academic job started a couple months ago. Postings for academic postdocs are currently in full swing and postings for faculty positions for next fall are already underway. Academia requires planning (and hoping) and it’s a scary road of unncertainty for fellows who are unemployed as of February 1 and must wait until late spring to see if they’ll be employed in the fall.
2) NGO: This is a really broad category. Working for an NGO definitely has its perks, mainly, working for a cause without the bureaucracy of the government of the circular nature of academia. One of the downsides are usually the pay (notice that I didn’t even discuss pay for academia), but this isn’t always the case depending on the position. Advertisements for these positions do not adhere to a strict schedule and are advertised throughout the year. While leaving the fellowship early is discouraged, it is not unheard of, so it’s possible that advertisements for openings with short turnaround times could lure in some fellows prior to that February unemployment date. Also, positions at NGOs can offer some sort of temporary employment post-fellowship. I’ve known a few previous fellows who were pulled into NGOs for a few months after their fellowship ended to work on specific projects while they looked for more permanent employment.
3) Government: As current government employees, depending on opportunities, this option can be the safest bet. Working for the government definitely has its perks. Decent pay (again, it’s all relative), great benefits, a ton of federal holidays, and that good feeling you get knowing that you’re a civil servant. The downside; you’re a civil servant. But I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed working for the government. Many people don’t understand the role that government plays in environmental issues. Prior to the fellowship, I was one of these people. When I heard Fish and Wildlife Service, I thought refuges, and that’s it. This agency is so much more than that, as are many agencies within the government (look for future posts on that). Yes, things can be slow at times. Yes, there is a ton of bureaucracy. But, at the end of the day, these agencies make things happen. And for many of us, the government will be our home following the fellowship. Some of us will be fortunate enough to have our offices retain our position while we look for employment. Our time in our respective offices has likely opened up a lot of doors to other employment opportunities. The government process can be slow (and complicated – USAjobs is pretty rough), so advertisements for government positions are starting to pop up now.
4) Fellowships: I put this here as a kind of add-on. Some of us who are still “figuring things out” will look into more temporary fellowships to try and flesh out our interests. These can be in any area (e.g. academic, NGO, gov’t) and serve any number of purposes.
I must admit that this is not a comprehensive list. These are some of the most common paths for Fellows. Look for future post on my own process as things (hopefully) become more concrete.