So when’s the part where I become an adult?


Tomba dei Rilievi, Cerveteri, an eternal home-sweet-home

I have just completed the second year of my three-year employment contract for a job which is, quite simply, the job of my dreams, a job that many folks do but are not paid for…one that is just part of the other duties one must do when running an archaeological project as a university professor, or part of a grad student assistantship. I am a full-time manager of archaeological data for a major excavation.  It was the job I was born to do, one I trained for, and one I thought would never be possible given today’s difficult market. On top of it all, it’s for Harvard.

At the same time, I am now looking at my third move in three years.

Boston ain’t cheap, folks. The first place I lived was costing me half my take home pay, even though it was a total steal for the area. I’m now in a roommate situation to save money, but she’s moving out of state soon. And you know what? I’m tired of playing Craigslist roommate roulette. I’m a grown woman, no longer a student, and I thought by now I’d be able to just…somehow…afford to rent my own place. I work for Harvard, with good benefits, and yet, I’m worried I won’t quite be able to afford a studio apartment. Cheaper rent would require leaving the city, and I can’t afford the car I would need to do so.

I got the doctorate, I got the job, but I can’t. Quite. Get. Ahead.

Then I think back to my job offer two years ago and the salary negotiation part. I was so excited to get a job at all after multiple months of zero income, and even though I know they legally couldn’t do it, in the back of my mind I was terrified that if I made an offer too high, somehow they’d take the opportunity away. I didn’t know how to negotiate. I blurted out a range, and they gave me the lowest number, and I couldn’t yell “THAT’S GREAT I’LL TAKE IT!” fast enough.

It’s becoming more common now for graduate departments and other resources to explain things like salary negotiations. The Professor Is In blog is a total life saver, as is Kathryn Hume’s book. I read through both. While these sources are geared toward the tenure-track teaching job negotiation and have good advice in general, the alt-ac job negotiation situation is a bit different. Somehow I didn’t feel fancy enough as a 9-5 employee vs. a courted scholar who will mold young minds to warrant making a stand for what I needed.

It is possible my contract will be extended or turned into a permanent job, and then I will have the opportunity to negotiate again. This time I will be ready to lay it all out on the table, because I know I’m the best person for my job, they got me for cheap, and I want to be able to settle down somewhere. To stop feeling like the student I was for so long and to start feeling like the professional I am.


2 thoughts on “So when’s the part where I become an adult?

  1. Renee

    As a recruiter I hate salary negotiations. I work for a non-profit and came from another non-profit with tight budgets. That said, I ALWAYS encourage people to negotiate when they ask my advice. Your biggest opportunities for financial increases come when you get a new job. I’ve gotten nice raises in the past based on performance but they never present the same opportunity as a new job. It hurts, it’s hard and feels terrible but you need to do it. Have a figure in mind before you apply – know what you’re worth, know your bottom line. Use it during the process. When you come to negotiations you will use it as your guide. If you’re not sure how to determine your bottom line use online tools like or salary guides on



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s