Author Topic: to career break or not?  (Read 897 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Northern Ireland, UK
to career break or not?
« on: May 10, 2016, 06:15:32 AM »
I'm posting this to organise my ideas, and to have a sounding board. I'm currently employed as a lecturer (assistant professor) in the UK (Northern Ireland) and I am quitting on the 31st of January 2017. My wife is taking up a position as a lecturer in the UK (Scotland) on the 1st of July 2016. The thing I just can't make a decision on is what I want/have to do after the 31st January 2017.

A bit of context here. Every single year, I like it less and less to be a researcher. The demands are through the roof - excel at teaching! publish excellent papers! get massive grants! - with no respect at all for personal life. We've coped with it for a long time, but we have reached our breaking point. My wife and I haven't lived together in the last 4 years because we are both in different research areas that always happen to be in different universities (Canada/Belgium, Canada/UK, Ireland/UK). This puts a tremendous strain on our personal life (we can't start a family unless we start a new company called "baby-in-a-box"), and it leads to some ridiculous expenses (two houses, two utility bills, plenty of transportation costs, etc). Around December, I was home for three weeks with a burnout. Things improved again in January though as my wife got her offer letter, I was able to pick a quitting date - as we call it, a finally-living-together-again date - and some of the uncertainty was removed from our lives.

The thing is that I got my MSc and PhD after working in a company at the end of my BSc. This was a dumb, stupid programming job which I loathed and which motivated me to continue with my studies. For those reasons I'm a bit skeptical for going back to industry. On the one hand, it's probably a lot better with an MSc and PhD in hand (in computer science!), but on the other hand I don't really know if I like the company culture. Staying on as a researcher doesn't seem to be an option either. Competition is fierce, and for everyone getting a lecturer position there is a huge stack of bodies they had to crawl over to get there. And they preferably do not have a wife or drag her along. Plus, I don't particularly like my job anymore.

This puts me in this rather awkward situation. Do I simply take a(n extended) career break? Financially we can easily cope with just one income and still save 40-50%. While I'm not the greatest DIY person, it would allow us to buy a house in Scotland and fix it up ourselves to cut costs. It would also allow me to explore some of my own ideas. Do I want to start a company of my own? In what, and how do I make it successful? Do I finally want to pick up on writing books? Do I finally want to get through my Japanese studies? The alternative is of course to look for work. Maybe research (although I want less than 30 min commute, no leeway there anymore), industry will easily pay me twice what I earn now, or I can pick up part-time teaching jobs (which is the one thing about my job which I really like).

How are things looking financially? Pretty good, and nothing to complain about. We own a house worth about 80,000 (though we expect we will need to pay 50-100% more for a house in Scotland), about 85,000 in investments, we will be saving up 20,000 this year, and we will be retrieving our pension contributions from Ireland so that should give us some windfall. Getting a loan for a new house might be tricky though, so the plan would be to get a loan before my quitting date. We can easily afford the payments and due to having two dogs it's probably easier if we first get a new house before putting the old one on the market.

Overall, I'm really torn here. I like to see the money keep on rolling in, but a career break escape sounds soooo nice ...