Wanted: A Little Slack

// March 3rd, 2009 // Blog

This rantish piece was originally intended as an email response. I then realized that I was 'blogging' at the recipient. Blog rants belong on blog posts. Hence my decision to paste it below for public viewing:

Well, if I was happy to stay in research, I wouldn't have a problem finding a job either, Allahu 'alam.

It's because I cannot tolerate that claustrophobic, isolating environment any longer, that I decided to look elsewhere for employment.

Unfortunately, I am quite clueless as to what I should concentrate on in the long term. I have to factor in the remote possibility of future wifely and motherly duties, which realistically, precludes the pursuit of any career that demands a great deal of my time and energy. This is not helped by the dearth of part-time jobs in my sector (the ones I find are either managerial roles for which I am underqualified, or technician jobs for which I am overqualified).

Add to that the fact that this is the first time I am job seeking as an “obvious” Muslimah (i.e., avec hijab), which does actually put some employers off.

Then there is the debate about whether Muslim women should be in the Western workplace at all. Yes, I do think about such things, and definitely don't miss the regular angst of 'handshaking' incidents, and having to constantly reign in my blabber-mouth personality in front of the opposite gender, all of whom so far have been non-Muslim, and thus don't usually understand the internal conflict that their “friendly” behaviour (and even antagonistic behaviour, at times) can pose for me.

I know I'm not the only one going through this. But my point is that I'd like people to cut me some slack.

Alhamdulillah, I am not in debt. I live at home with parents who can afford to house me. Indeed, if it wasn't for the pressure that they're placing on me, I wouldn't even bother looking for a conventional job. I am happy to tell friends and strangers that I am officially unemployed, but spend my time on other important pursuits – leaving the exact details vague, so as not to show off.

In fact, the only two things that I miss from my eleven years of working are:

  • A regular, stable source of income. I am useless at budgeting. Therefore, when I try to save money, it usually ends up that I don't spend any money, whatsoever. Miserliness sucks, and so I do need something coming in to avoid that extreme. Plus, I hate scrounging off my dad.
  • A regular, stable source of human company. My personal tradition has been to make friends through school, university, or work, usually because that is where I have spent most of my life. Recent exceptions have been some sisters that I met through local classes, such as self-defense and Islamic studies. But they work/study full-time, which means Mon-Friday, I am friendless, bar the odd evening meet-up.

Yes, it's a little embarrassing that a woman with three degrees, and the title “Dr” before her name should be unemployed, and more than that, is now facing a problem that most people sorted out in their late-teens/early 20s: the question of “What should I do with my life?”.

However, the embarrassment factor is relative. People make me feel ashamed, by inferring that I have something to be ashamed off.

Did I purposely pick the wrong career path, so I'd end up in this position? Err, no…

Could I have thought about it more before deciding to pursue a PhD? Err, maybe? Allāh knows best. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.

I am not looking for anyone's sympathy. More like: I want to be left alone. Unless you have a real job to offer me; then hey, I am all ears! Other than that, general concern is welcome, but making me feel small, and a bit useless, is not. Maybe I am being overly sensitive, but there you go.

9 Responses to “Wanted: A Little Slack”

  1. Gaia says:

    Awww… you’ve got three degrees mA! How about setting up your own consultancy? Or, you could move to the Middle East and land an amazing job… what about teaching?

  2. iMuslim says:

    Option 1: I am looking at Bio-related consultancy jobs… not sure how I could set my own up, though?

    Option 2: Hmm, that sounds tempting. There is air conditioning everywhere, right? Else I’ll melt! :)

    Option 3: Nooooooo… :p

  3. Sumera says:

    Awww :( Hope something comes up soon. Its hard to factor in jobs which eventually turn into careers that require a lot of time/effort. Have to consider wifely/family duties too which is why I put off a career in Clin Psych for one. But alhumdulillah I like my field of work; its worthwhile :)

  4. Mushowish says:

    Trying to look for jobs now doesn’t help matter either (def know the feeling of that one), you got to love the messed up economy we live in (yes that was sarcasm for anyone who wasn’t sure).

    I’m one of those people you refer to in their early 20’s figuring out what to do with their lives, but speaking to most people, the future is always a murky topic, always has uncertainty, and even the most set person is still confused about something.

    My personal view on work (apart from being a guy, and thus will have to be thinking at least to a small degree of financial security) is that I never want to live to work, and get consumed in a career that doesn’t benefit anyone. I’m all for long run of making a difference, now let’s see if that actually happens. As Muslims ummah we need to have a bit more concern for what the muslim ummah needs and acquire thsoe skills so we can give back. I have met people that are doing that, and hope that we all can go someway to doing that. And imuslim, your videos are doing that as we speak, so keep on going with them, just think about bigger and better things, having even more of an influence.

    Mushowish

  5. hfm says:

    A close friend of mine’s sister did a degree in Microbiology and she found herself in a predicament similar to yours.
    She wasn’t willing to sell her Islam for a job which asked her to remove her hijaab so she opted for a side stepped career, she tutors 16year olds and A level students in Biology. I realise that not everyone iwould like to teach or even have the desire to pursue that field but I think it’s great pay for the time being, maybe you could enquire about that in your area? This way, you’ll still be in touch with your subject area and receive a weekly pay packet.
    Whichever you decide, good luck!

  6. UmmS says:

    Alhamdulillah I know EXACTLY what your talking about…
    I did the same as you….went on and on and on…did the 3 degrees…got the Dr for ma efforts, then thought…what now…

    However, I decided to take the route of stepping down before stepping up…and decided to go for jobs im qualified for…and jobs im overqualified for…

    i ended up (after 2 years of applying for post docs – during writeup phase) on the step down…however since I had no experience in the world of work…since the day I got my PhD I’ve been working, with a stable income alhamdulillah, im surrounded by sisters, an understanding boss and staff team that understand my boundaries and only accidently stick their hand out to shake mine then realise and withdraw quickly…

    I dunno why but I’ve been applying for Post docs for the last year i’ve been working…and it just seems that noone is willing to take me and im not gunna sell my deen for noone…im happy clad in ma jilly and hijab working the hours i choose, with plenty of salaah breaks and plenty of respect all round…

    At the end of the day…if Allah doesn’t will for me to climb that next step yet im happy where I am…

    All I can say to you is be happy with what you have…no matter how meaningless people may make it seem…i’ve seen the lows of joblessness, and i’ve seen how it helped me grow in my deen…so cease the opportunity and stuff what anyone says…trust Allah and do a job that makes you happy and pays….what is the worst that can happen…least you don’t have ppl t support, rent to pay, bills to pay etc…like another 20something year old out there (aka me)… :-p

  7. UmmS says:

    PS: fogot to add, i’ve got the right experience for a post doc now…and i’ve got the chance to be promoted in my current job..having been here 1 year…so all is not lost…

    Anyways suggestions for jobs:

    Medical Writer (try monster.com)
    Research Assistant – Jobs.ac.uk
    Lecturer – same as above
    Medical Sales – Monster or any consultancy firm…there are loads in manc and london.

  8. mcpagal says:

    Salaam, all the best with your dilemma, inshallah you’ll hit on whatever’s best for you!

  9. iMuslim says:

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah

    Thanks everyone, for your understanding! And special thanks for the practical advice offered.

    UmmS: what was your field of study?

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