Originally published on virtualanthropologist.com
This article from The Guardian has been doing the rounds on many academic-focused Twitter and Facebook accounts. Including my own:
This is why I work unrelated to my degree right now & started Virtual Anthropologist. Secure $ and attempt to stay in my field w/freelancing https://t.co/Xum3OP8FZw
— Vanessa Smith (@virtualanthro) December 3, 2016
And for good reason. Regardless of what you studied or what job you do, casualisation is common, in my experience.
Why I’m Not Taking Employment Contracts
I have spent many years working on contracts. Some offered near-permanent conditions, others were casual. Even worse, others were through recruitment agencies. Not all contract work is bad, and I think there are immense professional advantages in the exposure to many different jobs, companies and so on. You develop your skills fast, due to the sink or swim nature of short term contracts.
I got sick of not having basic working conditions. I got sick of not having sick days. Of working out how much money I lost from public holidays. I got very sick of applying for jobs, or for my own job, every few months. You can’t plan a life that way.
Lets not shy away from this. Money is an important thing that we all need to have and the more you talk about it, the less scary it gets. Banks generally want a secure job to get a mortgage. I am the sole income earner for my family. I am a carer for my husband. My dog has some expensive medical conditions. I’m not an extravagant person, but it’s really hard to budget for medical expenses when you’re constantly looking for work and saving for the time you’re unemployed between contracts.
Why I Started Looking At Freelance Work
The short answer? For my life. I currently work in an area technically unrelated to either my Bachelors in Anthropology or my Graduate Certificate in Social Change and Development. (Though I’ll argue skills are never wasted in any job, especially when your skills are from the social sciences.) But I’m ok with that, because it is a permanent job. I don’t have to spend time looking for work, keeping an ear out for who is leaving or who has funding. In fact, doing an unrelated job allowed me the time to study part time in 2016.
While I’d love a permanent role that is relevant to my study, I’m actually quite ok doing something unrelated. It has the flexibility for my caring needs. But I want to stay “in the game”, which is how I came to start Virtual Anthropologist (edit: all services now offered through this site!) and the services I offer. I can take on freelance work that interests me and remove the financial pressure that comes with the contract/casual work territory, while still keeping my knowledge up to date and relevant.
Will that work? Will traditional fields come around to the idea of virtual/remote work? We’ll see. I’m not scared of trying.
How do you feel about contract and/or casual work? Has it impacted your household?