I have a new day job!!!! In higher ed!!!! Let me tell the story….

Anyone who has spent time in the regular job market and looked for a job has heard the old saw that more than half of the jobs are filled through the “unofficial” job market; someone knows someone else, who puts them in touch with the right person who is hiring for a job, etc, etc, etc. I knew this to be true, but frankly suck at networking so had never had it work for me.

Then came LinkedIn, a site designed to make us all just a bit better at networking. I have what can only be called a schizophrenic presence there, with links to friends in the IT industry, co-workers from my day job, a few academic colleagues and some other random acquaintances that seemed to make sense. I never thought much about it. However over christmas break, it thought about me.

I received an email from a 2nd level contact looking for someone who knew statistics, maybe some finance, and might be interested in a position in financial planning and analysis. I’ve been struggling with the overwhelming mismatch between my day job and my academic interests/goals for some time but have been too high up in my day job to walk away for a graduate assistants salary, especially now that husband has joined the ranks of the underemployed. But I called the guy back to find out more about the position due to a deep dissatisfaction with my day job. I mean, heck; I have an MBA, I know some finance, I know statistics (I teach it)….why not talk to him. I found out he was recruiting for a fairly high level financial modeling position with a higher ed organization, who were fascinated by the combination of my education, technical skills (IT and statistics), and business skills.

Over the past month, all my spare time was spent either interviewing or studying for the interviews. (NOTE: I don’t care HOW senior you are in a field, you always study for your interviews; if nothing else you learn about that organization and refresh your knowledge on the items they are specifically interested in.) And I got it. Negligible salary change, but I will be working in the industry I know and love, doing something marginally different from what my career has been for the last 15 years, and focused on issues I’m passionate about.

The new organization wants me to work initially on a predictive revenue model. But in essence a revenue model for a college is an enrollment model; grant funding is handled separately. Questions that play into this model include:

  • Why do students stop taking classes?  What factors are most significant in the decision?
  • Are there things in a students record that would allow us to predict which ones will persist and which ones won’t?  Are there interventions that can be made to change the predicted outcome?
  • Are there external factors (the economy, for instance) that drive enrollment behaviors, and in what way?
  • How do these things vary by major?  By number of credits completed so far?  By level of degree (Associates vs Bachelors vs Masters vs Doctoral)

So now, rather than working on my lit review as I had intended, I am reviewing financial modeling, teaching myself SAS (they use SAS instead of SPSS), and scanning the existing literature on higher education enrollment to make sure I don’t miss any key factors that have been found by researchers so far.

To me, this is time well spent.  It ties loosely into my dissertation (and given my lack of data may result in a sensible change of dissertation direction to something related to persistence), but more importantly puts me in the position that seems so necessary to finishing; being steeped in the environment that you are studying.  Unlike a standard corporation, these folks are excited by my slightly academic take on the problem and my knowledge of current events in the industry.

I expect the next couple of months to see a revision of my organizational strategies, as well as a the promised review of Demystifying Dissertation Writing and my ongoing attempts to improve my teaching skills .  My guess is that the productivity revisions will come first, as the bipolar life I’ve been leading comes to an end and my jobs and academic interests begin to intertwine.  I can’t even begin to express how much I am looking forward to that!