How Do You Find Part-Time Work In Science?
One of my readers recently wrote to me to talk about the frustrations of trying to manage a career in science while needing to work part-time for a period of time, due to health concerns.
Part-time employment is something that many of us might want to consider for a variety of reasons, at various stages in life. Maybe, like my correspondent, we’re temporarily ill and can’t keep to a full-time (read: 80 hours per week) schedule in an academic lab (or even a more “normal” sort of schedule in a corporate setting). Maybe there’s a new child that needs our attention, and working part-time for a few months or years would be preferable. Maybe we are responsible for the care of a seriously ill family member or an elderly parent, and working part-time is an absolute necessity.
What do you do when you are in one of these situations? How do you maintain some connection to a career in science when you cannot maintain a full-time position? How do you find part-time employment in a scientific field?
There doesn’t seem to me to be any reason why science, even or especially research science, could not accommodate part-time workers. Maybe the head of a lab group can’t easily go part-time, but lab technicians, for example, could certainly be part-time employees. In industry, jobs like medical writing are often done on a contract basis; some medical writers decide for themselves how many hours they are willing to work in a week.
For myself, the curse of my migraine disability has been, on occasion, a mixed blessing since my mother has been so ill over the past few years. Because I don’t work, I can often be there for her when she needs me, when she comes home from a hospital stay or is recuperating from a serious bout of illness. Even though it’s a strain on my health, I’m able to spend the time caring for her. I often think that if I am ever able to go back to work, the best thing for me to do would be to try to establish myself as an independent contract medical writer, so that I could set my own hours. Or, see if I could find a company willing to let me work as a medical writer out of my home most of the time, so that I could take my work with me. That way, I could still be available for my mother if/when she needs me. But what would I do, what would my family do, these past few years, if I were still working full time? I’m not sure how we’d have juggled everything. I’m pretty sure none of us would have had any vacations for the past two or three years; we’d have used all our vacation days caring for mom and taking her to various doctor appointments and medical procedures.
Besides being a lab tech, or an independent contract medical writer, what other kinds of part-time science work have you engaged in or do you know of others taking part in? How did you or others find this work? How did you manage the transition from full to part-time back to full-time work? If you have a story to tell along these lines, please share it here. I suspect there are many more readers than my one correspondent who would be interested in this topic.
The challenges of managing this sort of transition are many, and as my correspondent suggested, this may be where many women “leak” out of science, simply because satisfactory part-time arrangements are not available and full-time employment in science becomes untenable.
Tell me your stories, share your thoughts. How can science be more accommodating of the need for part-time employment at various stages in our careers?