Wednesday, March 30, 2011


So I just realized that the URL I chose for this blog was the former URL for the fantastic Leaving Academia site started by Sabine Hikel and continuing through October 2010.

Just to clarify - I'm not her, and am in no way affiliated with her or her work. My decision to leave academia was just made in early February 2011. And while I found her writing from 2009 and 2010 through and Inside Higher Ed when I started researching my options, I didn't realize this blog URL had ever been used by anyone else.

So ... just wanted to clarify. More later. I'm working on a few more posts and will have them up soon. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Academia - It's Where You Read/Write/Think about "Anything!" - Myth/Reality #4

Myth: You should get a Ph.D. because then you can spend your life reading and writing about a wide variety of things that interest you.
Reality: Not exactly ... at least not for a large chunk of your working life.

I was one of the people who went to graduate school because I loved reading, writing, and thinking about ideas (broadly defined), and loved my discipline.

In short, I was the kid who went to graduate school because I loved college, and wanted "more college." More learning. More reading and writing. I was barely even thinking about a future career, other than some vague ideas that I'd like to teach. Really, though, I just wanted to keep going to college.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Best Piece of Advice for Staying Sane in Grad School...

...Spend at least a few hours per week outside of the academic bubble.

And I don't mean at home in your house or apartment, reading books in your field.

I mean ... out of your discipline, away from the university, away from other academic folks.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Great Quote

I ran across this in my almost-daily google searches for other people who are leaving academia, or at least considering it (judging from my traffic statistics, I'm not the only one). It is from someone in the "hard sciences," but a lot of his thoughts ring true to me.

This quote in particular really spoke to me:
When I found that academia was not working for me, I got immediately depressed - my whole worldview was crumbling. Then I remembered that I had a life. I liked my life. I had a billion things that I loved to do. I want to do them again. Quitting and reclaiming back your life is not failing. It is waking up and winning.
Even if I "failed" by not sticking it out ... oh well. I'm happy now. I'm reclaiming my hobbies and interests and free time. I'm getting my bills paid and finding time to do household chores and spend time with my friends and to visit my family, stress-free. I am happier now. That has to be worth something. It is to me.

And So It Begins...

I sent my first couple "real world" job applications this week. I have to say, it felt great. I'm not nervous, I'm not worried about whether anyone's going to call (right now, anyway), and I'm pretty positive about my chances of landing some kind of job in the near future.

Aside from the general fact that, well, I realize that I'm more excited about the possibility of getting any of these jobs than I ever was about working at Tiny College in Small Town, USA ... there are a couple of reasons why I think I'm excited and positive about this job search, while I was stressed and overwhelmed with the academic job search. They're interesting observations about the academic job market, I think, so I thought I'd post them here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

All of the Smart People are at Universities - Myth/Reality #3

Myth: If you want to be around smart, interesting people who like to talk about complex ideas and know a lot about world events, art, culture, literature, politics, etc., you should stay in academia. People outside academia don't care about things like that.
Reality #1: There are smart people everywhere.
Reality #2: There are stupid and uninteresting people in academia.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Journal Rejection

I got a rejection recently on a paper I'd sent into a journal, before making the decision to leave.

I'm going to resubmit it to a different journal, since I think it's a good paper, and would like to be out there somewhere for others to reference. And since "quality of journal" isn't as important to a non-academic as it is to someone trying to land a TT job.

But getting this rejection got me thinking. Before submitting the paper, I had about 10 colleagues - grad students and faculty - read it, including the person who came up with the theory from which I drew my argument. All thought it should be published in a good journal. I also presented versions of it at two major conferences, to generally favorable comments from about 5-8 people who are very well-known in our field.

I then sent it to a high-powered, competitive journal in my field, where 1 of 4 reviewers/editors liked it and the others had criticisms and recommended it not be published. So it was rejected.

The Truth About Teachers' Work Hours

Hey, look, my first post that isn't about academia!!

Although it is about education ... one of the topics I'm most interested in ... and sadly, one that I haven't been able to read, write, or think much about in the last few years while I dissertated, worked, and did all of the other things that were supposed to make me happy and get me a great job, but really just made me pretty miserable.

I just want to take a minute to address the common refrain that's been ringing lately from the media, conservative political types, and anti-union folks, regarding teachers.

Namely, the idea that teachers don't really work hard ... and specifically, that they have what amounts to a "part-time job," from 8:30 to 2:30 Monday thru Friday, with summers off.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Great Chronicle Article about the Job Market

Granted, I only went on the market once, and I'm not in the humanities, but this piece really details what it feels like to go through the job market.

10 Reasons I'm Glad I Went

Given that a lot of academia- and grad-school-related posts on this blog are going to be somewhat negative in tone (at least at first), I wanted to use one of today’s posts to basically send the message that, well…

It hasn’t all been bad, even if I am leaving...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Writing a Real Resume - What Have I Actually Done??

So task number one, before I can apply for a non-academic job, is writing a resume.

Workload and Free Time - Myth/Reality #2

Myth: An academic schedule is flexible, so you will have unlimited time to pursue your own interests, and can work when you want.
Reality: The fact that you have no defined work hours means that it is far too easy to spend all of your time: working, pretending to work, feeling bad that you aren't actually working, feeling guilt about how much work you still have to do and knowing that since you have no defined work hours you could be working right now, you slacker.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Nobility of Academic Work - Myth/Reality #1

Myth: Academic work is inherently noble and meaningful.
Reality: This is true, but only if you enjoy it.

That's really all I have to say about this one, but it needs to be said.

Producing original research, setting your own (often indefinite and ongoing) work hours, and teaching future generations is a noble calling, and an honorable thing to do. It's hard, and it's frustrating, and it definitely has its own rewards.

But if you don't like it - if you don't like teaching, or writing academic research, or writing grant proposals, or having a lot of unscheduled time - well, it doesn't matter how noble or meaningful it is. You will be miserable.

And you shouldn't stay in any position, no matter how noble and meaningful, if it's making you miserable.

It's okay to leave a job. Even a noble and meaningful one.

Introducing the Myths/Realities Series

One thing that I would like to do with this blog is to detail some of the myths and realities inherent in academia.

These may be things that we may enter graduate school thinking it will be like, only to be confronted with the cruel reality later.

These may be things that our advisors tell us, without understanding that the reality of academia has changed over time.

These may be aspects of graduate school and academia that we are told are noble and true, but may in fact make some of us very miserable even if they are true.

These are the myths and realities of academia, as I see them.

Resources for Those Considering Leaving Academia

One thing I want to make sure to do, even if nothing else, is create a list of resources that I've found helpful during this job search process. I will constantly update them and categorize them as appropriate, so check back regularly for updates!

Obligatory Introductory Post

As I say in my About Me section, I am an ABD grad student in the social sciences at a major research institution in the midwest.

I came to grad school bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, excited about the prospect of reading, writing, teaching, and doing research. In the ensuing years, however, the excitement has disappeared as the reality of academia revealed itself to me. It took me awhile to realize how miserable I've been, but once I realized it and made the scary and life-altering decision to leave the career path I've been moving toward for nearly a decade, I've been happier than I've been in years.