Now, covering (in his opinion) bad reasons to leave a graduate program.
"I hate my department/advisor/university/cohort/dissertation. In a few years, you won't have an advisor, and you'll be at another place with different people, and you'll finish the diss and move onto other topics."I agree wholeheartedly with this advice. Don't leave graduate school because you hate your advisor, or your department.
But I would argue that if you're finding yourself being immensely unhappy with your advisor or your department or something like that, it might be worth taking a few minutes to think about why you're so unhappy with that particular part of your grad school experience. If you are unhappy with your department because it focuses on academic research and you want to focus on pedagogical research and teaching, you should stick it out and look for teaching jobs after graduation. If you are unhappy with your advisor because they are slow on reading your dissertation chapters, just push through it and finish. You won't be under their thumb forever.
But if you - like me - find yourself being annoyed with the entirety of academia or your discipline? If your annoyance with your advisor isn't their behavior but the fact that your project itself makes you miserable, so you resent the time your advisor makes you devote to it? Or your annoyance with your department has to do with the fact that you find departmental seminars and colloquia to be nothing more than "mental masturbation" (a term coined by a fantastic colleague of mine), then it might be a problem bigger than a situational dislike for your department. For me, I realized that it wasn't just my department ... I was aggravated by conferences, and journals in my field, and the "hot" research topics and theories and the conversations I overheard by people in my field. In short, I didn't/don't hate my department. I hate my discipline.
So, to sum up, I completely agree that leaving because you don't like your advisor or department is a bad idea. The solution there is to finish up and leave for a new job. However, if your dislike of your "department" is really a dislike of the discipline, like it was for me? Then I think leaving might not be a bad idea.
"I screwed up this test/grad exam/course/other hoop you have to jump through. Not a big deal..."Again, I agree 100%. If you mess up one paper or exam or even class, it's not the end of the world. You should not drop out for that reason. Coursework is one tiny little part of a grad program, and in the long run, the other things you will work on are more important.
Now, if you're struggling to get through every aspect of your program or you can't grasp basic concepts like the major theories in your field or the ability to run a basic statistical test or interpret a monograph without plagiarism, then perhaps you should consider an alternate career.
But over one paper/exam/class? Just stick it out.
"It sucks to be a poor graduate student. Yes it does, but once again, there is a solution - graduation."I agree with this advice too. If you're miserable being poor, but you still love your program/discipline/work, do not quit. Hurry up and finish, and you'll (hopefully, assuming the job market is friendly) be out of the poorhouse more quickly.
But alternately (and this is something academics will rarely, if ever, say) - if you're miserable being poor but want to keep on, and you genuinely think you cannot continue without making more money? Go find an alternate source of income.
Look, I get it. You're supposed to work 24/7, and your department may look down on a part-time job. But one thing that I really think academia gets wrong most of the time is in assuming that all grad students come from places of privilege, and can afford to live solely on tiny graduate student stipends because they have help from their parents or a partner. It's a really naive and blinkered view of where graduate students come from.
But that's a topic for another post. In the meantime, though ... if you're eating cat food and your electricity is getting turned off and you're considering leaving the department and program you love as a result? Think about other options. There are alternate sources of income you can seek out while you're in school. And if your department doesn't like it? Well, would they like it more if you dropped out entirely?
There are plenty of jobs you can do that will either be relevant to your future career, or that won't take away much from your work. Sling beers on weekend nights. Tutor at your university or the local high school. Adjunct at a nearby college. Babysit. Mow lawns on the weekend. These are all things that will add to your income without taking away from your work. Don't be afraid to be creative if money is a real problem.
"The stress of teaching and research."He goes on to say that all jobs are stressful, and that academia is less stressful than most.
I agree with this. If you want to leave academia because it's too stressful, you'll have a hard time finding another decent-paying job that isn't stressful.
But as I've repeated multiple times on this blog ... if you're truly miserable ... if your unhappiness goes beyond typical stress and into misery and depression and physical manifestations of stress ... you might want to think about doing something different.
I agree with the author that stress itself shouldn't make you leave. But if the stress level is unbearably high, there's nothing that says you can't consider other options.