Monday, August 29, 2011

Good Luck!

Today is the first day of classes at Grad U for the fall semester. I assume that for many of you who are reading here who are still in academia, this week (or perhaps next) is the start of your semester as well.

I just wanted to put up a quick post today wishing you all good luck with the start of the new semester ... as well as to remind you that if you continue being unhappy or dissatisfied with your academic life as the semester goes on, you are not alone. In the last 24 hours alone, several people have found this blog through searches for "I'm unhappy in graduate school," "hate grad school," and "tired of grad school want to leave."

If everyone around you seems bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but you can't muster up similar enthusiasm, it's okay. You're not the only one feeling this way, even if no one around you is admitting to it.

Just get through each day, and keep in mind that you have options. You can choose to leave if you want. Academia is a job ... nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't own you, and the fact that you started down this path doesn't mean that you can't change courses and careers if you want to or need to.

I'm not the least bit upset that I'm not teaching or going to research meetings this week. My current job may not be groundbreakingly interesting, but I'm honestly just thrilled that today is just another average work day for me ... and that after 5pm, my evenings are free for me to do whatever I choose with.

There will always be opportunities to teach a class or to do some independent research if I so choose. But being outside of the academic machine feels great. If you feel like you need to leave, get the process started.

And it seems like as good of a time as any to mention that if you're a grad student who is feeling really hopeless and desperate, or who is having thoughts of suicide ... there is a dedicated hotline out there for graduate students who need help. Call 1-800-GRADHLP anytime to speak to someone who understands what you're going through and wants to help.

Good luck with the new semester!

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to Get a "Next" Job?

After posting my job search update earlier this week, I started thinking about all of the jobs I've had in my life. None of them were career jobs, but still ... they served their purpose. They were effective "filler" jobs that helped me make ends meet or just get to the next place I was going in my life (for example, the full-time job I got after I graduated from undergrad, but before I left for grad school).

They didn't seem like something worth talking about in a blog about finding a career outside of academia. But you know what? It's one of these filler jobs that has just about saved me in this process of leaving academia. By deciding to get a part-time job a few years back, I unknowingly made a decision that would make the process of leaving academia a thousand times easier for my future self, because I didn't have to worry about financial stress on top of everything else.

Since I doubt many of you are looking for a job similar to the one I'm doing now or to the minimum-wage food service job I did in college, I hadn't thought about how my job-getting experiences might be helpful for readers here. But ... duh! If you're reading this blog and thinking about leaving academia, there's a decent chance that you don't already have an outside job. And in fact, if you've followed the direct undergrad -> grad school -> faculty track that a lot of Ph.D.s take, you may have never held a job outside academia. So, you might be in need of some tips about how to find a "next" job outside the insular academic world. I might be able to help with that. I've had lots of "next" jobs ... in offices, in retail, in restaurants, in hotels. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Your Wednesday Funny

In honor of the upcoming Labor Day holiday ... a relevant Ph.D. comic:


Last Labor Day, I spent the entire day frantically typing cover letters and getting job market packets ready to mail on Tuesday. My partner grilled burgers outside while I sat in my study, working, and only came out once dinner was ready. I don't even think I went outside, all day long.

This Labor Day, I will be getting paid for the day even though I don't have to go into the office - I get holiday pay now!! I'm not sure what my exact plans will be, but I hope to be on the water somewhere, relaxing. If that fails, I'll be at a barbeque ... actually enjoying the weather, food, drink, and conversation for once.

I swear, I think the part that I like best about making this change has been reclaiming my free time. Don't get me wrong - I'm still working a 40 hour week, every week. But the difference is that when I'm not at work, no one expects me to be working. The change in my mental state has been astounding.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Update on My Job Search - Part 1

Giant warning, here: this is a looooooong post. If you're not interested in the minutae of my job search process and all of the options I have considered and discarded, you might just want to skim this one. I'll be back to posting snarky entries about academia soon, don't worry. :)

But a commenter on the last post and someone who emailed me this week have both asked me to post an update on my career change. And you know, an update is long overdue. I've been a little reluctant to post anything, simply because I still feel like a tiny bit of a failure for not being able to announce "Yes, readers, I have landed my Ultimate Career Job after just 30 days of searching, and will be making $300,000 per year while living in my Dream City! Learn from me!!" Yeah ... I'm not there yet.

But ... that's silly of me. I've been open from my very first post here about how leaving academia is a long and arduous process that requires a lot of emotional work, soul-searching, and careful planning of next steps. This is what I've been working on for the past few months, and I think I've finally figured out my next step.

So, I'm going to walk you through my entire decision making process and why I've considered and discarded several common job-seeking tips ... just in case reading about my thought process will help you figure out your next step by comparison. And if nothing else, it can reassure you that I've been doing more than just typing up rants about academia from my living room over these last few months. :)

You're Not Alone - Part 5

I haven't done one of these in awhile, so here you go...recent search terms that people are using to find this blog.

Hopefully no one reading here feels odd if they see these posts and recognize a phrase they've searched for. I don't see any identifying information about who's running the searches, so don't worry ... and plus, I've definitely run similar searches over the years. :)

But I think it's important for people reading here or arriving at this blog after one of these searches to understand that they aren't alone. I'm here, the folks blogging at the links on the left are here, and all of these people who run these searches to arrive at my blog are having the same thoughts about academia and grad school. Just because you don't hear people saying it in the grad labs or hallways or even over the weekends at parties or bars or the departmental potluck does not mean you are the only person having doubts.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


....I got another job ad/offer emailed to me today. To teach 2 brand new classes, at a campus that is two hours away by car.

The start date is in on Monday. In five days.

I won't be sending my CV in. And God help the students who are enrolled in those two classes. Whatever well-meaning person takes this position is in no way, shape, or form going to be able to put in their best effort. But I guess it doesn't matter, as long as they get a warm body to stand in front of all of those tuition dollars students.

Five days to prep. Astounding.

Your Wednesday Funny

Two funnies today...first,  if you are a sociologist, political scientist, anthropologist or economist, you should go check this post out immediately. Hilarious!!


Second, In honor of any English folks who are out there reading this blog:

This is the funniest thing I've seen in awhile. If only I'd majored in English ... then I could have all the jobs.

Image from For Lack of a Better Comic.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exactly What I Needed Today... a reminder about what working in academia is really like.

Seriously. This morning my brother called to tell me he'd gotten an interview for a new job. He has his bachelor's degree and is ... let's just say, younger than me. A few months ago he decided he wanted a new job, applied for two positions total, and now has this interview. Of course, nothing is guaranteed ... and he had some networking help getting the interview.

But still ... it sent me into a bit of a "woe is me" phase this morning, where I started lamenting the years I'd spent in school and the debt I'd incurred trying to get a degree that is (at this point) utterly useless. And cursing him for being "smart enough" (even when I thought he was being immature and silly) to just get a job after graduation instead of chasing some "life of the mind" pipe dream through grad school. Because now he's moving up in his career, and I'm looking for an entry-level job ... a decade after when I could have gotten started.

So yeah. This morning was not my best morning. (For the record, this is the first time I've felt this negative in months, so the emotional roller-coaster is easing up a bit. This process does get easier).

But just as I was really building up the mental pity party, I got an email from Grad U, asking me if I was interested in teaching a class this fall because they suddenly have an opening. A brand new class that I've never taught, in a topic area that I don't know anything about. For a semester that would start in two weeks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Homeless Adjuncts

I ran across this post at the Chronicle today, which links back to this series of posts at The Homeless Adjunct ... all of which are drawing much-needed attention to the reality of adjuncting today in higher education.

Adjuncting is something that's often discussed in academia as a temporary condition ... as something that grad students or recent Ph.D.s can do to supplement their income during their last few semesters before they go off and get their "real" tenure track jobs.

And indeed, in some cases/places, that is how adjuncting works. In my department, grad students would occasionally take a one-course adjuncting gig at a nearby institution to earn a few thousand extra dollars and some additional teaching experience ... in exchange for giving the instructors at the smaller regional campuses a much-needed break from their huge course loads. No harm, no foul. Alternately, I'd taken a few courses at Grad U with instructors who had day jobs but taught a class at night, just because they loved doing it. Again ... no harm, no foul.

What I didn't realize until I started reading postacademic blogs, however, was the degree to which adjuncting is becoming the norm in higher ed writ large, especially in urban areas with their captive pools of recent Ph.D.s and their high number of campuses in small geographic areas. Sadly, what I've learned since starting this blog is that adjuncting is gradually becoming the "new normal" in faculty appointments at many universities, particularly in the humanities (but also with a growing number in the social sciences as well).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Should You Drop Out?

I just ran across this old Chronicle of Higher Education piece, which offers some things to think about when trying to decide whether or not to complete your Ph.D. once you've decided to not pursue a faculty position.

I appreciate that the article relates the experiences of a few different people who left academia - some who chose to finish, and some who didn't. It also runs through a few important things you should take under consideration when you're deciding whether or not you want to finish your Ph.D. or not. Personally, if you only have six months or less until completion, I would finish. Similarly, if doing so would earn you a promotion or significant pay increase at work? I'd say do it.

But if you still have a long time until completion, or if your project is making you miserable, or if you simply don't want to finish? Maybe the best thing for you to do is just stop.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Policy Changes

So it appears that per our new federal debt deal, graduate students may no longer be able to obtain subsidized student loans to pay for grad school. In other words, if you take out a federal loan to fund your graduate studies, you will be charged interest during the time you are in school rather than having it accrue only once you've graduated. Long-term, then, graduate students will pay more in student loans than they currently are.

Hmm. I'm of two minds about this. First, I think graduate students get screwed enough as it is, between the lack of job training and the horrifying job market and the shift toward adjunct/temporary faculty in higher education. So this just seems like one more kick in the rear to anyone who decides to go to grad school without realizing all of the potential downsides.

On the other hand, though, I really oppose people taking out more than a nominal amount of student loans to pay for graduate study (I'm speaking from experience, here), so I'm having trouble getting too worked up about a change in policy that may prevent graduate students from taking out more and more student loans to fund their studies.

Thoughts, anyone?