Thursday, December 27, 2012

Seeking Contributors for our E-Book!

Hey all!

I am currently out of state visiting my family for the holidays, so haven't had much time to sit down and write anything. Hopefully all of you who celebrate Christmas (as well as those who don't) have had a lovely holiday season and are finding some time to step away from work and the daily grind and to just relax for a little while...

Anyway, before I get back to the holiday/family festivities, I wanted to post the CFP for our "leaving academia" e-book. Our goal with this book is to create a collection of stories, reflections, and anecdotes about leaving academia and becoming a post-academic, so that others can gain some inspiration and maybe some perspective on how easy or not-easy the transition has been for others.

Now, you may be thinking that if you left and aren't working your Dream Job and/or if you don't have your Ultimate Dream Life, you shouldn't contribute. Nonsense! All of us out here have been open about how the leaving process has had its ups and downs and of how we might not be exactly where we hope to be in the future. And yet, we are all fairly happy and are all going to contribute stories. You don't have to be the Perfect Postacademic in order to contribute. (And in fact, what would that Perfect Postacademic look like, anyway? Only in academia do we expect that there's one life and one career path that would make everyone blissfully happy...)

So see the CFP below (shamelessly copied-and-pasted from Currer's place), and if you have any questions shoot us an email or leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Exciting News! ...Wanna Help? :)

As Lauren mentioned in her post just a little while ago, we have exciting news to report from the postacademic blogosphere!

After months of ranting away on our own blogs, several of us (me, Lauren, Currer and Jet) have decided to move forward with a centralized website and e-book that will provide resources for folks who are contemplating leaving academia, as well as support for those who have already left.

The website won't be up and running for a little while, although we do have a URL and an outline, so it's definitely going to happen. :) The book will follow once the website is up and running, and once we get a sense for the type of information people seem to be looking for and how we can best complement what's on the site.

Our initial plan for the website is for it to provide concrete, tangible information about how to leave academia (how to tell your advisor, how to write a resume, how to deal with financial and other issues that might arise), as well as support and resources to help you make the decision that's best for you and to keep yourself emotionally on-track.

So! We have plans, and we're excited about them! And this is where you come in.

Friday, December 7, 2012

So Many Ph.Ds...So Few Jobs

I'm going to read the whole thing this weekend and will probably have more to say about it in future posts, but the newest NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates is out, and the picture about jobs isn't a pretty one.

According to the IHE, the percentage of folks who graduate with Ph.D.s and have firm employment commitments on hand at graduation has fallen sharply ... across every discipline.

Here's the table from the IHE article, which is drawn directly from the report:

(Side note - I am really surprised to see that the percentage of new grads with job commitments is highest among social scientists. Though I suppose if you include economists and psychologists in that group, you may be catching a number of people who are moving into industry. But still...).

At any rate, these numbers are pretty scary. Note that the comparison year is 2006 - which is at least a year or two before the academic job market is perceived to have started its collapse.

And as everyone knows, the next few years were awful. Fewer schools had money to hire new faculty, and many schools cancelled their searches when they were already underway. Graduate programs (like mine) where students who graduated in 2004 or 2005 were often mulling over 2 or 3 job offers as ABDs were suddenly seeing students who got nothing more than a single VAP offer or (if they really got lucky), an offer from a school that was at the end of their desirability list.

But now, in 2011 and 2012, we keep hearing that the market across multiple disciplines is rebounding. There are more job listings than in previous years, and schools are finally getting the go-ahead to hire tenure-track faculty. Don't worry, Ph.D. students! Everything is back to normal! Just keep working hard, and it'll all work out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Random Miscellany About My Life Now - Boring Work Weeks

I logged into the blog today, thinking that I would edit a nearly-finished draft of a post I was working on last month and put it up.

But then my partner texted me on his way to work: "Whatcha doing?"

It's raining and gloomy outside, and I'm in the office working on some pretty monotonous tasks today. Everyone in my office is pretty tired today, so no one's really all that talkative. The first week of each new month is always the busiest for us, so we're all working fairly hard this week (though obviously I still have time to blog!) and recovering from our holiday party* last weekend.

So I texted him back: ", I did [task X] this morning, and now I'm doing [task Y]. My job is SO THRILLING. :)"

Then I went back to work and started thinking about what I wrote. And of course, since I'd already logged into the blog and sent my mind to "postacademic mode," I thought about how I'd feel if I still had a dissertation that I had to work on instead of these monotonous work tasks. Or papers to grade, or a syllabus to write, or whatever. In other words, I started thinking about how my life in my boring job compared to my life when I was a Super Important Grad Student Doing Important Groundbreaking Work.

And I realized that I'd rather work on monotonous tasks X and Y every workday for the rest of the freaking month then spend even a couple of hours trying to code data for my dissertation or trying to read some horrible blowhard's academic paper to add to my lit review, or responding to a needy student email.**

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some Miscellaneous Ramblings...

Hi all! Long time no talk!!

So apparently I'm posting a little less frequently these days ... a pattern I'll chalk up to my growing determination to focus on my offline life. Rather than spending my days holing up in front of a computer when I get home from my computer-oriented job (which was reminding me a little too much of my days in academia), I've been trying to get out and do things more often ... or to just spend timeoffline when I'm at home.

So for the past few weeks I've been holiday shopping, and meeting friends for dinner, and reading fun books, and started volunteering for a local charity. All stuff that is helping me move fully away from the mindset that I'm still kinda-sorta an academic, and into the mindset of being a regular person who has a regular job and does regular things with her spare time ... rather than just coming home and going back on the computer all night long. So far, so good!

Now, don't worry ... I won't shut down the blog or stop writing. As I've mentioned before ... it turns out that, to my surprise, I like blogging! And I'm still interested in reading and thinking about academic structure and culture and about the changing academic job market.

So don't worry - I'm not going anywhere for awhile, dear readers. Posts may be a little less frequent, but I'll still be around.


In "me" life, things are just fine. Work is okay, family is good, life is pretty alright. Partner and I went out of town for a weekend and had a relaxing Thanksgiving, and I'm looking forward to Christmas.

And things here in Grad U City are good. An old grad student friend of mine was in town last weekend, so I had drinks with him and several of his (current grad student) friends. I was a little apprehensive about showing up as a grad school dropout ... but to my surprise, a few of the people started spontaneously talking about how nice it would be to have a regular job with actual free time for once. I kept my mouth shut about my own thoughts, but I admit ... I felt pretty good.

Friday, November 9, 2012

On Feelings, "Success," and Postacademic Life

I wrote this piece a while back and never posted it. Since I'm in the middle of a pretty big case of writers' block right now, I thought I'd throw it out here for everyone to read. I think it's a little scattered (which is why I hadn't posted it yet), but in the absence of having anything else to post right now ... here you go! :)


I wanted to follow up on a few posts about postacademic life that have popped up in our little corner of the blogosphere in recent days.

As you know, I've been writing a lot lately about how my postacademic life is pretty great ... that I have plenty of free time, and I don't work in a giant corporate office with mind-numbing responsibilities and awful coworkers. And that's all true! I like my life now, and my job is alright, and I'm generally a lot happier than I was when I was in academia.

But the posts that others have written this week - particularly at Lauren's and Currer's places - have caused me to feel compelled to throw up a little caution flag on my blog. Not to walk back my positivity about my postacademic life, mind you - I really AM happy as a postacademic! But after reading these posts at Lauren and Currer's places, I feel like I need to take a minute to make it clear that every single second isn't all sunshine and rainbows for me either.

I'm still dealing with a little bit of (post)academic guilt, and a little bit of doubt about the decisions I've made since leaving. Even for someone like me who's landed in a pretty good place, becoming a postacademic is not easy. You can get to a good place mentally and occupationally after you leave, but it won't happen overnight and you will have a few ups and downs along the way.

And even after you do make that clean, complete break from academia and are feeling good about your life? You can still have occasional setbacks. The dream job that you took might turn out to kind of suck (like Currer's). You might miss some aspects of academic work (like some of the Type 2 leavers). Or, like me, you could wind up generally happy ... but still experience moments of worry and self-doubt every now and then.

But it doesn't mean you're doing it "wrong" - it just means you're going through a big life change and things might get a little messy. So let's talk for a minute about how that looks ... for me, anyway.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A New Blog, Just For You!

Hey all!

I was out of town yet again this weekend and have been playing catch-up all day, so this won't be a long post ... but since I just noticed it in my traffic stats, I wanted to give y'all a heads up about a new postacademic blog - Post-Academic Pathfinder.

From my quick perusal of the posts, it sounds like the new blogger is a Type 1 Leaver who's already been doing some temp work and thinking about goals for hir postacademic life.

Head over and say hi ... let hir know how supportive and helpful the postacademic community is!


To any of my readers and my fellow bloggers on the East Coast ... stay safe. Please. Evacuate, hunker down, do whatever you need. But be smart and be safe.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


So I just filled out my online consolidation application for my graduate student loans. EEK! Time to pour myself a drink, I think. Seeing all of those huge numbers thrown together and filling out all of those forms was necessary, but ....... eeeeeek. Why was I so stupid, to keep taking out more and more loans???

Oh wait, I know why I was so stupid. We all were. Lauren lays it out perfectly here.

Anyway, I digress. What I actually wanted to do tonight was to post a quick PSA for anyone here in the US who will be facing student loan debt (from either undergrad or grad school) after they finish - whether they graduate or quit early like yours truly.

My advice is: Consolidate your loans. 

Do it. Go here and fill out the application.

Obviously, it won't reduce your total balance due. (If only there was a web application that would do that, huh?) But it will get your payments under control - both by bringing them into one monthly payment to one vendor rather than multiple, and most likely by lowering your monthly payments.

(In my case, it looks like I will be cutting my monthly payments at least in half by consolidating. From there, of course, I can pay more every month if I want to get it paid off sooner ... but the minimum is so much more manageable than it would have been if I didn't consolidate.)

So if you weren't aware of this possibility, bookmark that link now. We regretful academics can't turn back time and take out fewer loans, but there is something you can do to minimize the fallout going forward.


Now that that ugly financial business is out of the way ... I thought my readers might enjoy the latest Ph.D. comic, which can be found here, and which draws on recent headlines quite amusingly.


I hope everyone has a wonderful week, and I'll write more later...

Friday, October 12, 2012

A New(ish) Blog and a Few Other Things

Today, I'd like to introduce everyone to The Anti-Academic, who has been blogging for several months now (although it took me this long to catch on and actually link to hir blog, duhhh...).

Anti-Academic is a professor in the UK, and is currently planning hir escape from academia after slowly coming to realize that zie no longer enjoyed the work and simply needed something different. Zie details that in this post, which I thought was especially insightful. In particular, the section about growing exhausted with the lack of variety in academic jobs really caused a lightbulb to go off inside my head.

Because I've written, many times, about how I grew over time to hate academia as a profession, but I've never really been able to articulate why that was the case. And when I think about it in more detail, it doesn't really make sense. Sure, I hated doing research. But I loved teaching. And yet I don't regret leaving at all? How does that make any sense??

Well, I think Anti-Academic has hit on one reason that I don't miss it that I hadn't considered before - the lack of variety in an academic life. I enjoyed certain aspects of the job, but by the time I left I was bored and unenthused ... and didn't see either of those things changing as my career would progress. How could it, if I'd forever be doing the same things that bored me to tears in 2010?

Now, you might be thinking that I'm crazy. After all, academics work on different projects with different colleagues and teach different classes every single year! That's variety!

That's very true. You do have some variety in your day-to-day work as an academic. But the overall tasks are just about the same - month after month and year after year. Whether you teach an introductory class on Tuesday mornings in the fall semester or a seminar class on Wednesday nights in the spring semester, you still have to write a syllabus and exams and prep class activities. Whether you're writing a presentation about medieval basketweaving for a departmental seminar or about Victorian literature for an international conference, you're still just writing a presentation ... probably in the same format you've used for 50 other presentations. And whether you're working at a tiny school or a huge one, in the U.S. or in Europe? You're still working with the same kind of people (academics) doing the same activities (research and teaching).

On a day-to-day basis, then, the work can have some variety. But in the long-term? Not so much.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More Magical Thinking in Academia

More updates on my postacademic life later this week ... for today, a rant. :)

I ran across this link the other day - another post from the job market rumor forum for my former discipline of sociology. I admit, I've been checking the rumor mill from time to time this year, both because one of my close friends is on the market and my curiosity is getting the best of me ... but also, I admit, out of a more general curiosity about how this year's market is shaping up.

This year it feels like there has been a slight uptick in the number of people who are starting to "see the light" about the job market as compared to previous years - they're writing about how they're starting to realize it's all a crapshoot and that their chances of getting a good job are pretty miniscule. I've written about this before, to some extent. So far, most of the commentary has just been generalized worry about how the market "feels worse" or something similar - no one's really talking in earnest about the need to seriously think about a Plan B career.

And that's fine. The social science markets haven't contracted so much that absolutely no one is getting jobs. So I can definitely understand why some people might maintain their optimism. That's all good.

But I have noticed one thing in these "worried" threads that particularly irks me. When someone expresses concern about the job market or starts doubting their chances of landing someone permanent, there will often be a few other commenters who chime in, agreeing with them. "The number of jobs look the same, but it just feels worse," they'll say. "Surely the backlog of Ph.D.s is starting to play a role. Maybe we should start thinking of a backup plan."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Random Miscellany About My Life Now ... A Week In My Life

As part two of my "what my life is like now" series, I thought that I would give you guys (and gals) a rundown of what a typical week in my postacademic life looks like.

This one might bore some of you who aren't overly interested in the minutae of my everyday life. :) But as I said in my last post, it's recently occurred to me that a lot of current grad students and academics (especially those who have traveled the typical "high school --> undergrad --> grad school and beyond" route) may have absolutely no idea what a nonacademic life looks like, on a daily basis. So you might be thinking that leaving academia sounds like an absolutely terrific idea! ....

.... except that you're terrified that your new life will be dull or boring or meaningless, because you can't imagine not being in the academic world anymore. Or alternately, you might worry that you'll lose all of your free time if you commit to one of those 40 hour office jobs that your academic friends all tell you will suck the life out of you and keep you physically chained to your desk.

So like I said in my last post, I'm going to spend some time over these next few weeks/months describing different aspects of my current life. Now obviously, everyone's life isn't just like mine. But I don't think I'm leading a wildly atypical life, either. So, hopefully this will give my readers who can't envision a nonacademic life a glimpse of what a typical week in such a life could look like.

So, here you go. This is what a week in my life looks like today - as a partnered postacademic without kids in a smallish college town, who has a regular office schedule at a "meh" job. :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Random Miscellany About My Life Now ... My Job

I've been reading with some interest what other postacademics have been writing about their nonacademic jobs of late - in particular, Currer's problems at SAP and her concerns over being an introvert in an extrovert's job, and WTF's recent frustrations with her job ... not to mention recentPhD's posts about her new job and Lauren's thoughts about working as an advisor.

All of these recent posts got me thinking - I've written a lot about academia and about my previous jobhunting (and ultimate decision to take a promotion at my current job rather than finding something new) ... but I've never really written about what my job and my postacademic life is actually like, on a daily basis.

So I think that "what my life looks like now" will be the theme of the next few posts. I'll write a bit today about what life in my office and at this workplace is like, and follow up with some other posts - perhaps a rundown of how I spend a typical week, or a description of the people I work with and encounter on a daily basis in my postacademic life in Grad U City. Maybe a description of my partner's very different work environment (since nonacademic jobs come in different forms).

My experiences seem to be a bit different than what other bloggers have been describing at their jobs, and I think that it's important for readers to see that there are different work environments out there. And more generally, I think it's probably good for unhappy academics who read here to get a sense that "a postacademic life" can take many different forms - some great, some good, some not-so-good. I know that it can be hard to envision what your life "could" be like if you left academia, and it's easy to buy into the fiction that your life will be all business suits and TPS reports and snotty colleagues ... or alternately, that it will be all rainbows and butterflies and happiness.

Reality's a little more complex than that. And I've sort of dropped the ball thus far on talking about what my day-to-day life is like these days, so I think it's time to do that.

My current life is pretty great, but my job is only "meh." I don't looooooove it, but I certainly don't hate it. I don't dread coming in in the morning. It's reasonably challenging and keeps me busy enough that I'm not bored and don't feel like I'm not using my brains. But at the same time, it's not so challenging or busy that I never have downtime. (Obviously, since I'm blogging at work...ha)

At this point in my life, this is All Good with me. All I want is a decent job that I can tolerate, that pays a living wage and leaves me with free time to think and live and pursue hobbies. Maybe in the future I will want more than this, but for now it's enough.

So for the first post in this "What JC's life is actually like now," let's talk about what this "meh but perfectly okay job" looks like.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Blog!!

Guys, I'm sorry for neglecting you, but I've been so busy this week ... I just haven't had the time or motivation to sit down and finish any of the posts I've had half-written for a few weeks.

So instead of looking for a new post in this space, go check out the latest postacademic blog ... Chronicles of a Recovering Academic.

Written by a social science Ph.D. candidate in the Midwest, there are only a few posts so far, but what's there is good. Zie has some interesting posts about the reactions of hir advisor and colleagues to hir decision to leave (hint: they're about what you'd expect), and an introductory post about why zie entered grad school in the first place (a post I've meant to write about myself for the last, oh, year or so...)

So until I'm back in the saddle with new content, go check out the new blog and leave a comment!

And remember - always remember - you are not alone in this. :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

The New Normal In Academic Hiring

Colorado State University has now updated their job posting, so that now it only indicates that they are looking for an "entry-level" tenure-track assistant professor, with no further specifications listed about year of degree or anything else.

It's a nice gesture, I suppose ... but I'd still love to see how many long-term adjuncts they bring to campus for interviews. I'm thinking that the "best qualified candidates" will still mysteriously be the folks who are newly graduated, not those who've been already working as (non-tenured) faculty for five or more years.

I mean, I have a different definition of who your "qualified candidates" would be, but what the hell do I know, right? I'm not a professor, so clearly I know nothing.

So that's encouraging, I suppose. (Although I'm also open to the argument that it's better to see this kind of thing out in the open in job ads, to work against the myth that long-term adjuncting is the path to a tenure track job. It's a valid point, but it doesn't alleviate my anger...)

But if you're in the latter category - the ones who think that universities being blatant about this is a good thing? You'll be happy to hear (via a commenter on yesterday's post) that there is another job posting for a tenure-track assistant professor of Comparative Literature position at Harvard, which specifies that the Ph.D. must have been received since 2009. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Update on Colorado State's "No Olds Need Apply" Ad

The chair of the English department at Colorado State has responded to questions about their discriminatory highly controversial job ad, which I posted about earlier this week:
By specifying 'between 2010 and time of appointment' we indicated that we are interested in applicants with up to three years in a tenure-track position as well as those who are just beginning their careers. In examining the pool of applicants, we have actually given the true 'entry-level' applicant an advantage in that such applicants will not have to compete with others who have as much as six years' more experience.
Now, this sounds reasonable, if you are looking from the outside and have absolutely no idea what the academic job market looks like - especially in the humanities.

But from the inside of the academic job market - you know, the exact position that the chair of the English department should be looking from - this is still just as clueless and problematic of a statement as the original job ad was.

First, the chair is naively identifying "true 'entry level'" applicants as only those who are new Ph.D. graduates - or those who have jumped out of grad school directly into a tenure-track job. Wow, is that a blindfolded look at the academic job market! It's kind of staggering.

In a robust academic job market, this might be true. Every graduate will get a job, and then after a year or two young professors will reshuffle into different positions. That might make sense in a perfect-world academic job market ... but in the actual academic job market we have today? It doesn't. At all. And everyone in academia should understand that. No exceptions.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Posted Without (Much) Comment

So, Colorado State University has posted an ad for a tenure-track Assistant Professor of English position, to start in the fall of 2012.

Great news, huh? A tenure-track position in English!!!! An opportunity for one of those English Ph.D.s who've been toiling in crappy adjunct positions for the past five years to finally break through and get the kind of job they've been working towar ......

.... Wait a minute.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I'm Back! (Sort of...)

Hey everyone, I'm back!!

Apologies for never setting anything to auto-post last week. It's been so long since I took a vacation that I forgot how long it would take me to, you know, pack and prepare for one. So the week before we left was full of laundry and shopping and packing and car maintenance and house maintenance and errand-running and various other tasks that always become Immediate Pressing Needs when you're preparing to leave town for a week. And now, the post-vacation week has been full of work and catching up on sleep and restocking the groceries and otherwise adjusting to being back home.

Vacations are stressful!!

But it was all worth it. Vacation was awesome, and much needed. I left town a total crab, tired of work and stressed and aggravated and bored. I came back rested and relaxed and refreshed. Partner and I drove to a favorite beach location and spent four awesome nights sightseeing, eating great food and drinking great booze on sun-filled patios, swimming in large bodies of water, and wandering through adorable touristy shops while spending way too much money.

We then drove back through our hometown to pick up our dog (who was being doted on by very loving doggie grandparents) and spent the night visiting family, friends, and our friend's brand new baby. It was a great trip ... even worth the exhaustion, empty bank account and giant work to-do list that was waiting for me at home.

Anyway, my brain is still not "back from vacation" enough to think through and write a coherent post, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I survived vacation, I'm back, and I will be back to my regularly scheduled blogging soon ... probably later this week. I do have ideas for posts ... just need to find the time and motivation to sit down and finish them!

Tonight, though, I have to finish our post-vacation laundry and run a couple of errands and do some cleaning. I'll be back soon! In the meantime, read the great stuff that my fellow bloggers have been putting out - check the blogroll on the right. Talk to you all soon!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ask a Postacademic #7 ... and Yet Another New Blog!

Hey all!

Posting is going to be super-light and I won't be around much for the next week or so ... I have a busy workweek ahead of me, and then my partner and I are going out of town for a much-needed relaxing beach vacation over Labor Day weekend. Yayyyyyyyyy!!!!!

Anyway, I wanted to put something up quickly today and will probably try to dig up another postacademic rant or something similar to auto-post later this week, just to give you something to look at. But I won't be around much for comments or questions until next week. I've been feeling a little bit overwhelmed and "blah" lately, and am desperately committed to making this trip be as unplugged and relaxing and enjoyable as humanly possible. Wish me luck!


However, before I go I did want to link everyone to another new postacademic blog. Post-Medievalist is a humanities (obviously :) grad student who has already written a lot of terrific stuff at her blog ... so far, there are posts about academic guilt, about the stress that an international research trip placed on her relationship and finances, and a particularly insightful post that compares the process of leaving academia to a sort of lingering sickness that develops and worsens over time.

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Blogs (and Crappy Advice from Advisors)

Hey, everyone! Sorry for my relative lack of posting this month ... it's been a crazy one!

Today, I have two new postacademic blogs to link you to, along with some brief additional commentary stemming from a conversation I had with a grad student friend of mine this week...

(Seriously, I cannot believe how many postacademics we have out here! Maybe the group of us will someday be able to really get the word out that Grad School Is Not Necessarily A Great Life Plan, or that Academia Kind of Sucks For Some People. Maybe...)

Also, don't be surprised if you see me ramping up my complaints about academia in the next few months. My one good grad student friend is on the job market this year, and is currently at the annual national sociological conference, starting the process of trying to network herself* into a job somewhere. As someone who occupies the weird space of (1) having gone through the whole market process, having been reasonably successful with interviews, and having survived, but (2) ultimately winding up very cynical about the whole thing, I've become a huge sounding board for her. Which is great - I genuinely want to help her stay sane through this whole process and to help her keep some perspective on the whole thing ... while genuinely hoping that she is able to get an academic job, since that's what she really wants.

But as you'll see in a minute, these conversations are also drawing my attention - yet again! - to the ridiculousness of the academic job market and to the utterly cruel and deluded things people will say to you while you're going through it.

So I'm sure I will have Many Further Thoughts About Academia and the Academic Job Market (tm) to share with you over the next few months.

Blog intros after the jump...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On Compensation

Postacademic in NYC wrote an interesting post last week, where she discussed the somewhat disconcerting feelings she's been having as an hourly wage worker in the world outside of academia. In this post, she wrote that the lump sum payments she received every month or so in academia were fine with her, while the hourly pay she gets now is causing her to have some uncomfortable feelings about how her work is "quantified" in dollars.

More specifically, she's been calculating how many hours of work at the temp agency she needs to put in in order to earn enough money for the things she likes to buy - a sandwich or a coffee or a bottle of booze. This, in turn, is (I think) making her feel a bit discouraged. I got the feeling from her post that her pay in academia was lower, possibly ... but that despite that, she felt less exploited/dehumanized because it wasn't as easy to translate her work hours into a dollar amount.

I enjoyed the post, and some of it definitely rang true to me. Until I got my promotion and raise this spring, I was also an hourly wage worker at my current office. And while I was paid fairly well and could afford a decent quality of life as an hourly worker, I would occasionally catch myself thinking "if I buy those concert tickets, I'll have to work a full day to pay for them," or "damn, I'm working 4-5 hours for a tank of gas? Ridiculous."

So, I've definitely done the "quantifying what I'm purchasing in work hours" thing, and it did feel a little weird. Now, I never found myself calculating the amount of work that would "pay" for a sandwich or coffee - I really never got down to the nitty-gritty of what, say, 15 minutes of my labor was "worth" in terms of consumer goods. But if I wanted to spend a decent chunk of money? Yeah, I'd sometimes find myself calculating the number of hours I'd need to work to earn that money back.

And I agree, it's kind of an odd feeling to be able to directly calculate how much money your work time  is "worth," in such concrete, calculable terms.

But looking back on my time in academia and then on my time as an hourly wage worker outside of academia, I can honestly say that I preferred being paid hourly to the pay I got in academia. And I'd still go back to hourly work any day before I'd go back to academia. With absolutely no hesitation.

Now, PAINYC's outlook on her job is totally valid. Her job is far different from mine, and her work environments sound challenging, to say the least. I'd have a hard time not feeling like a cheap cog in the wheel of my workplace if I was working in buildings that have butlers (WTF?), doing basic tasks for the top 0.1% of wage earners in this country, alongside miserable and exploited support staff. There's absolutely no question in my mind that I'd feel pretty damned exploited and underpaid if I were in that position.

But I wanted to put up a post here that explains the outlook that I had on my life and my compensation as an hourly worker. Because my outlook and my experiences have been different from PAINYC's ... and while I don't think there's anything wrong with her outlook, I want readers of both blogs to understand that there's no guarantee of how you will feel about a job that pays hourly until you have one. Perhaps you will feel like PAINYC ... but perhaps not.

So as food for thought ... here are three reasons why I found hourly pay to be preferable to my academic salary.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ask a Postacademic - Question 6

Here's another great postacademic question from a reader. I've covered versions of this Q/A before, but have never seen the question about time usage in and outside of academia asked to succinctly before. So I'd like to answer it, to make my viewpoint on this absolutely clear.

I'd also like to ask the other postacademics who are adjusting to nonacademic jobs to chime in if they have a minute, either in comments or at their own blogs. We all have different jobs and live in different cities, so my opinions and experiences certainly aren't going to be representative of everyone's. I'd love to hear a few more people talk about how they feel about their flexibility of schedule since leaving academia.

Anyway, onto the question...
I'm starting to get the idea that despite my "flexible" schedule [in academia], these 8-5ers have more of a life than I do and an easier time living it (with the schedule). Is this accurate?
I think your hunch is accurate.

I mean, don't get me wrong. Having to be in the office for a regular 40 hour schedule every week can be frustrating. My family and friends are about a half day's drive away from where I live now, and I do occasionally miss the grad school days, where even with my part-time job I only had to be in the office 3 days per week and was free to take long weekends to visit them without having to count vacation days.

But all is not lost. I do have vacation time and flextime, which gives me enough time to take about one long weekend a month and a few extra days at Christmastime. That might not seem like a lot ... but even in my grad school days, I wasn't going on weekend vacations more than once a month. (And as an aside - weekends away are a lot more satisfying when you don't have a pile of academic work to do!)

So if you're a grad student who takes long weekends every single weekend and who takes extended, weeklong vacations multiple times per year? You may find a regular 8-5 work schedule pretty difficult to manage while still keeping up that travel schedule.

But if you usually only take a few trips a year, most of which are just a few days at a time? Then I don't think you'll feel egregiously oppressed by only having a few weeks off per year. Really and truly. Most nonacademic jobs aren't that inflexible - particularly the types of jobs you'll be getting with your MA or Ph.D.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Guilt, Self-Blame, and Magical Thinking in Academia

I've got a few links to share with you today, all of which are loosely related to the basic theme of Your Brain on Academia. As you know, the other postacademic bloggers and I have written at length about the effect grad school and academia has on your mind - the guilt, the self-doubt and self-blame, the boredom and the isolation and the frustration and the possible ill-effects all of it can have on the mental health of someone trying to work in academia.

Despite all of the discussion we've had, though, I always think there's room for a little bit more. And I ran across a couple of things this week that got me thinking - yet again - about the mindset of an academic. And more specifically, about how the academic guilt that grad students feel and make jokes about is actually not funny at all.

In reality, I believe that this guilt is seriously problematic. Not only is it terrible for your self-esteem, but it also clouds your reality when you look around at the structure of academia and the state of the job market.

Let's talk about this.

First, we have this post, which is by another postacademic and addresses academic guilt. The author writes: graduate students, we are discouraged from discussing our 'personal lives.' We are supposed to be completely dedicated to our work. I can't count the number of times I talked about or heard others talk about all the work we have to do, how we haven't left the house in days, how we fell asleep in our office because we had to hand in that paper in the morning. Even though we talk about these things and we are aware that they are not necessarily positive things, we try to top each other in our stories of academic agony. We do it because we believe, deep down inside, that a committed graduate student does not have a life.
This description definitely mirrors my experiences in my graduate program. Discussions between grad students would often devolve into some kind of weird Competition of Misery, where we'd all talk about "how late we had stayed in the lab last night" or about "how long it'd been since we watched a movie" or visited our families or went out to dinner. We wore the overwork (whether it was real or not) as a badge of honor, with the people who worked hardest and longest being characterized as the models we should all be looking up to. And faculty would chime in when needed, assuring us that "if we just worked hard enough" we'd get a great job in the end.

But how hard was "hard enough?" No one ever seemed to know. So we just worked constantly. Or tried to, anyway. And if we didn't work on any given day or evening or hour in the lab, we'd talk about what "slackers" we were. How "unmotivated" we were. How we "really needed to step it up next week." Anything short of working every single day and evening was unacceptable.

The author of the linked post continues by pointing out that this mindset is not a good one:
Graduate student guilt, as I like to call it, is a dangerous thing. This is what it sounds like: when we take time to watch a movie, we complain that we wasted our evening. When we have some free time we think first about what we should do for work when our body and mind probably needs a break. When we can't write down 10 pages for the day, we curse our inability to produce. Grad student guilt can harm us because it can prevent us from seeing all the work we really are doing and [instead] focus on our shortcomings.
Pay careful attention to that last sentence; we'll come back around to it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An Update on the Postacademics ... and a New One!

Remember this post, from less than a month ago? Where I said that all of us in the postacademic blogsophere who had put ourselves out there had found some type of postacademic work, except for Currer and Lauren?

Well, as of the past few weeks, both Currer and Lauren have landed postacademic jobs! Huzzah!!!

I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you decide that you want to or need to leave, all is not lost. Will it be easy? No way. Will you have to deal with a lot of emotions and second-guessing by yourself and others? Definitely.

But will you wind up unemployed forever? I find that very, very unlikely.


In other postacademic news, we have a new blog!

Vashti is a humanities grad student in the US who blogs at Academisch. Zie grew up in an evangelical Christian family and came to grad school thinking that zie wanted to be a professor. After awhile zie realized that zie really didn't want to be a professor anymore - and was unlikely to get that chance in a humanities program anyway.

So Vashti is now in the same place that most of us were when we started this journey ... sure that academia isn't "for us" anymore, but not sure where to go next. Zie's already considered trying to find a teaching position outside of academia and has expressed frustration with academic culture and its disparagement of any other career path.

So head over there and check out the new blog. I think I can speak for the other postacademic bloggers when I say that I'm happy to see someone else out here, sharing their story. Welcome!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Your Monday Funnies

I've got some half-finished posts in the pipeline ... I'll get something new up later this week, I promise! Real life has intervened this week and gotten in the way of my blogging. Stupid real life. :)

In the meantime, I just ran across a comic at The Oatmeal called "Why Working at Home is Both Awesome and Horrible," and couldn't resist posting it. Something tells me that even though it's not about grad school specifically, a lot of the grad students and academics who read here will find it amusing (and possibly painfully true).

So go over there and check it out! And if anyone is artistically inclined, perhaps we could do an academic version. I'm no artist, so I'm not sure how to portray "neverending academic guilt" and "feelings of inadequacy" in visual form.


Also, I ran across this Ph.D. Comic the other day, and found it both amusing and sad.

You know, I was at the arrows when I left - I've put in a stupid amount of time in grad school, but couldn't take it anymore - and I don't regret it. So, you know ... all isn't lost if you decide to go, as I've said many times.

If you're utterly miserable and hate it when you're at the end of grad school? You shouldn't necessarily press on just because you've come this far. But you shouldn't necessarily quit either.

Am I confusing you? Probably. What I mean is that if you find this place by googling "I hate grad school" and are trying to decide what to do, take a minute to think about exactly why you're miserable. If you're miserable because you're tired of your dissertation and your advisor and just want to go work on other projects or teach at a new school? Okay. You should probably hurry up and finish and not quit.*

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ask a Postacademic - Questions 4 and 5

I think it's time for a new postacademic Q&A session...

For today's post, I'll combine two questions into one post, because I don't think either one requires a lengthy, drawn-out explanation. If you have any other questions or ideas for things you'd like to see me discuss, feel free to leave them in comments. I always appreciate ideas for posts!

The first question for today asks about the dynamic between my graduate classmates and me. The commenter asks if I was the only one in my grad program who hated academia, and also asks:
Did you have a classmate that quit the program before you? How was the jealousy and competition between your classmates?
Well, first ... there were a few people who quit our grad program before finishing and sort of disappeared off into the wilderness into nonacademic jobs. Most people left right after completing their masters' degrees, but there are two people I can think of who got closer to graduation and then just sort of disappeared. And there are another 10 or so who got their Ph.D.s and then got nonacademic jobs.

As for whether these people "hated" academia, though? I can't say for sure. I certainly didn't talk about (or even realize) how much *I* had hated academia until I had left and allowed myself to confront my feelings about academia, once I was truly free of the culture.

Until I actually left, then, I still hadn't fully accepted that I hated academia. And since I couldn't identify my own feelings, I certainly didn't engage anyone else in discussions of how much academia sucked. That kind of thing - being critical of academia as a whole - is just not done, as we all know. So, at the time when those students were in my program, no. I definitely did not talk with them about whether they hated academia or about why they were leaving. They just ... left.

And since I haven't spoken to all of the people who left, I really can't say for sure if they, collectively, truly hated it or if they had other reasons for leaving. I'm sure that each person has their own complex set of reasons for leaving, and chalking it up to one reason or feeling (like "because they all hated academia") is probably a little too simple. I know that's true for me.

I will say that of the people I have talked to who left (in particular, ten or so alums of my department who I contacted after I decided to leave for support and advice), I found that we all shared a very critical view of academia. I'd usually wind up emailing back and forth or chatting with these people for up to an hour on the phone, with a decent segment of those conversations involving the pointlessness of academic research, the cattiness of faculty and grad students, and the utter misery and insanity of the academic job market. They'd all express relief that they left and didn't have to deal with it anymore, and would congratulate me on deciding to leave.

And without a single exception, every one of the 10 or so Grad U alums who I talked to said that they had never regretted the decision to leave academia, and that they were much happier in their outside jobs. Every. Single. One.

So while I can't say that any of us have said the words "I hate academia" to each other, I think it's safe to say that those of us who have left share a very, very critical perspective on academia. That probably borders on resentment, if not outright hate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Odds and Ends ... and You're Still Not Alone

A few random thoughts for today......

First, let's take a look at the google searches that have been bringing folks to this place over the past couple of weeks. I'll be honest - this group of them have been more striking than usual. I was expecting the people showing up here over the summer to be less stressed out and negative about academia, and more relaxed. After all, it's the summer! That doesn't seem to be the case, unfortunately:

-i am miserable in grad school
-i want to drop out of grad school
-academia overwhelmed workload
-feeling angry for no reason grad school
-i hate being a researcher
-what to do if you hate your grad school program
-am i weak for quitting phd
-academic job market stinks
-my phd research is worthless
-i feel like my research is shit phd

It's also worth noting that the two posts at this blog that have gotten the most pageviews since I started - and continue to get fresh new pages views every single day - are the ones in which I wrote about how I hated my research and about how grad school messes with your mental health. And when I say that they get more page views, I mean that they each have more than five times as many page views as any other post on this blog.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thoughts about Interests and Postacademic Careers

I pulled down my last post because I really try to keep things that could tie back to my friends' identities off of my blog. I think that the details I used in that last post might have made my friend and hir colleague a little too identifiable, so I took it down. I want this blog to be about me and my experiences and critiques of academia in general, not snarky posts about people I know in real life who might recognize themselves in my writing.

Anyway, never fear ... I've got another critique about academia in the pipeline for this week. In the meantime, here's a positive post. :)


I've mentioned before that the job and industry I work in now is one I just sort of "fell into." It's a consulting job, broadly defined, working in an industry and subject area that has absolutely nothing to do with my academic work. 

This occasionally leads me to think (like I did last week) that I'm somehow a Bad Postacademic. That if I was "doing it right" (whatever that means), I would have gotten a job doing, basically, my academic work in a nonacademic position. I'd still be running statistical models, or teaching in a high school, or writing for a broad audience.

But I'm not, and as so many awesome commenters on my previous post pointed out ... that's just fine. I'm content with my job and find it challenging and not-dreadful. I'm happy with my life, and I earn a decent living, and work with coworkers who are nice to me and for a boss who treats me well.  I've got no reason to feel badly about my life just because I'm not doing anything related to academia anymore, nor am I using the skills and interests I've cultivated in other parts of my life.

..........But is this really true?? Am I really not using any of my skills or interests in this job?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Update, A Thank You, and A New Blog!

Just wanted to follow up on yesterday's post to say that I'm feeling much, much better today ... mostly thanks to the wonderful, supportive comments I got on my post yesterday from the other lovely folks in the postacademic blogosophere. So a hearty THANK YOU to all of you!! :)

I think the comments hit on some very important points that explain why yesterday - even after nearly 18 months out of academia - I got a little dragged down into some self-flagellation.

As several commenters point out, when you're in grad school/academia, you get used to (1) overthinking everything, (2) chronic self-doubt, and (3) feeling like if you're just relaxing and working a normal number of hours, you're a loser/slacker. These unhealthy feelings creep into your brain sometime early in grad school, and they cling to you with a vise-like grip for years afterward, apparently. Ugh.

As I've written before in terms of sadness and bitterness, the ugly feelings will still pop up every now and then, even after you've been gone for awhile. These days, 99% of the time I'm content and more than happy to just go to work and come home and live my life (while making an adult salary).

But there's still that 1% of time where I might suddenly start thinking ".....but I should be doing more with my life! I was going to be a professor!!" It's like the normal ups and downs of anyone's moods, but with an extra helping of guilt piled on about what people who you used to work with several years ago would think of your life and career now. Yuck. How crazy is that?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Feeling Weird This Morning...

In the interest of sharing all of my ups and downs with you, dear readers ... here's a Negative Nelly post for you. Because it's a Negative Nelly kind of day.

I've been feeling weird for the past 24 hours, ever since I read WTF's last post where she writes about how she still googles her former academic colleagues and feels kind of wistful about the academic life, missing it and wondering if she'll ever go back. Some of the other postacademic bloggers have expressed similar emotions in the past ... which, for the record, I totally understand. They're (mostly) Type 2 leavers, so it's normal that they would feel wistful and nostalgic about their old lives. It makes sense, and I don't judge or think it's at all weird that they're feeling that way.

But every time I see a post like that, it makes me feel sort of weird ... and it takes me a day or so to shake the weird feelings.

First, I feel sad for them that they're not able to pursue the work that they love anymore. I can't even imagine how hard leaving would be if I actually missed academic work but just couldn't find a job. That must just tear you up inside. And it makes me furious at academia. The industry should want to keep the bright, motivated people who love the work ... not farm them out in a constantly rotating stream of adjuncts with no job security and a shamefully low salary.

At the same time, though, those wistful posts kind of make me feel like a loser or a flake. Because I don't miss the work at all. Haven't looked back once since I left last February. I haven't looked at anyone's CV since I left, and haven't been curious to. I haven't read a single journal article or felt compelled to write anything other than this blog. (I have read a few books from my discipline, so I guess I'm not a total loser...) And when I hear about other people slaving away at journal articles or syllabi until late in the night, I always think "suckers!!!!" I just really realize now how much I disliked academia and I know that I dodged the world's biggest bullet by deciding to leave.

So on one hand, yayyyy! I know I made the right decision if I don't ever feel even remotely compelled to go back or to dip my toes back into the academic life!!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Worried About Your Chances?

I logged into my blog the other morning to check out my traffic stats and blogroll, and to my excitement saw that Jet has landed her first postacademic job!!!! Despite worries she's expressed about her age and health problems, she wowed the hiring committee and was offered a position on the spot!

**Pausing so that everyone can wish Jet a hearty CONGRATULATIONS on the new gig!** :)

This, just a few days after Currer wrote about making it to what seems to be the 600th (and hopefully final) round of interviews for a great job with a publishing company ... and a few weeks after recent Ph.D. wrote about getting her second nonacademic job in two years ... and a month after Literary Emergency wrote about landing her first job out of academia ... and several months after WTF found a new job (which she has recently written is more enjoyable - or at least less awful - than she expected). And of course, Anastasia has been a high school teacher for a full year now.

Now, everything is not perfect for everyone ... PINYC is still temping, Lauren is still freelancing and interviewing for jobs, and Pi is job-hunting in a new city, which is never easy. And it's not like I'm in my absolute dream nonacademic job over here.

But, to my readers who are contemplating leaving academia ... do you see a pattern here? Nearly all of us have landed nonacademic job interviews very quickly after leaving academia ... often within a few weeks or months of sending out our first resumes. And some of us have even found that in the nonacademic world, sometimes interviewers or network contacts will offer to send our resumes to someone else who might have a job that's a better fit for us! (How different is that from the academic world, huh?)

Even little old me - with my noncompleted Ph.D., quelle horreur! - landed three nonacademic job interviews in about 4 months (while only job-searching part time) before deciding to stay put in my current job for now. But when sending out resumes, I found that nobody flinched at my ABD status. Sure, no one would hire me to run a policy research organization or anything without a completed Ph.D. ... but I don't want that kind of job anyway. And as it has turned out, being ABD has not harmed me at all when looking for jobs where I'm not the head honcho. People are impressed with my masters' and with my teaching and research experience, and evaluate me as a candidate from there. It's been incredibly reassuring.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ask a Postacademic - Question 3

Today's question comes to us from a commenter who asks:
What I'm wondering is, how are the people on the "outside" in professional jobs?
The commenter then goes on to say that zie "must sound like a sheltered silver spoon academic."

Heh. Don't worry about it ... I've been there. And it's totally normal. Academia is very isolating, so it's very easy to go months and months without interacting meaningfully with many people outside of academia (no, the cashier at your local drugstore doesn't count). In the meantime, you're told by a lot of people in academia that "the outside world" is boring and meaningless and full of cubicle-dwelling, catty idiots. And if you hear something enough, you'll start believing it.

So I get it. I don't think that you're being a snob. And anyone who's reading here and thinking "what a snob!" should spend a few years in academia, and see how it shifts your view of the outside world. Because it will ... almost before you realize it.

Anyway, onto the question...
Are they all mean girls or are they OK to work with?
As I said last week ... it's impossible to lump all nonacademic jobs together into one. Similarly, it's impossible to lump all nonacademic coworkers into one.

So I guess the answer to this question is "No, people in the outside world are not all mean girls ... and a lot of them are okay to work with. Not all of them, but most of them."

But this is no different than in academia. Think about your department and the grad students and faculty from different places that you've met. I bet you can think of one or two who fit the "mean girl" or "bully" stereotype. I bet you can think of a few who are assholes. I bet you can think of a few who you consider to be sort of stupid or ignorant or uninformed. And I bet you can think of quite a few who you think are pretty nice and enjoyable to be around and work with.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Postacademic Rant 8 - On Being a "Quitter"

I'm having writers' blog again, guys. Sigh...

Sadly, I can't seem to even make another "Ask a Postacademic" post come together coherently. Posting will be back to normal next week, I'm sure. But in the meantime, I'll post another postacademic rant to tide you over until I can squeeze some fresh new writing out of my brain.

As an aside: now that I'm just writing as a hobby rather than for a job, it's been kind of interesting to see - really see - how my motivation/creativity/excitement to write ebbs and flows. I seem to go through about a week every couple of months where even trying to get a few paragraphs out is almost physically painful. Looking back, I remember going through periods like this when I was in grad school, although I never really paid careful attention to it like I do now.

Because back then, when I'd go through a writers' block period, I'd panic. I'd start berating myself for not being able to write. I'd be hunched over my computer, calling myself a slacker and a fraud. "You write for a living, and you can't even get a paragraph out? You're a loser who's never going to get a job." And then after I'd get a couple of crappy paragraphs put together, I'd berate myself for writing so incoherently. It was a nasty cycle.

In academia, where you're supposed to be working constantly and where there are no true "off hours" for your work, you'll start beating yourself up anytime you sit down to write and nothing comes out. "What's wrong with me?? I'm a writer! Anytime I want to, I should be able to sit down and write for hours! That's it ... I'm not a writer. I'm a loser!!! And once I show my advisor this horrible work, zie is going to see what a loser I am and they're going to kick me out of my program and I'll never get a job!!" All because you are going through the same work and motivation cycles that nearly everyone in the world goes through.

But in academia, see, it's not good enough for you to be just like everyone else. Because everyone else is inferior to the exalted people who have made it into the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower. Academics are unique and special and can produce flawless work 24/7 (or so they like to tell each other they do). So when you go through an unproductive period, you will start beating yourself up for not being as good as your colleagues.

But now that I'm not in academia anymore, I don't have to deal with any of that crap. Since my job doesn't require me to produce endless pages of written work every day (that has to be flawless even though nobody will ever read it), I'm not stressing about this writer's block. I'm still good at my job and I'm still a worthwhile employee and person, even when my brain is a little tired. And the readers of this blog will still be here when I come up with something new.

What an awesome feeling! I write when I want to, on topics that interest me. If I've got nothing, I just go do something else. Yayyy for postacademia!!

So until my writers' block passes, here's another postacademic rant to tide you over. Standard disclaimer: these were written more than a year ago, when I was in therapy dealing with my hatred of academia and my decision to leave, and "writing out my feelings" on recommendation of my therapist. As it turns out, I had a lot of feelings ... pages and pages worth, which have been neatly distilled into "postacademic rants" for you to read.

But it's important to note, lest anyone wonder ... I'm not this angry anymore. The anger does pass.

However, I know that some of you who find this blog probably are this angry. So this is for you. :)

Oh, and the language is very much NSFW.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ask a Postacademic - Question 2

A couple of commenters (or perhaps the same one leaving multiple comments?) have asked me some variation of a question about balancing work and family life within and outside of academia:
What about the work-life balance in a professional job? Is it more realistic to start a family in a profession than working toward tenure?
I'm going to throw this one out for fellow postacademic bloggers and commenters to help me answer. Since I don't have kids and have a partner who has a nonstandard work schedule, my concerns over work-life balance aren't going to be the same ones that most people have.

Now, in terms of my own personal work/life balance - making time for a partner and pets and outside hobbies and responsibilities? Well, based on that, I can answer this question ... and my answer is that my work/life balance is much better now than it was when I was in academia. I've always been a worrier with a tendency to overthink and obsess over things, so the constant guilt and pressure of academic work hanging over my head drove me crazy. My schedule was undoubtedly more flexible in academia ... but as I've written many times before, it didn't feel flexible.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Chronicle Readers Love their Academic Jobs

I found myself on the Chronicle of Higher Ed's "Leaving Academe" forums a few weeks ago, after following some links from their food stamps article. I've been writing and editing this post ever since, trying to streamline and shorten it up ... but somehow it keeps just getting longer. So that's it - I'm just going to post it as-is. You all are used to me being wordy, right??? :)

The thread in question I'd like to link you to is this thread, in which current faculty were asked by a potential academic leaver to describe what they love about their jobs.

Some of the posts really resonated with me - people described those terrific moments in the classroom (rare as they may be) where students really seem to "get it." How much they loved the long summers off or being able to take sabbaticals. Being around young people. That stuff really can be pretty great.

But at the same time, I wanted to highlight some comments over there that compare academia to the "real world," which I think you can take with a HUGE grain of salt.

I'm not trying to be a huge Negative Nelly here, or to encourage everyone to cut and run from academia. But as as all of us postacademic bloggers have written a million times ... current faculty need to stop encouraging grad students and fellow Ph.D.s to stay tethered to academia for the wishy-washy reason that "it's the best job in the world!" There aren't enough tenure-track jobs for all graduating Ph.D.s anymore. A thousand comments about how totally awesome academia is (like you find in that thread) aren't going to magically open up ten thousand tenure-track jobs. So academics need to quit denigrating nonacademic work and start encouraging grad students to explore other options.

So while I read that thread with interest, it gradually started to bother me. I could picture miserable adjuncts who want to leave academia reading that thread, thinking "...I want to leave, but nonacademic jobs are all so awful!! Academia is the only good job out there!!!" As we've discussed before ... that's not true. But that's not something you're going to hear in that thread.

But you'll hear it from me, again and again. Academia is not the only good workplace in the world. Every nonacademic job is not awful. And many of the things you like about academia can also be found in the nonacademic world.

Let's talk about what we find in that thread that needs a little elaboration...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ask a Postacademic ... Question 1

Answering the questions commenters left on last week's post, in no particular order ... just starting with the one I find easiest to answer succinctly and moving forward from there.

If you have any other questions for me, leave them in comments. Inspire me for future posts! :)

Question #1, from an anonymous commenter:
Is the 8-5 terribly difficult to transition into? ... Is it easier to work a straight 8-5 instead of the flexibility of academia?
It wasn't hard for me, for a few reasons. First, I had worked a number of jobs before I came to grad school, so I was used to the 8-5 routine. Second, I've always been someone who has been more productive and less panicky when I work under a strict work schedule. Even when I was in academia, I would regularly set myself defined "work hours" each day and stick strictly to that schedule - only writing, say, between 12 and 4 pm after grading papers from 9-11 am.

So if this sounds like the way you work, the regular schedule of a nonacademic job probably won't be that much of a stretch for you. You might have to adjust to having to set an alarm earlier than you're used to or working in the same place for a longer period of time than you normally do - but if you function well by setting up a strict "work hours v. non-work hours" schedule, you probably won't find the transition difficult at all.

Now, if you're someone who really thrives on a nonstandard schedule or who has an impossible time getting up early in the morning, a job with a traditional 8-5 schedule probably will be kind of hard for you to transition into. But that doesn't mean you can't do it. After all, as a grad student you're able to keep up with a strict schedule of classes, meetings, teaching obligations, etc. ... right? The 8-5 world is really just that, at the core. You have places to be at a certain time of the day to work. It's just a different time and place and a different set of work tasks.

If you know you're not a morning person (like me), perhaps keep looking around until you find a job where you have to be in at 9 instead of 7. If you really value some daily flexibility in your schedule, keep looking until you find a job that allows flextime or staggered work schedules. There are a variety of work environments out there - not every one is "punch in at 8, sit at your desk until 5 with no breaks." Sure, those jobs exist. But every nonacademic office job isn't like that.

And importantly ... keep in mind that if you're looking for a job with an MA or a Ph.D., you are even less likely to wind up a drone working in a menial job with a tyrant boss who freaks out if you clock in two minutes late.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Postacademic Job You Could Get! ... Round Two

Go check what recentPhD has written about the job at her old employer. Go now.

Then read her follow up post about why she thinks a postacademic would be perfect for this job, and how she's involved in this hiring process and would potentially be able to directly help the right postacademic candidate get this job.

Want a potential lifeline out of grad school misery or adjunct hell? Or even out of a good tenure track job that you hate? Live in or around DC, or ever wanted to move there?

Email her now. Now now now. recentphd [at] gmail <dot> com. Or go check out the job ad on Versatile Ph.D. and apply.

But then email her so that she knows that you're a postacademic who's applying for the job, so that she can try to help you out! I can't speak for her, of course, but I know that if anyone ever applied to a job at my company and referenced that they were a reader of my blog and were a postacademic, I would definitely go the extra mile in making sure that person at least got an interview. And I can't imagine that she'd be blogging about it if she didn't genuinely want postacademics to apply.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Got Questions?

I'm back, kids! Sorry I haven't posted this week ... I had family in town for the holiday weekend, and have been playing catch-up at work all week. I really don't have much to write at the moment, but didn't want to leave you hanging through the weekend.

I keep feeling like I should write up a post about the job I have now, along the lines of what WTF has been posting lately. After all, I'm fully out of academia and have one of those "regular job" things I keep encouraging everyone else to look for. Maybe I should write a little bit about mine?

Well, the truth is ... I don't really know what to write about it. My job is fine! I've made it past the first month in my new management position and ... it's going quite well! And the job is ... well, it's the same job I've had on at least a part-time basis for the past 5 years. I know how to do it, and do it well. I know my coworkers. My boss is flexible, and the workload is heavy but not overwhelming.

It suits me. I go in in the morning, do my work, chat with my coworkers, hopefully help a few people, and walk out the door at 5. I'm used to the job, and find it reasonably intellectually stimulating, but not overwhelming. I have enough downtime to chat with my coworkers or take a walk to a local restaurant to grab a quick lunch. My job involves both tasks that are challenging and those that are more mindless, so that I can almost always structure my work weeks to match my mood. (Tired or not feeling well? It's time for a mindless task. Feeling motivated and well-rested? Time for something a little more complicated). And I'm paid fairly for what I do.

So, yeah ... work is pretty okay. Definitely okay enough so that I don't miss academia at all. One of my closest friends is currently dissertating and teaching and going through the whole academia/grad school rigamarole ... and as I watch hir deal with all of it, I don't miss it even one tiny bit. It's not that I absolutely love my current job or anything - it's just that it's not academia. And academia just didn't have anything for me anymore. It didn't make me happy ... and in the end, it was asking too much from me (all of my free time, having to move "anywhere in the country") than I was willing to give to a job that didn't make me happy.

So my current job doesn't make me super-happy, but I'm perfectly content with my life as it stands now. My job is just that - a job. Will I find a "career job" at some point in the future? Probably. But for now, I'm happy to have a job where I don't have academic guilt hanging over my head, and where my my work projects actually have a start and end point so that I can see what I'm accomplishing, instead of the unending pile of academic work.

Oh yeah, and my weekends and evenings are mine again. Words can't even describe how much I still appreciate this "new" reality.

My weekends are mine. If I want to lay on the couch all weekend and stare at the TV, I can. If I want to go out shopping or walking around the city, I can. If I want to sit at home and knock back a bottle of wine with a friend (or hell, alone! Haha :), I can. And nobody expects me to be back in the office til Monday. No matter what.

I love the nonacademic world for that reason alone. Not being absolutely in love with my job is worth it to me, because once I walk out of the office, I can go concentrate on the things and people I love, with absolutely no other demands on my time. It's amazing.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Workin' and Schoolin' Together ... A Good Idea?

In the comments at one of her terrific recent posts about the economics of graduate school, Lauren and I got into a bit of a discussion about money and academia. Lauren's post was about the tendency among grad students (including the two of us!) to take on more and more student loan debt as they progress through school, simply to help pay for life's necessities. In her post, she notes that this seems to be an accepted part of grad school for many students ... and she thinks this is a really big problem.

I agree on both counts. Taking on additional debt isn't seen as an irresponsible thing to do among most grad students, and there is little concern about how much we're accruing or how we're actually going to pay all of it back. That's ridiculous. And this is all done with the full blessing of our advisors and departments, who are either deluded about or deliberately ignoring the bleak academic job market that lies ahead for us. That's bordering on criminal. (I'm exaggerating, but only slightly).

So in the end (as I've alluded to in my series on privilege in academia) you wind up with a bunch of students who graduate with massive piles of debt ... many of whom will be unable to find jobs that will pay enough to allow them to pay off the debt before they retire. In other words, a whole lot of graduating Ph.D. students are starting their careers off in dire financial straits and saddling themselves with debt loads in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, with no idea of what job prospects await them (hint: not good ones).

So this is a problem that requires a solution, because this system is unsustainable. With the collapsing job market, students cannot keep taking on more and more debt as their job prospects become more and more bleak. Something needs to change.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another New Postacademic Blog

Man, do I ever love when my traffic stats alert me to a new postacademic blog. I loooooove it. I can't even describe how happy it makes me to see someone else blogging about this whole process. While it's awful that we're all struggling with this transition with the associated guilt and sadness and anger and lack of support from our departments, it's great that we're all out here communicating with each other and supporting each other.

And hopefully, when some grad student or adjunct who is feeling hopeless about their life runs a Google search that leads them to one of our blogs, they get some comfort from finding that there are so many of us out here who are feeling the same way ... but have gotten ourselves out and have moved (or are moving) onto new jobs and new careers.

Today, I introduce University of Lies to the postacademic blogging community.

The blog author is a Ph.D. student in the humanities who is on hir way out. It's not clear whether zie is a Type 1 or Type 2 leaver (if zie would even classify hirself as one or the other), but it's clear from the early posts that zie is fed up with the culture of academia and the lies about what the job is actually like (hint: your intro to literature course will NOT look like a deleted scene from Dead Poets Society).

Unlike many of us who were fed nothing but idealistic nonsense about grad school and academia, it sounds like UOL was actually warned by their favorite undergraduate professor that grad school was not as wonderful as advertised. It really sounds like hir advisor tried his best to convince hir not to head to school, but like many aspiring grad students, UOL ignored the advice.

(This is no knock on UOL, of course. As we've discussed in the postac blogosphere before, most of us agree that we would never have listened if we'd been adequately warned of what was ahead of us. And plenty of people we talk to now don't listen or don't understand what we're saying).

But UOL has seen the forest for the trees now, and is getting out, and writing some great (and funny) stuff along the way. Go check it out!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Relationships in Postacademia

A commenter on my post from last week asked me to write a little bit about how my partner and I were able to make our relationship work while I transitioned out of academia. Zie writes that the transitional process has been tough for hir relationship, and is looking for tips on how those of us who have left have made it work while keeping a relationship intact.

Before I get started, I'd like to mention that it might be helpful for some of the postacademic bloggers who have kids (Jet? Jen? Lauren?) to write about how this transition can be navigated with kids in tow. I can't speak to this issue at all, obviously, but I think it might be helpful for others.

Anyway, Currer already posted some great thoughts on this, so I urge everyone to check out her post. I don't think I can add much to what she wrote, although I'll ramble on for awhile anyway. :)

Obviously ... I am not a counselor or relationship expert. Take my advice with a grain of salt.

Also, keep in mind that my situation is a bit different than other postacademics. I had a job immediately upon leaving academia, which is a very unusual situation for most academic leavers. (See - ignoring your department's rules and getting a part-time job while you're in school can pay off!!) So my partner and I never had to deal with the stress of unemployment, and rather than facing financial strain when I left academia, we've actually benefited financially. So I can't offer much advice about how to negotiate the concrete pressures of unemployment or financial strain. I can, however, offer advice about making a relationship work while you're dealing with the emotional process of leaving academia.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Drama at Work ... Nonacademic Style

I keep meaning to write a longer post in which I talk about how the "new" job is going ... but haven't really had much to say. I have a managerial role and higher pay in exchange for not much more work than I was previously doing ... so that's good. There was a little bit of minor drama when my promotion was still announced, due to the fact that some of my coworkers had their egos bruised because I'd been given the promotion over them.

But the drama has blown over by now ... the coworkers see that I'm not some crazed tyrant now that I have some managerial power, and they see that I'm still the same old JC that I always was - I still joke around with them and come to them for advice and brainstorming, and in general am still an okay person. It seems to be all back to normal, and it's all good.

(One of these days, by the way, I'll write up a post about job-hunting and job-seeking in this industry, with some information about how I got this job, what I do, and how we go about looking for new hires - which we're doing right now. Just give me a little bit of time to collect my thoughts.)

But for today, I just wanted to post this little tidbit of humor...

When my promotion was first announced a couple of weeks ago and a few of my coworkers got a little testy about everything, my first reaction was to get kind of angry. "Why did I take this stupid promotion? Why did I decide to keep working here with these catty people? Why did I ever leave grad school?"

Then I calmed down and thought about it a little more, and started to, you know, actually remember grad school. And remembered how academics can be some of the cattiest people in the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On Sadness

The most recent post at Currer's place got me thinking a little bit about the emotional process that we postacademics go through when we decide to leave, and left me inspired to write a little bit about sadness.

Whether you're a Type 1 or Type 2 leaver, you'll most likely go through some distinct cycles of emotion when to leave. You can see these cycles reflected in the blogs of those of us who were/are blogging as we go through the process of leaving ... one week, we'll be elated about the fact that we can take a day off for a roadtrip or in awe of the normalcy of a nonacademic workplace. Just elated! Life is wonderful! There's no one pressuring you to work constantly!!! You are freeeeee!!!

Then on the next week, you'll find us fuming at academia ... either ranting at the unfairness of the whole system or complain about the rampant and pointless optimism of our advisors when there are no jobs to be had. And if we aren't ranting about academia, we're ranting about other people who tell us not to rant about academia. Really, anger is probably the biggest emotion that most of us feel ... and most definitely the one that hangs on the longest.

But something that you also need to prepare yourself for, if you leave, is the sadness.

Currer wrote about it this week, and others have written about sad spells in the past. I don't think I wrote about sadness very much on this blog ... probably because, like most people, I want to put the best face forward at all times. It can be hard to admit to having sad moments, especially when you know, deep down, that you're making the right decision and want to encourage other people to not be afraid to follow your lead.

But that doesn't mean that I didn't experience sadness and grief when I left. Believe me, I did.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just In Case Anyone's Wondering...

...Seventeen months. That's how long it took anyone at my department to notice I was gone.

Well, anyone who hadn't run into me out on the town, that is. In the interest of full disclosure, I've seen a few faculty members out and about and have given them updates on my situation. But I still haven't heard from my advisor since December 2010, and at no point in the past 17 months has anyone from my department contacted me to see if I was still working on my dissertation, if I needed anything, whether I had found a job, etc. Nothing.

I purposely waited to officially notify them that I was dropping out, by the way. Since my advisor was not communicative and I still wanted to stay "enrolled" for this academic year to defer my student loans, I figured I had nothing to gain by announcing to anyone that I was leaving before this academic year. And after a few more months passed and no one had checked up on me (other than to ask me to teach, of course), I decided that I wanted to see how long it would take them to notice I was gone. Or if they ever would.

And now I have my answer. Seventeen months. It took them seventeen months to drop me a quick email to see how/what I was doing.

Let's put that in perspective: I could have carried and birthed two children during this time frame.

My department is clearly not illustrative of every department in the world, but I urge you to think about this. If your advisor wasn't checking up on you, how long would it take your department to actually notice your absence?

If I stopped showing up at my current job, it probably wouldn't take a full day for my boss and coworkers to check on me. If I didn't show up for a second day? They'd probably drive by my house. Three days? They'd probably call the cops.

Now, of course, graduate school is different than my current job ... you're not on campus every day, and you don't see everyone every day. But still ..... seventeen months??? From a department that is supposed to be mentoring you and advising you and helping you out every step of the way until you find a real job?

I mean, I know I was nothing more than teaching fodder for them, but still.......

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ph.D.s on Food Stamps

The Chronicle posts an expose about adjuncts and temporary faculty who are on food stamps.

From a quick glance, the piece seems well-researched and well-written. I'm happy to see them quoting folks from the New Faculty Majority and referencing the Adjunct Project.

And while I'll have to take some time over the next few days to give it a closer read before I have more to say about it, I'll just say for now that I'm thrilled to see the Chronicle bringing this "dirty little secret" of higher education staffing to light.

As the adjuncts in the story report, this is an embarrassing reality for them that they don't like to talk about. And indeed, it seems that the reality that adjuncts are on food stamps is an embarrassing reality that the higher education system in this country would like to keep under wraps. So good on the Chronicle for bringing this issue to the very public forefront. The situation for adjuncts isn't going to improve overnight, but at least shedding some public light on it increases the likelihood that something will change at some point in the future.

After all ... if parents around the country begin to realize that the "impressive faculty" that they are spending tens of thousands of dollars to send their children to study under are actually adjuncts who are jetting around between four campuses and therefore aren't around to meet with and advise their children on their studies and their career goals? I can't imagine they'd be very enthusiastic about continuing to support those schools with all of their hard-earned money.

And if those same parents learn that their tens of thousands of tuition dollars are being used to build shiny new buildings and give a massive raise to the Assistant Vice President of Getting More Money for the University while their children's professors are lining up at food banks? I don't think the parents would have to be card-carrying Occupy Movement members to get pretty upset about something like that.

So a hearty "good job" to the Chronicle. I encourage my readers to share this article far and wide.