After thinking about everyone's advice and talking to my partner, I called and let them know that I'd "signed a contract" to stay on at my current job for a few months, to supervise our software transition and generally keep the office stable until the end of the year. I had to leave a voicemail for the hiring manager so I have no idea of how it went over, but hopefully they will understand and won't immediately pitch my resume if I do find myself applying for a job in their office later on.
In the end, (1) I didn't want that job right now, but at the same time, (2) I got an interview off of just the second resume I sent out in Current Industry ... so that tells me that if I do default to looking for work in Current Industry in the future, I will probably be able to find something.
I then had a meeting with my boss yesterday, and we're going to negotiate a raise and promotion for me that would keep me here for a bit longer. We haven't hashed out the details over pay or length of contract yet, but given that my boss has been working under the assumption that I could pick up and leave at any moment for the past several years, I'm pretty confident that he'll be willing to lock me in for as long as I'm willing to be here ... probably till the end of the year, or possibly for one year if he's adamant that I sign a contract with a nice round number.
I'm not jumping for joy, but I'm also not upset about it. Our lives are okay here, and I'm certainly not ready to sniff at a pay raise and a promotion at a job that I like perfectly well for the time being. And this will give me some time to research careers and think about what I want to do in the long run. I'm going to see the career counselor again, and was also put in touch this week with a friend of my aunt who's worked in and out of academia (albeit in a different field), and offered to look at my resume and help me think about career options.
She's not someone directly relevant to my interests or future career, but at this point I think I need to open my mind and talk to anyone who's willing to help. So we'll see what she says, and what I find out through my career research.
Also, my partner applied for the job I alluded to in my last post ... so if everyone could keep their fingers and toes crossed for him, I'd appreciate it! He likes the industry he works in, but would also like to branch out and do something else. This would be a great opportunity for him ... and since we're gonna be stuck here for a few more months, he may as well make some career progress!
I'd like to point out that, for as frustrated as I've been at times with my job search and my indecision about my future career over the past few months ... the one thing I haven't had to worry about is my financial situation.
For those reading here who are sure that you want to leave but aren't sure what will come next or what career you want to do long-term, I will again reiterate my advice to focus on a Next Job.
Of course you want to put a ton of thought and effort into figuring out where you want your career to go in the long term. But the sad truth is that for many of us who've known nothing but academia for the past few years or even decades, we may have little to no idea of what career options are actually out there for us. Unless you know that you want to jump into a career that is very similar to what you do in academia, you will likely need to take a little bit of time to research a range of careers and figure out how your skills match up and what you might need to do to better position yourself for a career in various fields.
This will take some time. You'll not only be trying to figure out what comes next, but you'll probably be hit over the head from time to time with academic guilt and/or doubt, and will have to do some emotional work to get through that and to not let it muddy your career search ("I did academia for so long ... I really need to just focus on a job in research/teaching/whatever. I need to stop dreaming of a career in physical therapy and be realistic"). Or if you're like me, you might go into kind of a "stubborn period" where, after all of the years you spent working 24/7, you simply refuse to work nonstop on researching a new career and start aggressively reclaiming your free time.
These are all things I've run into over this past year, and the one constant ... the one thing that has made it all bearable and reasonable and that has kept me sane and stable ... is the fact that I have a job that pays the bills.
So if you aren't sure what comes next (and you don't have a spouse who is massively rich who can bankroll you while you don't work at all), find yourself a Next Job.
Don't stay half-attached to academia so that you keep getting dragged back in by guilt or obligation or One More Last Minute Opportunity for One Last Project. Just leave, and find another job. And don't kill yourself over what the job is. Just give yourself the mental space away from academia so you can do the thinking and researching that you need to do.
(And bonus points: when you do apply for your Career Jobs, it won't look like you've never worked in a nonacademic job in your life. No one will be able to consider you an eggheaded "forever student" who won't be able to work under a supervisor or with coworkers.)
But more importantly ... it gives you the mental and financial space to really break from academia and figure out what comes next.
Finally, I leave you with this great quote, which I ran across at the VersatilePh.D. forums last week:
"You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing." -Richard P. FeynmanTry to keep this in mind. Only you know what will make you happy. Only you know what is going on inside your head and how you are feeling about your job, your life, your relationships.
And everyone likes doing different things and working with different people and has a different kind of "ideal life." Perhaps the faculty member or grad student who is judging you for wanting to leave academia loves academic work and can't imagine doing anything else. Since they love it, they think you're crazy for wanting to leave.
But that's the thing. You aren't them. You have different likes and dislikes, different expectations of work/life balance, different priorities that you want to focus on, and a different personality. Just because they think you ought to be just like them doesn't mean that you are just like them. And if you aren't just like them, chances are that you will want something different with your life.
And that's okay. The problem is not with you ... the problem lies with them, and their expectation that everyone is (or should be) exactly like them.
They're the close-minded ones. They're the ones making the mistake about what you should do with your life, because they're so blinkered that they can't see that everyone isn't exactly like them.
Don't let them make you feel bad for doing what is right for you. You don't owe them anything, but you do owe yourself the opportunity to be happy.