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.

So, if you're sitting in your office or in the grad lab reading in the postacademic blogosphere, wishing you could leave but being too afraid of what's out there? Take heart. Even in this crappy job market, most of us have found something. All of us have had interviews. Some of us have landed great jobs. Others are working not-so-great jobs that are "beneath" what our education and training and degrees and snobby advisors suggest we should be able to get. But those, too, are jobs. And even those of us who are (or were) working those kind of "low-level" jobs have vowed to not go back to academia.

Because these days, even a "low-level" job is quite possibly preferable to adjuncting or another year begging for funding in grad school. Or another round of stress and disrespect and uncertainty on the academic job market.

So if you really feel like you need to leave, don't be too scared of the outside job market. There are opportunities out here, and nonacademic employers aren't all going to throw your resume out the window. In fact, given the current status of the academic job market, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that even if you go through an unemployed period or have to take a menial job for a few months to pay the bills, your long-term chances of happiness and stable employment are quite possibly better outside of academia than inside it.

This is especially true if you're a Type 1 Leaver who is facing a lifetime of doing work you hate. How could that be preferable to finding some kind of work in another industry??? But it's also true for a Type 2 Leaver in the humanities ... who's going to have to toil away as an adjunct for years and years before maybe finding something better if they stay in academia.

If the situation is unbearable for you within academia, don't be afraid to leave. There are jobs out here for postacademics.

Am I telling you that you will definitely land a job within 30 days of deciding to leave academia? Absolutely not. But are you resigning yourself to a life of unemployment if you leave? I highly, highly doubt it. Based on the tiny sample of people in the postacademic blogosophere, your chances of landing a new job are pretty decent. And based on the national unemployment rate, those of you with graduate degrees are a lot less likely to wind up unemployed than someone with less education. The numbers are in your favor ... and you have a whole network of people out here (and at places like Versatile Ph.D) who can help you find a job outside of academia.

Am I telling everyone to cut and run from academia right now? Absolutely not. But if you really feel like you need to leave, don't let the fear stop you. Just because your department tells you that you're a lowly unprepared student doesn't mean that outside employers will view you the same way. Just because you've been "in school" for nearly a decade doesn't mean that nonacademic employers won't see you as an impressive candidate with job experience. And just because making a change is scary doesn't mean that it's a bad idea.

Each of us in the postacademic blogosophere started our blogs when we first left academia. No one over there on the right has written a blog that looks back historically on the process of leaving academia and finding a new job - where we could sugarcoat the process or pretend it didn't take as long as it really did. You watched our separation from academia and job-search process play out in real time.

And now, a few months or a year later? Nearly every one of us has found opportunities outside of academia, all while living in different cities and coming from different fields and looking for different types of jobs.

It's not an easy process - I won't lie. But please don't think that your choices are to (1) stay in academia or (2) wind up sleeping under a bridge. We've all made the break, and none of us are homeless. And all of our blogs have all gotten comments from readers who also left academia and found gainful employment elsewhere. And forums like Versatile Ph.D. are full of stories of people who've done it.

So if you feel like you want to or need to leave, don't be scared of the outside job market. I'm not going to speak for the whole postacademic blogosphere here ... but I know that I would never go back into academia under any circumstances. Life out here is just better.

If you need to leave, start writing a resume. Register for the forums at Versatile Ph.D. Start perusing job ads. And remember ... if we can all do it, you can do it!!


  1. Thanks for this post, it's just what I needed this morning. I've just requested a leave of absence from my English PhD department this week (I don't plan to go back, but as I'm still at kind of an early stage in the process, it seemed like I might as well keep my options open just in case) and will be looking for jobs as soon as I finish up a summer teaching gig. So I definitely appreciate the reassurance that I won't end up under a bridge! I've been reading your blog for awhile, and it has been really helpful as I've been considering leaving the past few months - I don't know many people who have left my program, so it has been really great to be able to hear about other people's experiences with leaving online!

  2. Yay for Jet and everyone. Seriously, when anyone tells me they're leaving grad school, my response is CONGRATULATIONS! Simply because it opens so many doors. It's so much more freeing than feeling trapped in an increasingly small corridor with one door at the end that's locked. Now I feel like there are doors left and right and I just keep trying them until I find the one that's open for me.

    Like you, no one has had a problem with my non-complete PhD status. No one cares. They care about my experience.

  3. I'll be honest, JC. I'm still worried about my chances, but thanks for the vote of confidence!

    1.'re doing better than me - you've gone further in nonacademic interviews than I did! I just settled for the same old job I already had. :)

      But I'm confident that even if the position at LAP doesn't work out, you'll find something soon. You know how to do this applying/interviewing thing now, so something will work out.

  4. Thanks for following my job application/interview progress and latest news JC. After hearing I was 'in' I thought about others in the post-academic blog community and saw there was a nice pattern of good news developing - so reassuring! I gave up contract teaching last June and took up a local fixed term Research Assistant post a couple of months later, which was interesting albeit a bit messy as a project with regards to the disagreements amongst a couple of others in the research team. I can't say I 'hated' it - it was interesting territory, but it didn't exactly make me want to take another shot of academia. I saw it for what it was and it was a good opportunity to build on some skills, work in a nice part of the city where I could cycle to work (on my electric bike! - highly recommended!) and make some money for the time being - they even gave me extra work for a month so more cash there. The stint helped my resume and gave me more confidence while job searching. I could have so easily just gone along with the safe teaching bet for another year or so while figuring out what to do - in my case, I'm happy I took the risk and just left. Yes, it is scary, but I think it's allowed me to see things differently now and take other risks that I wouldn't have before. Hang in there other post-academic job-seekers!

  5. do you know - I was reflecting on the same observation too - it does appear that everyone is making their uncertain way out and ending up doing ok. The whole academic thing is such a security blanket that you drag around with you and it seems totally inconceivable that life might exist outside, but then you step out into the light and voila! there is a whole world to explore.

  6. Wow! So you're saying that outside of academia there are companies and organizations who appreciate what you have to offer in terms of your skills? And they don't care if you have an advanced degree and maybe find it BENEFICIAL? That sounds like an amazing picture for a life I could have. Instead of being forced to go to more committee meetings, being forced to allow undeserving students to get away with everything in the name of "keeping up numbers", and dealing with a "you'll take what we give you because there are 8 other people who would love to have your job and will adjunct forever just for a shot at it", I can actually have a LIFE with weekends off and weekdays that give me interesting work and people with room to move up?

    Mind Blown.

    No, seriously, thanks for posting this JC. Your blog is a source of inspiration for me and this post is exactly what I needed to hear. You're doing a good thing here.

  7. I have sent out so many resumes over the last 2.5 years and I'm still adjuncting. Please pray for me.

  8. Such an uplifting post! Finding a non-academic position wasn't easy, but it certainly wasn't the absolute horror show I thought it would be (and yes, I did have visions of under-bridge living and having my barista applications rejected for lack of practical skills). Thanks for compiling all the good news stories!

  9. Future grad school quitta here. R1 uni in STEM field and I can tell you it's not all roses and sunshine, the academic outlook (based on my experience) is nearly as bad for us as it is in the social sciences an humanities. What I hate most about the R1 environment are all the fragile egos. If you're a "lowly" grad student that starts pointing out the flaws in the system you're basically told to know your role and hush. Seriously, forget this place. I'm ABD but once I get out of here I'm never looking back. Good riddance! Good luck to all the current and future quittas out there, you'll make it!!!