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. :)