So you think you want to leave academia, now what?

I’m writing from the midst of the deep dark depression that is the death of a dream.

It’s not really that bad, folks. I had to start somewhere.  But let’s just say I have been taking a lot of “sadness baths” lately.  I’m a recent PhD recipient, from a very respectable though not top tier school. I’ve had a gazillion things published for a graduate student (an edited collection, multiple book chapters, multiple articles in scholarly journals, including one of the best in my field); I was even a keynote speaker at an event this year, and yet, I seem to be unemployable.  I can’t even get a goddamned interview. In case you’re like me, even in any way, I thought that maybe sharing my long climb from the bottom of this pit to stable employment would be a help to you. For starters, there is no roadmap as to how to transition from an academic setting to the real world.  (And thanks to the current market, there are a lot of us in the same leaking boat.) I honestly have no idea what I’m even qualified to do besides teach, and because I’ve spent the last decade in school, I’ve basically never had a real job.  YAY! But enough whining, let’s find those proverbial bootstraps. (Fuck the GOP, btw, I just don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.)

So far, I’ve taken some concrete steps, and I’ll be blogging about these and their relative usefulness.  Here’s what I did yesterday:

I met with my committee chair.  He acknowledged that there might not be a job out there for me.  In my particular case, there are other factors than just the intense market drought.  My dissertation topic, while perfect fare for cocktail party convos and highly publishable, is illegible to job committees.  I also have two kids, and I’m just not willing to move to Utah for an underpaid postdoc, then to Detroit for a two year VAP, then adjunct in South Dakota for awhile and wait for the market to turn.  If you are willing and able to do that, then you’re probably not ready to leave.  Firstly, I’m not sure I could even get a postdoc, VAP, or adjunct  position, and secondly:  Life’s too fucking short.

My chair had a lot of great words of encouragement, but mainly I spent the meeting trying not to burst into tears.  (I made it! But I sobbed right after I left him.)  It’s so hard not to feel like an exit is a failure.  But it’s not: it’s an exit. And if you ask me, it’s an escape from a rapidly sinking ship.  Oh, the Humanities!

I left with a two pronged plan: one, continue to put out applications this spring, but only to academic jobs in places I really want to live, and to expand that search to community colleges.  Two, begin the process of transitioning to life beyond academia.  How do we do that? Read more tomorrow.

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