Monday, February 27, 2012

On Procrastination

Oh, the new post at 100 Reasons is fantastic. Fantastic. Go read it if you haven't already.

This part in particular (emphasis mine):
Sitting down and writing is the only way out of graduate school with a degree, but the great difficulty with which so many graduate students approach this task is your first clue (and often their first clue) that they don’t actually like what they are doing. Unfortunately, procrastination simply prolongs their misery.
If you find yourself regularly plagued with the procrastination bug, think about this. Really think about it. Are you really just "lazy" (like self-deprecating grad students like to proclaim)? Or do you really, down deep inside, dislike the work you're doing, and that's why you avoid doing it?

It's okay if you do dislike it. I promise. But you need to identify it for what it is ... not laziness, but dislike. Once you label it, you can make an alternative plan and find some work that you will actually like. There are other careers out there other than academia and research. I promise!!!!

Maybe once you have an idea of what work you will actually like (or simply what work you *don't* like), you can break out of that procrastination bubble and get your academic sh*t done, and move onto bigger and better things.

Either way, it's better than trying to force yourself to finish the dissertation or book or whatever that you hate, only to face a looooong career of doing other similar work that you will also hate. Trust me.

Instead of joking about the procrastination, try to think about what it actually means.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How My Life is Better Since I Left - Part 2

Here's Part 2 in my "Reasons I'm Glad I Left" series, in which I'm reflecting upon my one-year anniversary of leaving academia. I'm posting these as a celebration of sorts, as well as for encouragement for those of you who are thinking about leaving that it's not all scary and terrible out here in the real world, despite what your fellow academics may try to tell you.

Now of course, the world looks rosier from my vantage point as someone with a decent job than it would for someone who was unemployed or heavily under-employed. If you're just starting to think about leaving, these tangible rewards won't all present themselves immediately (although some of them will - like the elimination of academic guilt!). But if you're truly miserable, like I was, please don't let that fact deter you. It's hard to find a new job, but it's also hard to live a long life where you feel miserable and undervalued in your current job.

So here you are. Numbers 6 through 10 in the list of Ways My Life is Now Better, in random order.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How My Life is Better Since I Left - Part 1

As I mentioned yesterday, today is the one-year anniversary of the day that I officially decided that I was going to leave academia.

I knew the anniversary had to be coming up soon, so a few months ago I went back through my email archives to find the email that I remembered sending to a good friend of mine when School A called to tell me they'd hired someone else. I clearly remembered sending that friend an email just after I got the call, lamenting my pathetic future in academia ... and then realized a few hours later (with help from my partner) that I didn't have to stay in academia. So oddly enough, I can trace this decision back to one particular day and had a time-stamped record of when the decision was made. And that day was February 22, 2011.

So here I am, one year later. And I'm happier, less stressed, and tremendously glad that I made the decision to leave. I'm not entirely sure what the future holds for me - I know where I want to live, but am still struggling with exactly what I want to do and what kind of jobs I should be trying for now. But I'm applying for jobs and researching careers, and figuring things out. I'll get there.

Anyway, when I discovered the exact anniversary date a few months ago, I started jotting down a list of ways in which my life is better now that it was in grad school. I initially had the list broken down down into rough categories, but once I started putting these posts together I realized it made no sense to try to categorize them. There's no need to try to figure out exactly what categories each improvement to my life fits into. The simple truth is that my life is much better now. There's no reason to think it over in more detail.

So here you go. Reasons 1-5 in which my life is better post-academia, in no particular order. Reasons 6 and beyond will be posted in upcoming days. For now, enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On My Anniversary of Leaving...

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the date on which I left academia.

Well ... more accurately, tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the day I learned that I was not going to be hired for the academic job I'd interviewed for that I actually wanted. (To recap: I had three campus interviews and only liked one school, which hired someone else. A second school offered me a one-year VAP gig, which I turned down). After going through the interview process, I was positive that School A was the only job I wanted. The other two schools were nice enough, but for a number of reasons they just didn't suit me. I didn't enjoy the people or the towns or even the students I met, and the pay for the latter two jobs was very low. By the time I returned home, I was actively hoping that School A would hire me and that Schools B and C would not hire me.

I got the bad news by phone from School A at around 5pm on February 22. I hung up the phone, and panicked for about an hour. I cried and yelled. It wasn't pretty ... but I was really upset. Because I now knew that I had two terrible choices looming ahead of me. Being rejected from School A meant that I'd either be forced to (1) take a job at Schools B or C that I didn't like, or (2) scramble for funding from Grad U for another year, taking another stress- and anxiety-filled stab at the market the following fall (all the while knowing that my chances of getting an interview at a second "School A" were miniscule). In short, I was either going to be a miserable faculty member or a stressed and anxious grad student, yet again. Needless to say, I didn't like either option.

But while I was panicking, either I or my partner (I can't even remember who) suggested that maybe - just maybe - I didn't have to do either thing. That I could take my degrees and my education and do something else with them.

Suddenly, it hit me. I could leave if I wanted to. I didn't have to take an academic job that I didn't want. And I didn't have to prostrate myself to my department by begging for funding again, just so I could go through the academic job market again and wind up with a job I didn't like. Academia didn't own me. I could do whatever I wanted ... and it was okay to not want to do academia anymore. Grad U didn't own me, and it was okay to look for a job that would make me happy ... regardless of what kind of job Grad U wanted me to take.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Postacademic (or Near-Postacademic) Blogs

Hey all,

I'm still here, but have had a bit of writer's block this week. I'm sure that'll change immediately, and I'll write something like six long posts in the next five days. That's just how I roll. :)

But in the meantime, I wanted to point out two new blogs I ran across this morning. Your Barista Has a Ph.D. is written by a humanities Ph.D. who is pursuing alternate routes after two unsuccessful trips on the job market. S/he is a parent, so some of you who are concerned about how to balance family and academia/postacademia might find some useful information over there that you can't get from childfree me. In particular, I appreciate hir thoughts about the impossibility of chasing adjunct/VAP work around the country when you have kids in tow. Zie also has some good advice for keeping yourself sane while first deciding to leave (hint: stay off the academic jobs wiki!!!).

The second blog is Pre-Post-Academia. This blogger is also a humanities Ph.D. who is taking some smart first steps toward a nonacademic career and trying to decide whether to finish her dissertation. She also has some really interesting ideas about how people who were the "smart" kids in school (probably a decent percentage of us who pursue Ph.D.s) experience academia and the process of career changing.

So go forth and read and comment at these new blogs ... and once again, see that you aren't alone.

I'll be back with more posts later this week. Happy Sunday!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Notes on A Postacademic Weekend

Does this title of this post make it sound like I'm about to tell you about some wild-and-crazy weekend where I traveled widely, ate exotic food, and had a night full of drinks and laughter with a bunch of friends?

Ha ... not so much. :)

On Thursday, I was on day two or three of an impending sinus infection. I was sneezy, sniffly, overtired, and had a sinus headache brewing.

Around 3 pm, I got a call from a human resources person at a company I applied to a few weeks ago (surprisingly enough, from the first resume I sent out. How unlikely is that?). HR person asked me to call them back. I had a meeting all afternoon, so couldn't call hir back until Friday morning.

We played phone tag all day Friday, but never managed to actually get on the phone with each other. When I called HR person back after I left work on Friday and got their voicemail, I sort of started to worry. "What if I blew my chance by not being available this week? They must have other good candidates who already interviewed." Then I started to overthink. "I don't even know what this job will really entail. How do I know whether I want it?"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Little Light Reading..

I'm battling a pretty nasty head cold and a heavier-than normal workload this week (which is, needless to say, a really awesome combination), so substantive posting and responding to emails/comments is going to be a little bit light for the next few days.

But I didn't want to leave you all hanging all week long with nothing of substance to read! I was originally going to post another postacademic rant for you, but instead I thought I'd post a link to this discussion between a group of professors and a career advisor at the University of Chicago, discussing what humanities Ph.D. programs can and should do for their students, given the lack of academic jobs available to graduating Ph.D.s.

As always, I'm happy to see people talking about these issues. The jobs crisis in academia is a real thing that is not going away, and any indication that faculty are at least thinking and talking about the jobs crisis and how to respond to it is a good thing, in my opinion.

But of course, even in this piece that is clearly and obviously about nonacademic career planning, you have to have the requisite professor claiming that they're doing all they need to do by training Ph.D. students to do nothing more than write academic manuscripts. That somehow the knowledge that they gain while completing a traditional academic Ph.D. will be enough to send them off into the nonacademic job market, where they'll have the pick of any job they want. Sigh.

Monday, February 6, 2012

You're Not Alone - Part 9

Because we haven't had one of these in awhile ... and because I'm  too busy this morning to write a longer post...

Here are search terms that have been bringing people to this blog for the past few weeks:

graduate school good reason for leaving
should i drop out of grad school?
feel like a failure doing phd
grad school lonely miserable
how to tell people you are leaving grad school
i can't handle grad school anymore
i am miserable in graduate school
grad school depression
i hate grad school
i hate my phd topic
phd feel miserable
i hate myself and the academic job market
academia is pointless

Remember, everybody ... you're not alone in feeling this way. Just because no one around you openly talks about it does not mean you're the only one who hates what you're doing or wants to leave. And there's no shame in admitting it to yourself ... even if you aren't ready to admit it to everyone yet.

You're not alone in this.