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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ask a Postacademic - Question 3

Today's question comes to us from a commenter who asks:
What I'm wondering is, how are the people on the "outside" in professional jobs?
The commenter then goes on to say that zie "must sound like a sheltered silver spoon academic."

Heh. Don't worry about it ... I've been there. And it's totally normal. Academia is very isolating, so it's very easy to go months and months without interacting meaningfully with many people outside of academia (no, the cashier at your local drugstore doesn't count). In the meantime, you're told by a lot of people in academia that "the outside world" is boring and meaningless and full of cubicle-dwelling, catty idiots. And if you hear something enough, you'll start believing it.

So I get it. I don't think that you're being a snob. And anyone who's reading here and thinking "what a snob!" should spend a few years in academia, and see how it shifts your view of the outside world. Because it will ... almost before you realize it.

Anyway, onto the question...
Are they all mean girls or are they OK to work with?
As I said last week ... it's impossible to lump all nonacademic jobs together into one. Similarly, it's impossible to lump all nonacademic coworkers into one.

So I guess the answer to this question is "No, people in the outside world are not all mean girls ... and a lot of them are okay to work with. Not all of them, but most of them."

But this is no different than in academia. Think about your department and the grad students and faculty from different places that you've met. I bet you can think of one or two who fit the "mean girl" or "bully" stereotype. I bet you can think of a few who are assholes. I bet you can think of a few who you consider to be sort of stupid or ignorant or uninformed. And I bet you can think of quite a few who you think are pretty nice and enjoyable to be around and work with.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Postacademic Rant 8 - On Being a "Quitter"

I'm having writers' blog again, guys. Sigh...

Sadly, I can't seem to even make another "Ask a Postacademic" post come together coherently. Posting will be back to normal next week, I'm sure. But in the meantime, I'll post another postacademic rant to tide you over until I can squeeze some fresh new writing out of my brain.

As an aside: now that I'm just writing as a hobby rather than for a job, it's been kind of interesting to see - really see - how my motivation/creativity/excitement to write ebbs and flows. I seem to go through about a week every couple of months where even trying to get a few paragraphs out is almost physically painful. Looking back, I remember going through periods like this when I was in grad school, although I never really paid careful attention to it like I do now.

Because back then, when I'd go through a writers' block period, I'd panic. I'd start berating myself for not being able to write. I'd be hunched over my computer, calling myself a slacker and a fraud. "You write for a living, and you can't even get a paragraph out? You're a loser who's never going to get a job." And then after I'd get a couple of crappy paragraphs put together, I'd berate myself for writing so incoherently. It was a nasty cycle.

In academia, where you're supposed to be working constantly and where there are no true "off hours" for your work, you'll start beating yourself up anytime you sit down to write and nothing comes out. "What's wrong with me?? I'm a writer! Anytime I want to, I should be able to sit down and write for hours! That's it ... I'm not a writer. I'm a loser!!! And once I show my advisor this horrible work, zie is going to see what a loser I am and they're going to kick me out of my program and I'll never get a job!!" All because you are going through the same work and motivation cycles that nearly everyone in the world goes through.

But in academia, see, it's not good enough for you to be just like everyone else. Because everyone else is inferior to the exalted people who have made it into the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower. Academics are unique and special and can produce flawless work 24/7 (or so they like to tell each other they do). So when you go through an unproductive period, you will start beating yourself up for not being as good as your colleagues.

But now that I'm not in academia anymore, I don't have to deal with any of that crap. Since my job doesn't require me to produce endless pages of written work every day (that has to be flawless even though nobody will ever read it), I'm not stressing about this writer's block. I'm still good at my job and I'm still a worthwhile employee and person, even when my brain is a little tired. And the readers of this blog will still be here when I come up with something new.

What an awesome feeling! I write when I want to, on topics that interest me. If I've got nothing, I just go do something else. Yayyy for postacademia!!

So until my writers' block passes, here's another postacademic rant to tide you over. Standard disclaimer: these were written more than a year ago, when I was in therapy dealing with my hatred of academia and my decision to leave, and "writing out my feelings" on recommendation of my therapist. As it turns out, I had a lot of feelings ... pages and pages worth, which have been neatly distilled into "postacademic rants" for you to read.

But it's important to note, lest anyone wonder ... I'm not this angry anymore. The anger does pass.

However, I know that some of you who find this blog probably are this angry. So this is for you. :)

Oh, and the language is very much NSFW.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ask a Postacademic - Question 2

A couple of commenters (or perhaps the same one leaving multiple comments?) have asked me some variation of a question about balancing work and family life within and outside of academia:
What about the work-life balance in a professional job? Is it more realistic to start a family in a profession than working toward tenure?
I'm going to throw this one out for fellow postacademic bloggers and commenters to help me answer. Since I don't have kids and have a partner who has a nonstandard work schedule, my concerns over work-life balance aren't going to be the same ones that most people have.

Now, in terms of my own personal work/life balance - making time for a partner and pets and outside hobbies and responsibilities? Well, based on that, I can answer this question ... and my answer is that my work/life balance is much better now than it was when I was in academia. I've always been a worrier with a tendency to overthink and obsess over things, so the constant guilt and pressure of academic work hanging over my head drove me crazy. My schedule was undoubtedly more flexible in academia ... but as I've written many times before, it didn't feel flexible.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Chronicle Readers Love their Academic Jobs

I found myself on the Chronicle of Higher Ed's "Leaving Academe" forums a few weeks ago, after following some links from their food stamps article. I've been writing and editing this post ever since, trying to streamline and shorten it up ... but somehow it keeps just getting longer. So that's it - I'm just going to post it as-is. You all are used to me being wordy, right??? :)

The thread in question I'd like to link you to is this thread, in which current faculty were asked by a potential academic leaver to describe what they love about their jobs.

Some of the posts really resonated with me - people described those terrific moments in the classroom (rare as they may be) where students really seem to "get it." How much they loved the long summers off or being able to take sabbaticals. Being around young people. That stuff really can be pretty great.

But at the same time, I wanted to highlight some comments over there that compare academia to the "real world," which I think you can take with a HUGE grain of salt.

I'm not trying to be a huge Negative Nelly here, or to encourage everyone to cut and run from academia. But as as all of us postacademic bloggers have written a million times ... current faculty need to stop encouraging grad students and fellow Ph.D.s to stay tethered to academia for the wishy-washy reason that "it's the best job in the world!" There aren't enough tenure-track jobs for all graduating Ph.D.s anymore. A thousand comments about how totally awesome academia is (like you find in that thread) aren't going to magically open up ten thousand tenure-track jobs. So academics need to quit denigrating nonacademic work and start encouraging grad students to explore other options.

So while I read that thread with interest, it gradually started to bother me. I could picture miserable adjuncts who want to leave academia reading that thread, thinking "...I want to leave, but nonacademic jobs are all so awful!! Academia is the only good job out there!!!" As we've discussed before ... that's not true. But that's not something you're going to hear in that thread.

But you'll hear it from me, again and again. Academia is not the only good workplace in the world. Every nonacademic job is not awful. And many of the things you like about academia can also be found in the nonacademic world.

Let's talk about what we find in that thread that needs a little elaboration...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ask a Postacademic ... Question 1

Answering the questions commenters left on last week's post, in no particular order ... just starting with the one I find easiest to answer succinctly and moving forward from there.

If you have any other questions for me, leave them in comments. Inspire me for future posts! :)

Question #1, from an anonymous commenter:
Is the 8-5 terribly difficult to transition into? ... Is it easier to work a straight 8-5 instead of the flexibility of academia?
It wasn't hard for me, for a few reasons. First, I had worked a number of jobs before I came to grad school, so I was used to the 8-5 routine. Second, I've always been someone who has been more productive and less panicky when I work under a strict work schedule. Even when I was in academia, I would regularly set myself defined "work hours" each day and stick strictly to that schedule - only writing, say, between 12 and 4 pm after grading papers from 9-11 am.

So if this sounds like the way you work, the regular schedule of a nonacademic job probably won't be that much of a stretch for you. You might have to adjust to having to set an alarm earlier than you're used to or working in the same place for a longer period of time than you normally do - but if you function well by setting up a strict "work hours v. non-work hours" schedule, you probably won't find the transition difficult at all.

Now, if you're someone who really thrives on a nonstandard schedule or who has an impossible time getting up early in the morning, a job with a traditional 8-5 schedule probably will be kind of hard for you to transition into. But that doesn't mean you can't do it. After all, as a grad student you're able to keep up with a strict schedule of classes, meetings, teaching obligations, etc. ... right? The 8-5 world is really just that, at the core. You have places to be at a certain time of the day to work. It's just a different time and place and a different set of work tasks.

If you know you're not a morning person (like me), perhaps keep looking around until you find a job where you have to be in at 9 instead of 7. If you really value some daily flexibility in your schedule, keep looking until you find a job that allows flextime or staggered work schedules. There are a variety of work environments out there - not every one is "punch in at 8, sit at your desk until 5 with no breaks." Sure, those jobs exist. But every nonacademic office job isn't like that.

And importantly ... keep in mind that if you're looking for a job with an MA or a Ph.D., you are even less likely to wind up a drone working in a menial job with a tyrant boss who freaks out if you clock in two minutes late.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Postacademic Job You Could Get! ... Round Two

Go check what recentPhD has written about the job at her old employer. Go now.

Then read her follow up post about why she thinks a postacademic would be perfect for this job, and how she's involved in this hiring process and would potentially be able to directly help the right postacademic candidate get this job.

Want a potential lifeline out of grad school misery or adjunct hell? Or even out of a good tenure track job that you hate? Live in or around DC, or ever wanted to move there?

Email her now. Now now now. recentphd [at] gmail <dot> com. Or go check out the job ad on Versatile Ph.D. and apply.

But then email her so that she knows that you're a postacademic who's applying for the job, so that she can try to help you out! I can't speak for her, of course, but I know that if anyone ever applied to a job at my company and referenced that they were a reader of my blog and were a postacademic, I would definitely go the extra mile in making sure that person at least got an interview. And I can't imagine that she'd be blogging about it if she didn't genuinely want postacademics to apply.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Got Questions?

I'm back, kids! Sorry I haven't posted this week ... I had family in town for the holiday weekend, and have been playing catch-up at work all week. I really don't have much to write at the moment, but didn't want to leave you hanging through the weekend.

I keep feeling like I should write up a post about the job I have now, along the lines of what WTF has been posting lately. After all, I'm fully out of academia and have one of those "regular job" things I keep encouraging everyone else to look for. Maybe I should write a little bit about mine?

Well, the truth is ... I don't really know what to write about it. My job is fine! I've made it past the first month in my new management position and ... it's going quite well! And the job is ... well, it's the same job I've had on at least a part-time basis for the past 5 years. I know how to do it, and do it well. I know my coworkers. My boss is flexible, and the workload is heavy but not overwhelming.

It suits me. I go in in the morning, do my work, chat with my coworkers, hopefully help a few people, and walk out the door at 5. I'm used to the job, and find it reasonably intellectually stimulating, but not overwhelming. I have enough downtime to chat with my coworkers or take a walk to a local restaurant to grab a quick lunch. My job involves both tasks that are challenging and those that are more mindless, so that I can almost always structure my work weeks to match my mood. (Tired or not feeling well? It's time for a mindless task. Feeling motivated and well-rested? Time for something a little more complicated). And I'm paid fairly for what I do.

So, yeah ... work is pretty okay. Definitely okay enough so that I don't miss academia at all. One of my closest friends is currently dissertating and teaching and going through the whole academia/grad school rigamarole ... and as I watch hir deal with all of it, I don't miss it even one tiny bit. It's not that I absolutely love my current job or anything - it's just that it's not academia. And academia just didn't have anything for me anymore. It didn't make me happy ... and in the end, it was asking too much from me (all of my free time, having to move "anywhere in the country") than I was willing to give to a job that didn't make me happy.

So my current job doesn't make me super-happy, but I'm perfectly content with my life as it stands now. My job is just that - a job. Will I find a "career job" at some point in the future? Probably. But for now, I'm happy to have a job where I don't have academic guilt hanging over my head, and where my my work projects actually have a start and end point so that I can see what I'm accomplishing, instead of the unending pile of academic work.

Oh yeah, and my weekends and evenings are mine again. Words can't even describe how much I still appreciate this "new" reality.

My weekends are mine. If I want to lay on the couch all weekend and stare at the TV, I can. If I want to go out shopping or walking around the city, I can. If I want to sit at home and knock back a bottle of wine with a friend (or hell, alone! Haha :), I can. And nobody expects me to be back in the office til Monday. No matter what.

I love the nonacademic world for that reason alone. Not being absolutely in love with my job is worth it to me, because once I walk out of the office, I can go concentrate on the things and people I love, with absolutely no other demands on my time. It's amazing.