Former teacher explores questions about non-academic careers (opinion)

In June 2022, I resigned my position as a professor to pursue a career in the non-profit sector. I had followed academic “quit lit” with interest on blogs and social media for years, but the proliferation of such conversations on the Internet did not prepare me for the responses I received from my community when I announced my departure.

My emails were sent to everyone in my academic networks. In some cases, I explained that I was unlikely to be able to continue a research project, and in other cases, I wanted to share new contact information. The responses included sentiments like, “How did you get it?” or “Would you take a look at my resume?” Others said: “You should be proud, that was brave” or “I would do the same in your situation”. Some of these emails came from tenured professors whose careers at prestigious universities would have been the envy of most PhDs in the humanities and social sciences. students who want to get a teaching job.

In the time since I resigned, I have reflected on the content of those emails. My announcement unknowingly lifted an embargo about a conversation many people wanted to have, not just about career options for students enrolled in Ph.D. programs, but also the marketability of a doctoral degree, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, in various work environments. This conversation is inherently related to the increasing prevalence of contingent work on higher education campuses.

The irony is that people on social media or journalistic platforms like this one are having such discussions at high rates. So why is it, then, that no amount of conversation on these topics seems to meet the growing demand for it?

The answer is that we will never respond to a request for further dialogue until we address the reasons for the need for it. For many PhDs, pursuing a career outside the department is isolating. Some of this isolation is inherent in all career changes, regardless of sector, and some isolation is distinct from leaving a career as a teacher. Throughout this article and others to come, I will offer my reflections on the isolation experienced by those who leave the chair, framed around the sentiments expressed in the emails I received when I announced my departure. I’ll also share what I’ve learned on my journey in hopes of breaking the conversational embargo for someone else.

Here are the main sentiments I heard when I announced that I would be leaving the professorship.

“My college professors either don’t understand my problem or don’t know how to help me.” More and more, the vast majority of PhD students. students who want permanent positions in the department will not get them. However, even when doctoral dissertation advisors are aware of declining job offers, they often do not receive formal training from employers on how to mentor students who will inevitably not work on college campuses. The incentives for these teachers to solve this puzzle are personal rather than professional: they help because they care about their students, not because work incentives match the help.

Moreover, he rarely holds a doctorate. consultants have first-hand experience. Most advisors have not sought employment outside of the department since receiving their Ph.D., nor have they been a hiring manager for a staff position reviewing resumes. Even a Ph.D. the counselor most dedicated to the employability of their students is not much better equipped to mentor than the students they advise.

“I don’t know how to choose a new path.” I have come across this feeling in my conversations with people since I submitted my resignation. The challenge of choosing a new career path has two main components:

1. “I want a mission-oriented career and more than just a paycheck…” People who choose to do a Ph.D. often, at least in part, for immaterial reasons. My thesis topic was driven by my deep passion for storytelling. I have friends who are dedicated to solving problems that have hurt people who love their work. I recently met a group of oceanographers who were all enamored with all things marine for reasons they couldn’t succinctly articulate.

When people plan to leave the classroom, these kinds of affective relationships emerge with their work. The search for a job with affective criteria is isolating, as the work of identifying and replicating the origin of that affect is a formidable personal challenge. Also, members of a PhD’s non-academic community, who may never have had an affective relationship with their work, can inadvertently make the desire to love what one does pointless.

A group, without a doubt share it This sentiment about a mission-oriented career is something other college professors can use to dissuade colleagues from looking for alternatives. In my experience, the sentiment is shared by people who have chosen other service careers, whether as K-12 teachers or as members of the armed forces.

… and 2. “I don’t want a traditional career alternative.” Higher education staff roles are commonly explored alternatives for PhDs looking to leave the faculty. The advantages of this strategy are quite clear: universities understand the value of a PhD, former PhDs are familiar with how the sector works, and a large proportion of people in one’s professional network have jobs in higher education. But even so, many of the frustrations that drive PhDs to leave the classroom—reduced state funding, the corporatization of the classroom, the increasing need to “sell” a college degree to students and parents, among others—also affect the administrative office. university campuses

As the conversation about leaving the teaching profession has increased, doctors and former teachers have sought employment. UX/UI researchers; this option is often presented as another viable career. It’s true that many tech companies fill hard-to-staff research roles with bright PhDs who are well-versed in research and analytics. These careers offer solid pay and benefits in our nation’s most desirable urban environments.

But what if you don’t want that job? The outsourcing process is a good method of choosing a career path, even if it takes more time than the alternatives. But excluding the two most common alternatives for tenure-track positions narrows your options when looking for a mentor.

“How do I find a job that meets other life criteria?” As I write, I’m working with a career coach to figure out how to blend my work into my other life activities. My leaving my professorship was motivated in part by my desire to live in certain places. I also have a partner, and his professional background played a big part in my decision, even if he didn’t want to. I want a lively social life, cultural activities, easy access to the beach and good food. Above, I mentioned a senior university professor who responded to my emails and expressed his envy of my decision; this feeling is at the root of this envy. Many teachers wish they could live closer to family or find time for a neglected hobby.

The problem of fitting work into life is not just for people who want to leave the professoriate, and I’m not convinced that it will ever have more than a temporary solution. As life changes, so does the workplace. what is For people who leave the teacher, this question is the overload that comes with suddenly having so many options. Career transition is a new opportunity for many other professionals to take stock of priorities that have become automated over time and re-optimize options.

“The nuts and bolts of a career transition are elusive.” As job opportunities for teachers have dwindled, academic departments and their host schools have expanded formalized training to better position themselves as candidates when applying for these positions. On many campuses there is still no equivalent training for job hunting outside of the department. In fairness, each sector or industry may require its own niche training, and the role of equipping PhDs to identify careers outside the department is probably a higher order than most critics would admit. In response to the call for formal job search training, many college administrators should point to under-resourced career centers, then turn to the less formal resources that now appear on blogs and social media.

As a result, “How did you get it?” sentiment prevailed in the e-mail responses I received in response to the news of my resignation. I used informal help to build my resume, comb through job ads, send out applications, and learn how to take advantage of networking platforms like LinkedIn. Much of that support came from family and friends who knew my academic work well and helped me cut the jargon out of descriptions of my career experience. While the advice I received was tailored to a nonprofit job search, most of what I learned would apply to any industry. Universities that offer PhDs can very well organize information sessions on various topics that arise in the assembly of working materials. At the very least, such sessions would attract like-minded students from across campus who would otherwise share information.

“I need an interview partner, and the partner I want is not present.” Perhaps the biggest variable that helps isolate career transitions for PhDs is the desire and lack of a specific conversational partner: the university. In a world where a university tends to see Ph.D. given the prestige students generate, the cheap labor they offer, and the union struggles they’ve started, it’s no wonder these students lack university guidance about career opportunities beyond campus. On university campuses do it having strong doctoral career counseling. Students who would look beyond teaching, the career centers and programs they offer are led by a dedicated staff united around an important mission. These workers make a big difference in the career prospects of their mentors, but they are often powerless to question whether graduate school is presented by other sectors as “real-world experience” or the university’s reliance on and undervaluation of graduate student work. because of what happens when they finish their studies.

The last of these feelings – related to the absence of the university as an interlocutor – is perhaps the biggest factor behind the isolation experienced by doctors who want to leave teaching behind. People will continue to be hungry for dialogue until this isolation is recognized and explicitly addressed, how and when to leave it.

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