Contemplating an alt-ac career? Looking to get out of the academy altogether? Already made an interesting career move that worked out? Talk about it here on our new Flexible Academics support group
- by Dr. Elizabeth Keenan (Fordham University)
"These days, everyone knows academia is a bad boyfriend (or girlfriend, depending on your sexual preference). Everyone has their own tale about how it keeps pulling them back in, with tantalizing offers of interviews and seductive whispers of funding, and then crushing their hopes into the tiny shards of a broken career.
This isn’t one of those columns. No, this is a column about having “The Talk.” Not the imaginary one you have with the academy itself—the one in which you finally kick it to the curb. I mean the one you’ll have repeatedly with everyone you’ve known professionally in the past decade of your life.
See, there’s a difference between bad relationships and academia. When you finally escape a bad relationship, most of your friends will suddenly confess, “I never liked him/her anyway!” Or they’ll join you in a round (or six) while you cry in your beer. They won’t tell you, “Well, why don’t you just give it another year? He’s a really nice guy when he isn’t ignoring you!” Or: “Surely if you just tried to make it work, she would stop cheating.”
And yet, in academia, you hear those things all the time. As soon as you tell someone, “I’m thinking of leaving,” they’ll come back at you with a list of reasons you should stay, give it another year, try harder, and maybe a job will open up. People who try to keep you in academia mean well: Either they have succeeded and don’t understand why you haven’t, or they’re in the same position as you and they’re terrified of leaving. But that doesn’t make talking to them any easier.
This can make the transition out of academia cripplingly lonely, especially if a lot of your friends and mentors are still on the inside. (And then there’s the problem that your friends outside academia won’t be able to relate, though they will try. At least some of them will buy you drinks.)” (read more).
***The problem is, whenever I think I’ll stay out for good, I realise that finding a non-academic job that’s an actual career job, not just a pay the rent and hope for the best job, is no easier to find than an academic job.