I told my committee

… and they said “no” because:

  1. It is impossible to get an academic job if you have a post-ac job, but non-ac jobs are always there.
  2. Being a prof is completely different from being a graduate student.
  3. Everyone feels unprepared and nervous at the beginning of job market season (August and September).
  4. S/He’s been in the industry and hated it.
  5. I will not be intellectually challenged by my job.
  6. I will have more leverage for non-ac jobs if I look for them in a few years, as an assistant professor at Fancy Important University instead of  just a graduate student, like I am now.
  7. Not wanting to live in Paris, KY, Rome, GA, or London, OH is not a good reason to walk away from the profession.
  8. Being a tenured or tenure-track professor does not mean settling down: there are summers, sabbaticals and job market seasons.
  9. I have nothing to lose by going on the job market and looking at other jobs as well.
  10. I should think more about this.

They are my advisers. My teachers. I owe them some listening. I don’t think they saw this coming, and their job is to find me an academic position. By leaving academe, I am not letting them do their job properly. In this sense, I understand why they would talk me out of leaving: it is their job. Nevertheless, I have to admit I did not expect “no”. In the dozens of times I had played these meetings out in my head, I imagined all kinds of responses: maybe tears, questions about what I wanted to do, maybe some remarks about their disappointment, even a withdrawal from the committee. Instead, it appears I am still in the running.

Here is what I think:

  1. I understand there is no turning back. It is true that I may never be an Associate Professor or an endowed Professor if I leave now. At the same time, I believe: a) This will happen whenever I get a post-academic job: now or in 10 years. Unless I come back with a Nobel Prize, I will be spoiled goods. b) Not having a Professor position does not preclude occasional research or teaching projects. Maybe one day I will publish something related to my job, or give a talk or a seminar.
  2. Will I: organize my year in semesters? Write articles? Be in classrooms several hours each week? Feel like I am always working? Yes? Sounds just like grad school to me.
  3. This is true. Everyone is freaking out because we all know there are a lot more candidates than jobs. Though we are in Top Notch Research University (TNRU), only 60% of last year’s candidates were placed (because adjuncting, post-docs, visiting professorships should not count as placement). In these circumstances, looking for outside options seems perfectly rational to me.
  4. “Then I’m sure you know what it is like to be on the wrong career path.” (S/he ignored this response).
  5. This is a risk I will need to take. Five years ago, I chose to be academically challenged, and what a challenge it has been! But it took so much from me (more on that in a later post). Maybe I’ll be challenged in other ways. Maybe I won’t feel intellectually challenged 100% of the time, but I will feel fulfilled.
  6. Isn’t TNRU prestigious? Something just doesn’t click to me about this argument. I would surmise that my leverage would be maximized if I had job offers from academic employers to show to non-academics. Today: “Hello, I am fantastic. I am so great that World-Famous University wants me to go be awesome on their campus, but I think I’ could be happier with you, if I had a good salary”. Two years from now:  “Hello, I am fantastic. I’ve been awesome at World-Famous University for two years, where I did the same thing I had done for the previous five years. WFU has already found my replacement: a very promising ABD from TNRU…”
  7. Yes it is.
  8. This is conditional on finding an institution that will take you in in your target location. Plus, how many times can you go on the academic job market before tenure?
  9. I lose time for my dissertation. I will lose your support when I take the non-academic job.
  10. I have thought about this for a long, long time. I have been sure of this for a long, long time too.
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9 comments

  1. Post Medievalist

    I am in LOVE with your answers (esp. #7). Also, how weird is it that your adviser/committee’s reaction was just “no”? I don’t think this is a decision that they can really keep you from making. What, are they going to send the ivory palace guard after you when you start clearing out your desk? Happy job hunting. I’m right there with you.

  2. anotherpostacademic

    That is a frustrating response. How can they just say no? It’s your life/career! And their reasoning on #6 seems highly suspect. I’ve read stuff from people who left after getting tenure or while on the tenure track, and making the transition from academia to something else doesn’t seem to get any easier. And why spend all the time and emotional energy necessary to go on the academic job market when you could be directing that energy towards getting out and finding a job you actually want? Anyway, good luck with everything! And welcome to the post-ac blogosphere :).

  3. JC

    Oh, this is a great post. I’m sorry that your advisers were unsupportive, but I’m glad that you are keeping a clear head about it and moving forward with your plans.

    Welcome to the postacademic blogosphere … glad to see you out here. I’ll post an intro for you in the next couple of weeks if you’d like. 🙂

  4. Anthea

    This is a great post…I have to say that I am not horribly surprised at their answers. I think that many PhD advisors don’t want to believe the hard facts that its horrendously hard to find a job so they’ll keeping their heads in the sand like ostriches in the hope that the horror show called academia as it exists is going to go away. So, yes, keep your head clear, your feet on the ground and carry on with your plans. Welcome to the postacademic blogosphere.

  5. Anonymous

    Keep your chin up! Your life is yours. It’s too bad your committee is too indoctrinated to recognize that. I’ll soon be in the unenviable position of having to tell my advisors that I’m leaving academia, so this entry was very helpful. Thanks.

  6. Mama Nervosa (@MamaNervosa)

    I was amazed at how hard people worked to talk me into staying in grad school. They never gave a crap about how I was doing until I decided to quit. I think people assume we make these decisions lightly. Have you read my post about grad school quittas? It’s a lot like this.

    I’m sorry, though, to read about your unsupportive friends. That really sucks. Quitting is awesome. Welcome to the bright side.

  7. Uncle Bruno

    There’s a way back. I got my degree in a social science, washed out on the social science academic market, got a job in market research, and returned to academia as a (now tenured) professor in a business school. Not a TNRU but a really good gig. Oh, and I’m now writing the “social science” book I was going to write 10 years ago.

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