OK! Let’s get a job

So about these “non-academic jobs” I’ve been hearing about…How do I get me one of those? Where is the philjobs/apsa ejobs/ aer jobs website so I can submit my applications? Instead of a teaching philosophy or research statement, should I just write up a post academic manifesto to submit along with my resume? I uploaded a couple of dissertation chapters to my personal website and uncluttered my resume. It is now only 2.5 pages long. Anyone who has tried to be supportive in the past few months has told me I’ll get a job in no time, “what with your TNRU diploma, and a PhD at such a young age…”

The paragraph above is written with humor, but it’s not far away from my initial gut about job searching. I’m completely clueless. Even though I did not want an academic job, I knew just how to get one. Every year during grad school the job market season would happen, and so stressed out ABDs roamed the halls, we heard their practice job talks, we speculated, analyzed, gossiped… we witnessed this process knowing it would one day be our turn. Finally, my own “job market season” began, long before applications were due.  All the information was laid out for me about what schools I had a good chance of getting a job in, what to say during the interviews, how to pitch my dissertation in 5 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute… Good advisers, like mine, blaze the trail for you: they introduce you to people, get you into conferences, coauthor with you, talk about you.

As it turns out, there is no such adviser in the non-academic world. Nobody is out there mentioning my name, there are no small-circle conferences to attend and make myself known. Plus… THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT JOBS! In academe, there are more or less 3 jobs: assistant professor, adjunct/visiting professor/lecturer, researcher. Here, there are managers, analysts, research scientists (as opposed to research humanists, maybe?), directors, consultants, associates. Which one am I? Writing it out like that, I sound really stupid. But the point is important: I want a job and I want a career, and I want my career to be meaningful and involve lots of blatdingocks and chipadoo analyses (words invented by me for generality), but how does that translate into a successful job application process?

Old habits die hard, and my scholarly instinct took charge. I decided to do a little research on how to get a job. I went to the Career place at TNRU. The two pieces of advice were: network and restructure your resume (2.5 pages is too long. I should aim for 1). These are actually two suggestions in “So What are you Going to Do with That?”. I really like that book and highly recommend it. It’s a short read. My shrink suggested reading “What Color is your Parachute?”. That’s not such a short read.

Ultimately, all my research raised a really important question that I hadn’t asked myself in a long time: what do I want to be when I grow up? For the past five years, I just answered “a Doctor of Philosophy”. For at least a year, I’ve known I don’t want to be an academic. Academia is a set of jobs with 3 elements in it. Non-academia would be the set “infinity – academia” of jobs. I’ve been so focused on finishing and leaving that I haven’t come up with a plan of what to do with the rest of my life. Dear reader: what’s your plan? Do you have one to spare for this unemployed scholar?



  1. anotherpostacademic

    Read this: http://www.askamanager.org/2012/12/if-youre-not-getting-interviews-read-this.html I wish I had found this blog much earlier in my job searching process – all of the advice she gives on resumes, cover letters, and interviews is great and quite different than what someone coming from academia is used to. I ended up getting a job by temping, but I was still job searching while waiting to be hired by my company. I sent out a bunch of applications and heard nothing – the first application I sent out after following her advice, I got an interview.

    I started What Color is Your Parachute?, got bored with it, and wasn’t able to finish. So What Are You Going to Do with That? was helpful to read right when I left my grad program, but honestly reading around in AskAManager really helped me the most in getting out of that academic mindset about job searching and understanding how I needed to present myself to employers outside of academia.

    Good luck! It’s a tough transition to make, but, for me at least, leaving academia is one of the best life decisions I’ve made so far.

  2. Toonces

    Tru dat on Ask A Manager. Such an essential and practical resource for job hunting. What Colour is Your Parachute was a bunch of claptrap that didn’t help me at all. Like Anotherpostacademic, I also got interviews after following Ask A Manager’s advice. And it helped me size up the employers I interviewed with, so instead of being preoccupied with getting potential employers to like me, I concentrated on whether or not I would want to work for them. I’ve since walked out of a number of interviews knowing that there was something out there I’d be better suited to, whereas in the past I would’ve settled and felt meh about my job just to earn a paycheque.

    I also made some good government connections by temping. The agency won’t really understand the skills and professional gravitas you wield with a graduate degree, but the department directors and managers you temp for often will. They hear “M.A” or “PhD” and suddenly there’s a communications job here or policy job there that they’re pushing you to apply for.

  3. Danni Pearson

    Thanks for your post. It really resonates with me! I am in the UK, a PhD student about halfway through. A couple of months ago, I decided for sure that I don’t want to be an academic. I don’t feel like I belong there and although I think I could be a successful academic, I don’t want to be. I have a feeling that I will be in a similar position to you next year! It kind of gives me this sense of foreboding and panic but also makes me question why I’m doing my PhD if I don’t want to be an academic. The answer is because I love what I’m researching and am learning skills and things about myself in the process, so I keep trying to tell myself it is worthwhile and keep going because I will use my PhD in some way, even if it isn’t by being an academic. I think this time next year I’ll start applying to organisations for jobs. I’m also networking with organisations already to see if I can cultivate a good enough link that I might be able to get a research job with them. Good luck in your job search! 🙂

  4. sarita fae jarmack

    This was a great read. What a process whhoooo! My bookmark bars are stuffed with all these resources, with so many thoughts, rules, what to do, what not to do, and it is still growing. For myself who is dealing with so many different cultures and job applications norms no wonder there are a billion how-to books… one day at a time. 🙂

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