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As I explain in the ‘About’ section, I’m currently employed as a part-time, short-term researcher at a UK university. Although I feel privileged to have been offered this job at a time when many of my colleagues are struggling to find post-doctoral positions, in the recent months I have slowly come to realise that academia is not for me and that, once this contract ends, I will be departing the ivory tower forever. And I will ‘walk out’ holding my head up high as there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to pursue a career outside academia.

Very few know of my decision to depart academia, which is why I’m posting anonymously for the time being. There are two major reasons for doing so:

1. Leaving is mainly viewed as a failure in academic circles. The few times I have discussed the issue with colleagues I got the impression that leaving academia is generally viewed as a personal and intellectual failure, as if there were no other job alternatives for a PhD like myself besides aiming for a lectureship. I obviously disagree with this and will discuss in future posts why this mentality in academia needs to change if it wants to continue attracting postgrads in the coming years.

2. Colleagues will try to convince me to stay. Those whom I closest to in my Department, those who have become friends through the years, will be sad – I hope! – to see me leave and will try to persuade me to reconsider. They will do so because leaving academia means that, although we will continue to be friends, distance is likely to have an impact on our tie. Our discipline is one that requires us to spend long periods of time away from home so colleagues soon become second family; leaving would automatically break this bond. I also suspect that many would tell me to reconsider because they, too, have thought about leaving, but are scared to admit or do something about it.

I am under no illusion that my transition to the ‘real world’ will be a difficult one, but hopefully being able to prepare the move over the next 12 months will make it that less stressful and daunting. I’m excited to find out what this transition holds for me personally and professionally, and look forward to sharing this roller coaster ride with all of you.

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10 thoughts on “The Countdown Begins: T-12 Months

  1. Welcome to the this new world of leaving and life after academia. There is nothing wrong with a career outside of academia but tragically I’d have to agree with you that leaving is considered a failure and that colleagues will try to convince you to stay. I think, I know from experience, that the reason that they will tell you to reconsider is that many are scared to admit the idea of leaving, that there are problems in academia…etc. Why? It’s a known entity, its familiar and its hard going somewhere knew and unknown.

    • Thank you, Anthea. I totally agree with you: so many are scared of change that they would rather put up with misery now and most likely for the rest of their careers than exit an institution that is slowly crumbling. It’s funny that many think that suffering on a more-or-less permanent basis is a compulsory part of being an academic, and that if you cling on just long enough you will be rewarded with a lectureship/research position. I am not one of those people.

  2. Thank you for creating this blog. I do hope you will post regularly. Your journey is one I believe many will identify with, and find important, interesting, and inspiring. Best of luck and well wishes!

  3. Thank you, Gore Gore Girl. I really appreciate the encouragement, especially at a difficult time such as this. I am aiming to post once a week so I will try to be as strict as possible, job and life permitting!

  4. I am excited to have an opportunity of following a blog covering a topic I can relate with from day 1! I have been through this more than 15 years ago and I have never regretted leaving academia. Looking forward to your future posts!

  5. Thank you, Elke. It means so much to hear from others who have made the transition successfully – it makes me realise that I’m indeed making the right decision and it is one I will never regret. Thanks again for your encouragement and follow!

  6. i’m with elkement – you are smart to get out. i did it 7 years ago and don’t regret it. academic culture is so conflicted and confused. you can’t leave, but there aren’t any jobs. staying can be a lose-lose. best of luck!

    • thanks! but one correction – when i left my comment, i didn’t notice i was linking to a blog i was writing last year about my daughter’s adhd and anxiety! I haven’t written on it in forever, and noticed this morning it had a new follower – you! 🙂 Thanks for following, but I think you’d find my new blog, http://www.professornever.com much more interesting! I just started it, so I’d love to have a follower or two. (and feel free to unfollow the other one). thanks! and sorry about that!

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