Posts Tagged ‘need to know’


Use Social Media

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

These days, it is axiomatic in career-search circles that using the social web in your job hunt is just a smart thing to do. Why turn your nose up at Twitter, Facebook, blogging and LinkedIn when they are rife with opportunities to network and connect with prospective employers? I agree with this line of thinking, but I think there are some very particular reasons why employing web 2.0 technologies is especially wise for academics considering a career change.

1. It’s about identity construction. The Lacanians among you are going to love this. When you create a profile on a site like LinkedIn, for example, you have the opportunity to present to other professionals a narrative about your career trajectory that makes sense to them — and to you. Using words to help create a post-academic identity is something that will translate your skills to a wider audience and also does wonders for your own sense of self. Note: Lying is out. But, as with the process of creating a resume, you can accentuate the positive (creative, hard-working, whiz at troubleshooting) and minimize the pesky details (turned down for tenure? No one need know).

2. It boosts your sense of professionalism. If you’re a graduate student, you’re likely an avid Facebook user. But are you on LinkedIn? You might not be, thinking that LinkedIn is for professional networking and you’re not a professional. Well, guess what? You are apprenticing for a professional position, even if you do spend most of your days in your pajamas and do your writing during the commercials aired on Ellen. But your contacts on LinkedIn don’t need to know that. What they do need to know, however, is what you’re doing now, any interesting work you’ve done in the past, and what kind of opportunities you’re looking for in the future.

3. It’s an alternative to job banks. On Twitter, there are people (like @thejobsguy) who simply write 140 character blurbs about job postings. This is a fast and easy way to get a sense of jobs that are on the market, so you can gauge what interests you and what doesn’t.

4. It makes networking easier. Following someone on Twitter — especially if they follow you back — provides you with an opportunity to connect with any number of people you wouldn’t ordinarily have access to. Fostering an online relationship with someone is one important aspect of your job-hunting networking campaign.

5. It showcases your current self, and the self you want to be. One of my clients has had tremendous luck at leveraging LinkedIn. She’s a tenured prof, and she discovered through LinkedIn that people she knew in and before grad school work in precisely the organizations that she’s applying to. She’s using those contacts to find out more about what it’s like to work for the company and who the people with the decision-making power are, as well as to get introductions. These old contacts likely would never have thought of notifying her about job postings, for example. But LinkedIn is a polite, professional way of signaling your interest about your next career move to people who may be in a position to help you.

6. It shows how committed you are about moving into your next career. Writing regular status updates on Facebook and Twitter about your professional ambitions is just a smart thing to do when you’re on a job hunt. Another way of really showing off that you’re serious about changing fields is by starting a blog. Launching one on a topic that has nothing to do with your current area of research but has everything to do with what you dream about for your next career signals to future employers that you’re in it for the long haul. Blogging can be a powerful way to signal what you know about a topic, but it’s also okay to start a blog on a topic you know nothing about. Ironically, chronicling a learning process is something that contributes to you becoming an expert in that field because you are providing concrete evidence for the knowledge that you are accumulating. Who’s going to be interested in that expertise? Your next employer, of course.

7. It opens your eyes. On Twitter, you find out about all kinds of things people do for a living (and certainly the number of people who call themselves “marketers” trying to sell you their services!). It gives you an opportunity to learn about all the different kinds of work everyday people do. Right now, I’m following life coaches, a prostitutes’ rights organizer, a burgeoning film producer, a movie critic, Web developers, researchers, stay-at-home moms, bloggers, etc. Every day, I learn a little bit about their corner of the world.

8. You can meet cool people. I have met and fostered connections through Twitter, which is just plain old fun.

9. It makes you employable. More and more companies are Tweeting, launching Facebook pages, and even building their own social networking tools. Whether you dream of going corporate or self-employed, corporate or public sector, being able to note on your resume how handy you are with web 2.0 technologies will only impress.

10. It helps combat stereotypes about Ph.D.s. One stereotype about Ph.D.’s is the idea that we all have our heads tucked neatly up our own behinds. There are a number of ways to combat that, but running a blog on a topic that has NOTHING to do with your area of study is a quick and easy way to demonstrate to employers and other contacts in your network that you do have your finger on the pulse of one aspect of business and contemporary culture. Running a blog in particular will show that you can write in plain English, for example, thereby beating back the notion that you can only use $10 words and run-on sentences. It shows that you can — and do — come down from the ivory tower once in a while.


11 things you need to know about leaving academia

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

I’ve been working on the Leaving Academia project, on and off, for three years now. And there are 11 things that I absolutely know are true about leaving academia. They are:

1. You can do it. You can leave academia and survive. You can leave academia and THRIVE, in fact.

2. It is incredibly scary. Figuring out what to do in your post-academic life can feel like one giant question mark pressing down on you with a weight similar to that of writing a dissertation; with enough time, though, and enough self-reflection, you will figure out what you want to do.

3. Your whole life won’t come tumbling down into shambles if you leave academia.

4. You have tons of options for your post-academic career (even though it may not feel that way), many of which have nothing to do with your area of study, but have everything to do with your core skills (e.g. project management, policy analysis, consulting, organizing).

5. You are not crazy if you want to have a satisfying job in a city you actually like and to have your partner and family living with you and to live near your friends.

6. You might not switch immediately into your dream job right away but you will get to your dream job a hell of a lot more quickly if you bail from academia now rather than never (in fact, in my case, I didn’t want to jump into a challenging dream job; first, I wanted to just take an intellectual break with an easy job that had solid pay and fab benefits). It might take a few years for you to select the organization that you really care about and climb your way into the job of your dreams. However, just because you might start out closer to the bottom than you would like isn’t reason enough to stay in a career stream that might not ever offer you any satisfaction at all.

7. If academia WAS your dream job but you’re tired of living in the adjuncting/contract teaching trenches, there are other options for you to use your passion for teaching/learning, your communications skills, your love of reading and your skills at writing and researching. Remember, people — this is the knowledge and information economy we are living in. A.B.D.’s and Ph.D.’s hold enormous currency in this era.

8. One really big secret: most people outside higher ed don’t give a shit if you leave academia, so don’t bother feeling guilt about leaving. Sure, some people like your grad supervisor or your faculty chair might be disappointed. But are you really going to make yourself responsible for their feelings, while totally denying yours? Come on. Leave that parent-child dynamic back in your family of origin where it belongs.

9. One other really big secret: a lot of people will actually be jealous of you if you leave academia. Sure, their jealousy might come out in the guise of contempt and guilt-making (oooh, if only I could name names and point fingers, here!). But just like the boy who is cruel to the girl he has a crush on, those unhappy people who try to rain on your bold career change have their own problems to sort out. Don’t make their problem your problem.

10. I also want to challenge the idea that once you leave academia, you can never go back. I have heard of a handful of examples of people returning to academia, either decades later as they channel their post-academic professional successes into academic work or as they return simply as adjunct/contract faculty. The sands of academia are shifting and my hunch is that the re-formulation of universities into job farms and knowledge-provision centers, and with the increase of private money (oops, I mean “partnerships”) into universities, that the door does not slam shut as firmly as it used to.

11. The other really, really big secret: You deserve better than the life you may be having and the treatment you may be getting in your grad school career. Grad school and adjunct teaching can suck out your soul; being on the tenure track can be fraught with fear as you wonder if this is what you really want to do, and if you want to do it in the city you’ve ended up in. You don’t have to put up with it any more. You have all the skills and resources you need to plan out a realistic, do-able career change. Just look at some of the people who have done just that: Buffy Sainte-Marie (Ph.D. Fine Art, University of Masschusetts), Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (A.B.D. Finance, University of Alabama), Bust magazine founder Debbie Stoller (Ph.D. English, Yale), and the hottest one of all: the incredible Miuccia Prada has a Ph.D. in political science. Miuccia Prada! If that doesn’t serve as inspiration for becoming satisfied and successful in life beyond academe, I don’t know what does.

Is there anything I’ve missed? What would you like to add to this list?