23
Mar

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.

23
Mar

When Should You Quit?

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

People have been asking me lately: If you’re going to quit academia, when should you quit?

To me, the answer is, “Whenever it’s best for you.” How’s that for precision? But seriously, the answer is going to be completely up to you. The major considerations are many: financial (what will you do for an income if you leave at this stage?), career (what field will you switch to?), family (do you need to support family members? Are you all living together?), geographic (will you need/want to move when you quit?), and so forth.

But deciding on the timing of your departure also has to do with the delicate matter of cutting your losses. Calculating losses, though, is an imprecise science because there are so many unknown factors. For example, if you quit after, say, completing your comprehensive exams, are you cutting your losses by sparing yourself years of the grueling dissertation-writing process (which can be totaled up in dollars, tears, therapists’ bills, damaged relationships, etc.)? Or are you incurring a new loss by not finishing a project you’ve started (an emotional toll) and having to work to explain what you did during those years on a résumé (a potential financial toll)?

Well, the answer is both, isn’t it? When you leave academia — regardless of when you do — you carry around a balance sheet of losses and gains. Gains: a deep relief, a feeling of freedom, a sense that you’ve narrowly escaped something that temporarily had control of your soul. Losses: debt, regret, the struggle to find a new career and life path.

Sometimes, the dividends blur and the gains start to look like losses; the feeling of freedom, for example, can quickly turn into a terrifying landscape of possibility with no clear direction of where to turn. Sometimes the losses look like gains: struggling to find a new life and career path reminds you of how many wonderful interests you have and all of the fun ways you can pursue them.

This is where the matter of the timing of your departure comes in. The dividends of leaving are going to be felt more and less sharply depending on when you jump ship. The longer you stay in your Ph.D. program, your debt load goes up, but so do your credentials. But do those credentials even mean anything to you if you’re depressed, disillusioned and miserable?

For those of you who are thinking of leaving mid-degree, and are tortured by the thought that you’ve wasted your time and money: here’s a timely link to a post Seth Godin wrote recently. I think it’s brilliant, and although he’s not even thinking about grad students when he’s writing this post, it applies perfectly. The post is called “Ignore Sunk Costs.” Among other golden advice, Seth says: “When making a choice between two options, only consider what’s going to happen in the future, not which investments you’ve made in the past. The past investments are over, lost, gone forever. They are irrelevant to the future.”

Breakedown: When Should You Quit?

Here’s a breakdown of the balance sheet referring to different stages of leaving. I’d love to hear more thoughts on your analysis of the gains and losses in the comments section. If you…

1. Leave after the M.A. You’ve got yourself a valuable degree with great income-earning potential. But maybe you feel skeptical about your academic prospects, you don’t think you’d enjoy teaching and although you enjoy your research, you don’t feel crazy about doing 5-10 more years of it. So you quit.

Gains: High. You may have some student loans, but this recent report from Statistics Canada shows there is a 33 percent wage gap between someone with a B.A. and someone with a master’s, but someone with a doctorate only earns 8 percent more than someone with a master’s.

Costs: Low. Unlike a Ph.D., a master’s makes you feel good about your capabilities.

2. Leave after the first year of your Ph.D. You’ve had a taste of the program, the university, your colleagues and your potential supervisors. Maybe it’s not a good fit, and when you look at the faculty, you’re turned off by the constant search for external funding, the “publish or perish” mentality, and the lack of value placed on family time (like, uh, making one at all). So you quit.

Gains: Medium-high. You’re sparing yourself the time and emotional aggravation and expense of staying in grad school. You can be honest on a résumé about what you did with your year.

Costs: Low. Some debt, maybe, and maybe a little bit of “What if…?”

3. Leave around the comps process (before, during or after). When I speak with former academics, this time of intense stress can really bring one’s feelings about academia to the forefront. Maybe it’s taking you years to finish your comps, you’re riddled with insecurity, you feel like a total fraud, and you’re on the precipice of clinical depression. So you quit.

Gains: medium-high. Getting out before you lose any more of your precious time, precious money, precious brain cells and spend any more on prescription drugs is really smart. Living in a world where you don’t have to prove yourself through comps fuckin’ rulz.

Costs: medium. Suffering through the comps and STILL leaving without parchment in hand is gonna sting. You will have to explain to employers what it means to be ABD with respect to your transferable skills, which is kinda annoying.

4. Leave during the dissertation stage. Whether you’re struggling to get your proposal done, churn out that first chapter, or finally kick the final chapter to the curb, the dissertation process is a long, emotionally intense, wearing process that can tear down the mental health of the most balanced grad student. Maybe you loathe your topic. Maybe you’re burnt out. Maybe you’re making yourself miserable trying to keep up with the demands to teach, publish, present papers and produce a brilliant 300 page document all at the same time. Maybe you just don’t have it in you anymore. So you quit.

Gains: high. Though departments notoriously do not keep track of their attrition rates, I’ve read research indicating roughly 50 percent of social science and humanities doctorates drop out of their programs before finishing. That means you’re in pretty good company among people who decided that life was too short to wait for a satisfying career, to move out of poverty, to save their mental health, or to just figure out that the academic life was not meant for them.

Costs: high. The niggly feelings of “what if?…” or “if only…” might linger for a long, long time. Feeling like a failure — or being worried that other people will see you as a failure — may be very intense. Your possible debt load may amplify feelings of anger, resentment, shame and bitterness. Feeling lost and unsure of how to orient your life is a strong possibility. Struggling with the concept of waste — a waste of your time, money, energy and potential — may stay with you.

5. You leave once you’ve finished the Ph.D. You’re done! Yahoo! But you got what you came for and you are outta there.

Gains: high. Freedom, sweet freedom. Sweet, quaking-at-the-knees, dripping-with-relief freedom.

Costs: medium-high. Severely compromised mental health, a significant debt, relationships that needed some nurturing after long periods of neglect. There is some belief (which I believe is a myth) that having a Ph.D. makes you unemployable.

(NB: Perhaps I’m biased here (since this was the path I chose and I’ve had three years to gain distance from the experience) by seeing the costs as “medium-high” and not “high.” To me, though, the gains far outstripped the costs, in terms of the feeling of freedom, the wild array of life choices I knew I could make, the ability to do the teaching and research and writing that I wanted that wasn’t limited by the classroom, and yes, the satisfaction of having the degree in hand.)

6. Once you’ve done contract/adjunct teaching, done your post-doc or gotten a tenure-track position. It might seem weird to lump these three types of academics into one category, but I’ll explain why below. Even if it’s news to some grad students, people do actually leave secure, tenured positions (Rebecca Steinitz is one of them — here’s her story — and so is Kenny Mostern of “On Being Postacademic” fame. My interview with Dr. Stienitz at LeavingAcademia.com is here; my interview with Dr. Mostern is here.)

Gains: high. Once you’ve got your Ph.D., you can go anywhere and do anything with confidence. Contract faculty have a lot to gain by landing in a job that actually pays a living wage, and they, along with tenure-track faculty, gain by being able to move to the city of their choice, actually have free time, start a family, make more money, etc.

Costs: low-to-medium. I haven’t been there, and so far I haven’t done any interviews (yet) with people who’ve made this jump. So I am only speculating here. But making a career change at this point just makes a lot of sense to me in the same way that any other career change makes sense. I know someone who used to be an award-winning, professional Irish dancer and is now an IT guy at an art college. I know someone who used to be a professional chef and is now a naturopath. I know someone who used to make giga-bucks at Goldman Sachs and is now a freelance writer living in the English countryside with her young children. I admire people who make crazy career leaps because although there are potential costs (like failing), the gains (like actually being happy and/or satisfied) seem to be so much greater.

When Should You Quit? If you’re going to quit academia, when is the best time to do it? What other factors are there that contribute to your decision? (You can also read a post-doc’s far more brief take on the matter here at Damn Dinosaurs).

23
Mar

Why You Should Quit Grad School During The Recession​

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

Yesterday I asked, “Should you quit grad school during the recession?” My answer was roughly, “Well, why not?” Related to this is the larger question–which a few people have asked me to post about lately–about timing. If you’re going to quit academia, when should you do it?

To me, the answer is, “Whenever it’s best for you.” How’s that for precision? But seriously, the answer is going to be completely up to you. The major considerations are many: financial (what will you do for an income if you leave at this stage?), career (what field will you switch to?), family (do you need to support family members? Are you all living together?), geographic (will you need/want to move when you quit?), and so forth.

But deciding on the timing of your departure also has to do with the delicate matter of cutting your losses. Calculating losses, though, is an imprecise science because there are so many unknown factors. For example, if you quit after, say, completing your comprehensive exams, are you cutting your losses by sparing yourself years of the gruelling dissertation-writing process (which can be totalled up in dollars, tears, therapists’ bills, damaged relationships, etc.)? Or are you incurring a new loss by not finishing a project you’ve started (an emotional toll) and having to work to explain what you did during those years on a résumé (a potential financial toll)?

Well, the answer is both, isn’t it? When you leave academia–regardless of when you do–you carry around a balance sheet of losses and gains. Gains: a deep relief, a feeling of freedom, a sense that you’ve narrowly escaped something that temporarily had control of your soul. Losses: debt, regret, the struggle to find a new career and life path.

Sometimes, the dividends blur and the gains start to look like losses; the feeling of freedom, for example, can quickly turn into a terrifying landscape of possibility with no clear direction of where to turn. Sometimes the losses look like gains: struggling to find a new life and career path reminds you of how many wonderful interests you have and all of the fun ways you can pursue them.

This is where the matter of the timing of your departure comes in. The dividends of leaving are going to be felt more and less sharply depending on when you jump ship. The longer you stay in your Ph.D. program, your debt load goes up, but so do your credentials. But do those credentials even mean anything to you if you’re depressed, disillusioned and miserable?

If You’re Going To Quit Academia, When Should You Do It?

For those of you who are thinking of leaving mid-degree, and are tortured by the thought that you’ve wasted your time and money: here’s a timely link to a post Seth Godin wrote earlier this week. I think it’s brilliant, and although he’s not even thinking about grad students when he’s writing this post, it applies perfectly. The post is called “Ignore Sunk Costs.” Among other golden advice, Seth says:

When making a choice between two options, only consider what’s going to happen in the future, not which investments you’ve made in the past. The past investments are over, lost, gone forever. They are irrelevant to the future.

Here’s a breakdown of the balance sheet referring to different stages of leaving. I’d love to hear more thoughts on your analysis of the gains and losses in the comments section. If you…

1. Leave after the M.A. You’ve got yourself a valuable degree with great income-earning potential. But maybe you feel skeptical about your academic prospects, you don’t think you’d enjoy teaching and although you enjoy your research, you don’t feel crazy about doing 5-10 more years of it. So you quit.

Gains: High. You may have some student loans, but this recent report from StatsCan shows there is a 33% wage gap between someone with a B.A. and someone with a Master’s, but someone with a doctorate only earns 8% more than someone with a Master’s.

Costs: Low. Unlike a Ph.D., a master’s makes you feel good about your capabilities.

2. Leave after the first year of your Ph.D. You’ve had a taste of the program, the university, your colleagues and your potential supervisors. Maybe it’s not a good fit, and when you look at the faculty, you’re turned off by the constant search for external funding, the “publish or perish” mentality, and the lack of value placed on family time (like, uh, making one at all). So you quit.

Gains: Medium-high. You’re sparing yourself the time and emotional aggravation and expense of staying in grad school. You can be honest on a resume about what you did with your year.

Costs: Low. Some debt, maybe, and maybe a little bit of “What if…?”

3. Leave around the comps process (before, during or after). When I speak with former academics, this time of intense stress (comprehensive exams are now also called qualifying exams at some schools) can really bring one’s feelings about academia to the forefront. Maybe it’s taking you years to finish your comps, you’re riddled with insecurity, you feel like a total fraud, and you’re on the precipice of clinical depression. So you quit.

Gains: medium-high. Getting out before you lose any more of your precious time, precious money, precious brain cells and spend any more on prescription drugs is really smart. Living in a world where you don’t have to prove yourself through comps fuckin’ rulz.

Costs: medium. Suffering through the comps and STILL leaving without parchment in hand is gonna sting. You will have to explain to employers what it means to be ABD with respect to your transferable skills, which is kinda annoying.

4. Leave during the dissertation stage. Whether you’re struggling to get your proposal done, churn out that first chapter, or finally kick the final chapter to the curb, the dissertation process is a long, emotionally intense, wearing process that can tear down the mental health of the most balanced grad student. Maybe you loathe your topic. Maybe you’re burnt out. Maybe you’re making yourself miserable trying to keep up with the demands to teach, publish, present papers and produce a brilliant 300 page document all at the same time. Maybe you just don’t have it in you anymore. So you quit.

Gains: high. Though departments notoriously do not keep track of their attrition rates, I’ve read research (which I will cite for you in a follow-up post) indicating 50% of social science and humanities doctorates drop out of their programs before finishing. That means you’re in pretty good company among people who decided that life was too short to wait for a satisfying career, to move out of poverty, to save their mental health, or to just figure out that the academic life was not meant for them.

Costs: high. The niggly feelings of “what if?…” or “if only…” might linger for a long, long time. Feeling like a failure–or being worried that other people will see you as a failure–may be very intense. Your possible debt load may amplify feelings of anger, resentment, shame and bitterness. Feeling lost and unsure of how to orient your life is a strong possibility. Struggling with the concept of waste–a waste of your time, money, energy and potential–may stay with you.

5. You leave once you’ve finished the Ph.D. You’re done! Yahoo! But you got what you came for and you are outta there.

Gains: high. Freedom, sweet freedom. Sweet, quaking-at-the-knees, dripping-with-relief freedom.

Costs: medium-high. Severely compromised mental health, a significant debt, relationships that needed some nurturing after long periods of neglect. There is some belief (which I believe is a myth) that having a Ph.D. makes you unemployable.

(NB: Perhaps I’m biased here (since this was the path I chose and I’ve had three years to gain distance from the experience) by seeing the costs as “medium-high” and not “high.” To me, though, the gains far outstripped the costs, in terms of the feeling of freedom, the wild array of life choices I knew I could make, the ability to do the teaching and research and writing that I wanted that wasn’t limited by the classroom, and yes, the satisfaction of having the degree in hand.)

6. Once you’ve done contract/adjunt teaching, done your post-doc or gotten a tenure-track position. It might seem weird to lump these three types of academics into one category, but I’ll explain why below. Even if it’s news to some grad students, people do actually leave secure, tenured positions (Rebecca Stienitz is one of them–here’s her story–and so is Kenny Mostern of “On Being Postacademic” fame–which you can read here. NB: I’ll be interviewing Dr. Mostern and Dr. Stienitz for the podcast series in the next few weeks).

Gains: high. Once you’ve got your Ph.D., you can go anywhere and do anything with confidence. Contract faculty have a lot to gain by landing in a job that actually pays a living wage, and they, along with tenure-track faculty, gain by being able to move to the city of their choice, actually have free time, start a family, make more money, etc.

Costs: low-to-medium. I haven’t been there, and so far I haven’t done any interviews (yet) with people who’ve made this jump. So I am only speculating here. But making a career change at this point just makes a lot of sense to me in the same way that any other career change makes sense. I know someone who used to be an award-winning, professional Irish dancer and is now an IT guy at an art college. I know someone who used to be a professional chef and is now a naturopath. I know someone who used to make giga-bucks at Goldman Sachs and is now a freelance writer living in the English countryside with her young children. I admire people who make crazy career leaps because although there are potential costs (like failing), the gains (like actually being happy and/or satisfied) seem to be so much greater.

What do you think? If you’re going to quit academia, when is the best time to do it? What other factors are there that contribute to your decision? (You can also read a post-doc’s far more brief take on the matter here at Damn Dinosaurs).

21
Mar

The Last Word…For Now

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

From Julie Clarenbach at Escape the Ivory Tower

All that education, but not on this

Unfortunately, most of the people around you are academics – and they likely know next to nothing about the non-academic job market.

The people in your life who aren’t in academia, well, they aren’t in academia. They don’t have the experience to help you translate what they know about getting a job to your particular situation. Worse, many of them probably did go a traditional route, getting a degree in and then staying within one particular field. They might even be telling you it’s the only option and you are, what’s the technical term?, screwed. (Or worse: They might be saying you have to go back to school.)

Of course, there are hundreds (probably thousands) of books out there explaining how to go about the job search process and even how to switch fields, but none of them address the particular problems of translating academic experience into something persuasive.

There are a handful of books helping academics and humanities majors think about what else they might do with all of their training, but they don’t really explain how to go about creating a comprehensive job search that will maximize your chances of success.

If only you could combine all of those things into one…

In order to craft a job search process that is both likely to be successful and isn’t going to make you lose your mind (either from anxiety or boredom), you need to put all of these pieces together: an understanding of how to translate academic experience to a non-academic audience, the tools and strategies that make a non-academic job search easier and less stressful, and how to combine it all into a system that you can use.

Call it a non-academic job search system. But I’m sure you can come up with a better name than that.

Week 1: Articulating what you have to offer

There’s a lot of work to do before you even start looking for things to apply for, which is why a solid master resume is the foundation of a successful search. It’s important to gather all of your experience together and document what skills and talents you’ve demonstrated throughout your life.

It’s easy for us to downplay our skills and accomplishments. We do it for lots of reasons – we’re afraid of being boastful, we’re afraid of being called out, we’re afraid of being thought of as snooty or intimidating or whatever. But the best antidote to downplaying isn’t forcing ourselves to sell ourselves, it’s confidence. And the easiest way to become confident is to document your actual skills and achievements.

This session enables you to articulate why you’re appropriate for a job you just know you’d be good at – and avoid jobs you don’t want just because you look like a fit on paper.

Week 2: Reaching out to find more

People are always going to be your best source of information for everything from all the ways engineers have gotten jobs trading stocks to whether company B’s vacation policy really is unlimited to whether the flower industry is likely to slump.

This sessions helps you activate your network, get clear about what you need, and find the right people to ask for help. I’ll also give you strategies for dealing with any anxiety you have about asking, for networking without smarm, and for getting the most out of your discussion.

Week 3: Finding and creating job openings

Some organizations have clear rules and procedures for hiring employees. Higher-ups have to approve it, departments advertise in particular ways, and everything goes from there.

More often, the whole thing is a bit more chaotic than that.

Yes, jobs are advertised in print and on-line lists. But employers want to attract good candidates, and placing an ad somewhere is rarely the most effective way to do that. And sometimes companies have problems they don’t even know how to solve – until they meet you.

This session will help you expand your search beyond job listings and even beyond job openings by exploring companies of interest and considering the ways you can solve their problems.

Week 4: Applying for a particular job

Applying can look like anything from filling out an online form to emailing a resume and cover letter to having coffee with someone who knows someone who could actually hire you. And make no mistake – interviewing is part of applying.

It’s your job to articulate how your skills and experience can help the company achieve the goals it’s going after. To do that, you have to have a reasonable understanding of the company – and of yourself.

This session will enable you to ask the right questions, dig for the right information, and connect it to what you have to offer.

Week 5: Negotiating

The offer of a job isn’t the end of the application process. It’s the beginning of the final act. The job search doesn’t end until you put your things down on your very own desk on that first day of work.

A successful negotiation means that no one is resentful on that first day – and ensures that the first day of the right job actually arrives.

This session will give you the principles of a successful negotiation and how to put them into practice.

Week 6: Putting it all together

No system is going to work without ways to plan for, execute, and keep track of all the many bits and pieces of information, relationships, and tasks. When you’re deep in the process, you’ll be reaching out, finding openings, applying, and negotiating to different ends all at the same time, and keeping it all straight is crucial to the outcome.

This session will help you put everything together into a manageable system that won’t overwhelm you.

How does this relate to the Conscious Careers course?

You might have seen that Jo VanEvery and I offer a class called Choosing Your Career Consciously. In that course, we help people explore their own experiences and interests in order to expand the set of possibilities they’re considering as a next step. You have a lot of options other than academia or teaching your subject in another venue.

In other words, the Conscious Careers course covers the work you have to do before you dive in to applying for actual jobs, namely, figuring out what you might want to look for. We build off of that work in the very first session of Becoming Post-Academic.

While having a sense of what kind of work you want to apply for will be helpful as you go through Becoming Post-Academic, if you’re having trouble imagining what kind of work you’d like to do, taking the Conscious Careers class would support your work in this course. The next round will begin in October, and we’re offering a package discount – both classes for $299.

You can read more about Choosing Your Career Consciously by clicking here.

So what does Becoming Post-Academic include?

The course will take place by conference call and chat on six consecutive Thursdays beginning June  7, 2012, at 7pm ET. (Here’s a handy time-zone-converter if you’d like to see what time that is in your life.)

The $179 price ($149 before May 31) includes six 90-minute classes (including recordings of all sessions), worksheets to help you apply the materials to your particular situation, and examples of job materials, interview questions, and tracking strategies.

When you register, you’ll immediately get my master resume worksheet and template delivered by email to help you start documenting your skills and experience. After the course begins, you’ll get additional worksheets and examples sent by email.

The cost is payable online by credit card or PayPal through a secure link.

Let me sum up

So what do you get by signing up for this course?

  • Concrete action steps that get you to your goal
  • A system that tells you which steps to do when – and that you can use whenever you decide to change jobs
  • Evidence of your experience, skills, and accomplishments
  • Strategies for researching companies and translating your talents into their needs
  • Ways to succeed at interviewing
  • Non-scary strategies for networking
  • 9 steps to simplifying negotiations – and getting what you want
  • The confidence to move forward and actually step into a new career
21
Mar

Being Post Academic

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

Finished my PhD in English in 2010. Now I’m trying to get a life, post-academic style. I volunteer, I work part-time in PR, and I read the internet. I also complain vigorously about people who tell me “not to give up” and about those who say, “the good people who do everything right will get jobs in academia.” I hate those people. Don’t be one of those people.

If you are in any way connected with the sad, sad story of the academic job market, you are no doubt aware that the JIL came out recently. The storied MLA Job Information List informs academics about the few (and rapidly dwindling) job openings for fall 2011. A lot of people are depressed about the state of things. Lives completely upended, plans dashed, marriages ended, professors working at Starbucks. And there will be more depression to come. In fact, though last year was widely touted as the Worst Academic Job Market Ever, this year might actually be worse, if worse is possible.

This year, there are about forty job openings in my field. Forty. That is all. Yes, a few other jobs will pop up this fall, and some of them will be good. But these numbers are just not going to change things for the many hundreds of people with new, newish, and rapidly rotting PhDs who desperately want a job they will never get.

This realization is not as depressing for me as you might imagine because I am honestly not sure that I even want one of those jobs anymore. This feeling is, no doubt, partly a psychological mechanism against the pain of certain disappointment. I prefer to think of it as an example of what French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, in Distinction, described as a class-based response to denial and rejection. “Objective limits,” Bourdieu wrote, “become a sense of limits, a practical anticipation of objective limits acquired by experience of objective limits, a ‘sense of one’s place’ which leads one to exclude oneself from the goods, persons, places and so forth from which one is excluded.”

I know this sounds like French nonsense. But, though some academic theory is French nonsense, this most certainly is not. Bourdieu just means that, when you keep getting the message that you can’t have something over and over again, you eventually decide that you do not really want (or deserve?) that thing anyway. In fact, the thing that you might have originally thought you wanted becomes “stupid” and “boring” and “not for me.” Bourdieu is not really talking about a psychological response to disappointment. Rather, he is theorizing how structural determinants in society create “hidden forms of elimination” that make the world seem fair and meritocratic when it is not. The basic idea is that people cultivate the identities that are assigned to them.

And so I have cultivated the identity of the person who used to want to be a professor but now doesn’t. And the job market is a convenient excuse that allows me to easily reject what I don’t want anymore.

The worst thing is having to face these facts in spite of all the cockeyed optimism and ill-informed enthusiasm I get from former supervisors and colleagues (especially those who haven’t had to find a job in thirty years) who say, as one said to me yesterday, “Don’t give up! You’ll get something!”

To those advice-givers: Just stop. Stop telling me that. I know you want to be encouraging, but your advice is eerily reminiscent of the American myth that the world is fair and that smart people who work hard will always see their efforts rewarded. This is not a helpful way to talk about poverty and unemployment in society at large, and it is not a helpful way to talk about the academic job market. So just stop. Really. Let’s agree to dispense with our delusions and move on.

Volunteering is a one way I am moving on. I got a call yesterday from Mary at one of the social service agencies where I helped distribute food to low-income folks. I was going to do some “job readiness” workshops for their clients. But things fell apart after two of their interns left, and the workshops never happened. She called to see if I am still interested. She said, “Are you the one with the PhD?”

23
Mar

No Limits

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

I spend a chunk of time each week reading online career blogs, listservs and forums, keeping up with the concerns that academics have about transitioning into their next career. In doing this, I’m often reminded why I started Leaving Academia in the first place. Back in 2006, when I was struggling with what direction to take for my career path, I used to haunt those forums, trying to get information that resonated with me.

One question that surfaces often is the one that usually looks like, “I have a X degree in discipline Y. What kind of jobs does that qualify me for?”

Back when I was wondering that question myself, I always felt surprised that the answers were so narrow, and sometimes nasty. People with English or literary backgrounds were advised to pursue writing, editing or going back to school to study library sciences; people in poli sci were advised to go the government or NGO route.

At the time, I always felt really suspicious of this kind of feedback because it seemed an awfully narrow view of the kinds of skills we cultivate as academics. And yet, I didn’t have any information to back up my feeling that grad students can and do end up in a wild array of fields, and that, moreover, lots of people in any given field don’t have specific training in that field. Well, now I’ve got that information, as a result of my interviews, and I’m pleased to say that I was right!

Have you ever been at a party and met someone who had a cool job? Did you ask them how they got that job? There’s a good chance that the person had a long and winding story about how they landed there.

Take television, for example. A lot of people who work in TV (in front of the camera, behind the camera, on the technical side, in post-production, etc.) have never set foot in journalism school. They come from all over — including academia. I’ve interviewed an English Ph.D. who ended up as an executive in charge of television drama for a major Canadian broadcaster because of the work he did researching for a research-heavy TV network after his Ph.D. I’ve also met an A.B.D. TV producer who works on reality shows and loves it. One of my first podcasts was with Polly Washburn, who quit her linguistics Ph.D. after a year, worked for a while as a TV producer and is currently in the midst of shooting her first feature film. And I recently interviewed a woman who is A.B.D. in art history who ended up in television sales.

In other words, it’s not just non-academics who end up changing careers 2, 3, or 10 times in their lifetimes. Former scholars do it, too. So why do people continually receive and dispense advice that suggests that the only thing you can do with your career has to somehow directly relate to the topic you studied in school? That’s complete hogwash.

Most of the former academics I’ve met and interviewed apply their doctoral experience in many ways except in relation to their actual topics of study. Instead, they apply their teaching experience to do public speaking, coaching or personal training; they apply their writing experience to producing reports, blogging, or writing marketing materials; they apply their time-management skills, their ability to show up, and their perseverance to a whole host of job tasks.

A really great example of this is a resource I found recently at the American Psychological Association’s Web site. The Non-Academic Careers for Scientific Psychologists page may not sound too enticing for those of us who didn’t study psychology, but it’s a very telling resource. It features a series of articles with Ph.D.s who have found non-academic careers, and just their job titles will tell you that, in many cases, their psychology background was not the main asset that brought them into their new careers. You can read about a psychologist who became an acquisitions editor, research director for a non-profit, medical error consultant, science writer, technology consultant, public sector analyst, highway safety research analyst, international market research consultant, university provost, human resources researcher, and so on.

Take heart, potential school leavers: the job market is in no way limited by what you studied. So let’s stop spreading that myth.

23
Mar

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?

22
Mar

Science PhDs Are Post Academics Too​

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

Given the current dismal job prospects in tenure-track science academia, it’s no wonder more science PhDs are exploring alternative career options. Although we were groomed to succeed our mentors in the academy, bench life isn’t for everyone. Some of us don’t have the passion for conducting the same meticulous experiments day after day or the wherewithal to generate the endless grant writing required for PI survival. We are tired of spending nights and weekends in the lab, sacrificing sleep and social life to experiment-based timetables. But what non-bench career options are available that utilize our doctoral experience?

As postdocs, we are responsible for staying current with research in our field. However, sometimes that field is so narrow that we find ourselves unable to converse with other scientists about our work, much less attempt to explain it to our family and friends. We are intelligent detail-lovers, but we can also be generalists. A broad understanding of contemporary science is essential in order to produce high impact research, which is typically a by-product of collaboration. But inter-disciplinary collaboration produces more than prominent publications; it enhances our ability to communicate science across other fields. Some scientists are gifted communicators with a knack for relating research to anyone. And for those who can put research into a social and political perspective to engage and enlighten a non-technical audience, science writing may be the perfect career path.

Science writing encompasses a variety of career prospects, from technical writers who prepare users manuals for biotechnology companies to science journalists who work for media outlets. Science journalists don’t always write for lay audiences, though. Some write for professional audiences in institutional or society newsletters, alumni magazines and in-house publications. For science PhDs interested in public relations, there are a myriad of public information positions available at universities, non-profit organizations, government agencies and private research foundations. These organizations seek spokespeople as conduits through which research can be articulated to the public. For example, public information officers write press releases that are distributed to the media and serve as liaisons between reporters and institutional staff.

Trading pipette for pen is a daunting transition, but postdocs would be surprised at how they already fulfill the job requirements. Science writers are expected to attend scientific meetings, read journals, and maintain contact with scientists in their field of interest in order to stay current on advances in the area. Depending on the size of their organization, science writers may be responsible for covering a wide range of science or they may have a narrow range of interest such as biotechnology or neuroscience. Science writers, like postdocs, spend their professional life continually learning. Each article challenges them to master a new vocabulary and become familiar with new concepts. All science writers share a common responsibility: to monitor research developments and translate information of interest to their audience. The advent of social media has many science writers producing more than print journalism. Podcasts and videocasts are becoming popular, and prospective science writers need not only an in-depth understanding of their topic, but also the ability to accurately and clearly communicate research to a broad audience.

So how do you know if science writing is right for you? Dr. Sue Ambrose, science writer for The Dallas Morning News, offers advice for aspiring science writers in Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower, a book I recommend for any science PhD who is considering alternative career options outside academia. As Dr. Ambrose puts it, good science writers “would rather learn a little about many areas of science than spend the rest of [their] career focused on a single, narrow field.” If you savor the sense of accomplishment that comes with publication, loathe writing in the context of academic prose, and would be relieved to never have to run another experiment again, then science writing is a career to consider. If the prospect of returning to the classroom isn’t appealing, there are other ways to launch a career in scientific journalism that don’t necessitate financial investment in formal coursework. Several awards, fellowships, and grants are available to aspiring science writers; a listing of these opportunities is maintained by the National Association of Science Writers. AAAS sponsors an annual Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program that places STEM graduate and post-graduate students at media organizations nationwide. The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is also a great resource for the science writing community, and includes a guide to careers in science writing.

As trained scientists, we anticipated a future at the bench. But for many of us, due to the current state of the academic and industry job market, alternative career options represent more tenable choices. And for those who love science but not lab work, science writing may offer the perfect solution.

Meghan Mott (PostDocs)

21
Mar

The Versatile Phd

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

 

Are you a graduate student in the Humanities and Social Sciences? Are you worried about your future or wondering about nonacademic careers? Help is on the way.

The Versatile Phd Pitch

A new resource called The Versatile PhD is now available to you that demystifies nonacademic careers for humanists and social scientists. It can show plausible career paths and provide robust support should you decide to prepare for a possible non-academic career. You can:

  • Read first-person narratives written by real humanities and social science PhDs and ABDs who have established non-academic careers, describing how they did it and sharing their advice from experience
  • Join a thriving, supportive web-based community where you can dialogue with “Versatile PhDs” in and outside the academy

The service is completely confidential.  No one at any university will know you are using this website unless you tell them.

Access to The Versatile PhD is password protected to insure that only authorized members of the Syracuse University community take advantage of these key resources. Once you click the link below, you will be prompted for the proper user name and password (your netid and password). Once entered, you will find links to a number of resources that will help you to with your non academic career search. Questions about how to make maximum use of these resources may be directed to Rosanne Ecker, Graduate Student Associate Director at Career Services.

The Versatile PhD is a web-based resource for graduate students, Ph.D.’s, alumni, and postdoctoral fellows interested in exploring non-academic careers. The site can be accessed from any computer and is confidential. The Versatile PhD is currently mainly for those in the humanities and social sciences, BUT, a second forum was created this year for science, technology, engineering and math students.

 Continued Versatile Phd Pitch

While many areas of the site are open to everyone, UW-Madison is now a subscriber, which means that current students, faculty, staff and recent alumni get access to the high-quality Premium Content Area of the Versatile PhD site. Here’s what you’ll find:

  • A thriving and supportive web-based community where you can participate in discussions and network with actual “Versatile PhDs”, or just listen and learn
  • Examples of successful resumes and cover letters that resulted in humanities and social science doctoral program graduates getting their first post-academic positions
  • A collection of compelling first-person narratives written by successful humanities and social science PhDs and ABDs, describing how they established their non-academic careers, and including their actual application materials
  • Successful CV-to-resume conversions that resulted in a PhD or ABD getting hired into his or her first non-academic position
  • Archived panel discussions featuring PhDs working in non-academic fields who describe their jobs and answer questions from members

 

The Versatile Phd: Another way to look at it

This morning I received a message from my university’s career center informing me that they now subscribe to a pay-for service called “The Versatile PhD” which has:

* Examples of successful resumes and cover letters that real PhDs and ABDs used to get their first post-academic positions

* A collection of first-person narratives written by successful non-academic PhDs and ABDs, describing how their careers have developed after grad school until now

* Archived panel discussions where PhDs and ABDs working in specific non-academic fields describe their jobs and answer questions.  Past topics include Federal Government, Policy Analysis, Freelance Writing and Editing, Higher Education Consulting, Management Consulting, and University Administration.

In an effort to understand this service (after I determined that my university login was not working to get me access to the site), I went to their website and learned that it’s geared especially towards the Humanities and Social Sciences, “to help humanities and social science PhDs identify and prepare for possible non-academic careers. We want them to be informed about employment realities, educated about nonacademic career options, and supported in preparing for a range of possible careers, so that in the end, they have choices.”  It’s a laudable goal, and I commend the Versatile PhD service and my uni’s Career Center for providing options for all of us unemployable PhD-types.  But it seems to me, that such stories are available in many places online, such as in Bethany Nowviskie’s open-source (i.e. free) book “#alt-ac: Alternate Academic Careers for Humanities Scholars.”

Call me cynical, but it seems to me that the Career Center could better serve its Humanities constituents by giving them the skills to search the web and become digitally literate in open-source offerings rather than offering canned content about possible careers from a proprietary service.

Do you agree?

 

From PostAcademic.org

We’ve mentioned the WRK4US listserv maintained by Paula Chambers, which is pretty much the best-known online resource for Ph.D.-types transitioning to work off the tenure-track.  Well, the listserv is in the midst of metamorphosing into The Versatile Ph.D., a website that still does all the things WRK4US did, but with more new features and a more accessible online interface.  The confidential email-delivered discussions are now happening on message boards, so you can participate at the website and opt out of receiving email updates if your inbox (like mine) is too cluttered.  Nonetheless, the discussions are still confidential, since you have to be a member of the Versatile Ph.D. community to participate.  If anything, networking and taking part in the good vibes of the helpful, supportive discussions are probably easier in this format, since there’s a list of participants and a search function for members on the website.  Basic membership is free and only requires some info about yourself.

It’s now also easier to access information like job postings and events, since they are tabbed at a menu at the top of the page.  There are more new projects in the works at the site, including a premium content area geared towards institutional members who can subscribe and gain access to non-academic job search info for their grad students.  Check it out for yourself, whether you’re a WRK4US veteran or a curious newbie looking for something to browse while you procrastinate from dissertating.

20
Mar

Illness Academia |Post-flu, the blog is back

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

Whenever I’ve fallen behind on doing something, I try as much as I can to avoid creating an apology and explanation that sounds like this:

“I’m sorry I didn’t ______; I wasn’t able to get to it because I’ve just been so busy.”

I dislike it when other people use that rationalization with me, so I try not to use it with others. Busy-ness, to me, is not an adequate explanation for not getting to something. I want to share about dealing with chronic illiness:

Traditionally, the experience of serious illness has been approached in two ways: (1) a gloomy perspective of resignation, self-denial, and helplessness, or (2) a Pollyanna approach that denies altogether that there has been a real trauma. Both of these perspectives distort and disguise the reality of chronic illness.

The first perspective views the chronically ill person as a failure. This is the patient who does not respond to the “miracle” of modern medicine, and somehow the lack of recovery is often perceived as the patient’s fault. This attitude of blame accounts for some of the worst psychological abuses of patients by health practitioners and caretakers, an attitude typified by the too-frequently heard statement, “Stop complaining. You simply must adjust.” Unfortunately, the sick person may also adopt this punishing attitude toward himself or herself. Sadly, the word “adjust” too often means “resign,” “settle for less than a desirable existence,” and “surrender.” At its worst, “adjust” is just another way of saying “You are now a nonperson without the right to experience strong passions, desires, or fierce and unyielding hope.” All the anger and blame inherent in this attitude is misdirected: the patient rather than the disease becomes the target.

The Pollyanna approach is typified by — and fueled by — personal stories or testimonials of complete recovery from extreme illness or disabling conditions. These stories tug at the heartstrings and catch the fancy of all who read them. Besides creating false hope by overplaying the likelihood of complete recovery, these stories consistently underplay the sadness and feelings of worthlessness that are part of the legacy of any physical or emotional trauma.

Sometimes, it is useful in social situations to present yourself as a Pollyanna. When meeting new people and situations, it may be an advantage for you to let others think you have mastered your disease. The anxiety of other people is reduced by not having to confront illness. The danger is that this Pollyanna image may create a barrier between you and the people who can offer real help.

The resignation viewpoint holds little hope; the Pollyanna viewpoint holds little reality.

The approach I propose took shape as my own understanding developed. My experience as a patient, observer, and psychotherapist has allowed me to see the many ways in which people creatively adapt and use their individual internal powers of wholeness (the sense of being emotionally intact) to reduce the destructive effects of severe physical limitations and accompanying depression, rage, and fear. The wellness approach I present stresses both the subjective experiences of loss and your responsibility for looking outward to reestablish quality in your life.

Central to wellness is the concept of adaptation — the flexible, creative use of resources to maximize your choices and experiences of mastery. This is the key to creating and sustaining a sense of inner tranquility in the face of difficult realities. There is no need to deny grim facts of existence or to pretend to others that all is well when inside there is little except torment. To be psychologically well while physically sick involves the belief that your personal worth transcends physical limitations; you need positive self-esteem for true adaptation. This belief in your self-worth rarely emerges until what you have lost and grieved for stands second in importance to precious moments of inner peace and joy.

Each stage in the progress toward wellness involves loss, grief, and acknowledgment of internal pain. During difficult times, emotional pain can engulf your life. All sense of time and proportion fade. The scope and intensity of the psychological pain fluctuates day to day. At times, it carries you closer to invaluable inner resources. At times, like a dangerous undertow, this pain drags you far from your recognizable self. It may seem that you have no reason for living or that you are living only to experience pain. Even so, the reason for living is life. The incentive for becoming psychologically well is the potential for the future.

Illness is an emotionally as well as physically depriving experience. It can do lasting harm by threatening a person’s sense of well-being, competence, and feelings of productivity. At their worst, emotional reactions to illness may culminate in the feeling that life is meaningless. I do not share this belief; but I recognize how stress can make you feel this way.

Illness is a process, and like all processes it has different stages with different characteristics. We will discuss the stages below. The stages can occur in varying orders; often they are repeated. If a sick person lacks emotional support or a necessary feistiness, the process can stagnate, and one may be mired in one or another phase of the emotional transitions taking place. The emotional process begun by illness is a highly varied and individual one. Not everyone gets bogged down. Not everyone experiences all the stages discussed in the following sections. The stages are not part of a once-through program, but are repeated as symptoms recur or losses come about.

The level of adaptation is an upward spiral in which coping mechanisms, learned one at a time, can be combined with strategies learned at other times to make each bout of illness less emotionally upheaving.

How people react to chronic illness depends on many conditions. Three deserve note. The first is the severity of the illness. The very sick must put all their energy into healing and may not have the luxury of energy left over for emotional growth.

The second is the social support available. If you are willing to ask for help and you have a wide support network, you’ll have an easier time than if you are isolated.

The third condition is the preillness personality of the person. If you have always been pretty resilient, you are likely to have resilience in coping with the illness.

The emotional trauma of chronic physical illness is caused by loss of a valued level of functioning, such as the ability to drive or dance, for example. The chronically ill person not only suffers the loss of immediate competency but is deprived of an expectable future. No one’s future is ever guaranteed, but most people become accustomed to looking at the odds; if I invest my energies in a particular direction, I can be reasonably certain I’ll reach a desired goal in that direction. When illness intervenes, all past efforts may seem irrelevant — and in fact they may be.

In the face of such losses, to experience fear, anger, depression, and anxiety is normal. It would be abnormal to deny that your health and your life had changed for the worse. Serious emotional difficulties are more often the lot of people who do not acknowledge the emotional stress they feel and thereby bottle up depression or anxiety until these feelings are so powerful they break through their defenses. By the time an emotion becomes this powerful, it is much more difficult to survive its impact without severe scarring.

Is there anything that can help overcome the displacement and depression caused by physical loss and the loss of goals and dreams? I think the answer is an unqualified YES!

Goal-oriented striving, any experience of mastery, any outside acknowledgment of competence, a well-tuned sense of humor, any experience of joy, and the constant striving toward an inner state of tranquility are the aids that help overcome the displacement and depression of chronic physical illness.

These aids are of critical importance in the stages of the ongoing emotional process. I identify these stages as crisis, isolation, anger, reconstruction, intermittent depression, and renewal.

These are good summary categories for the whirl of emotions triggered by illness and we will take up each stage in turn, although in the course of an individual illness they may not always proceed in this order.