As I gathered my team of post-ac experts, I wanted someone to represent the experience of entrepreneurship, specifically of a small academic editing business, as that is a very appealing option for many Ph.D.s. I am so glad to have found Margy Horton, who runs ScholarShape. Entrepreneurship is the post-ac topic closest to my own heart, and the one that I most want Ph.D.s to grapple with, because it means confronting the deep fear of/contempt for/denial about money that characterizes so many corners of the academy, and make peace with the fact that man is an economic animal, and money is not the enemy. Margy’s perspective is very close to my own on this issue, and I am excited to have her blogging and sharing her experience of creating her business.
As the post-ac option has gone from being an outre and maligned “Plan B” to an increasingly viable and accepted career path for Ph.D.s., more and more graduate colleges are creating offices and programs dedicated to helping their Ph.D.s make the transition. Rather than reinventing the wheel here at The Professor Is In, or getting bogged down in Quit Lit confessionals, I wanted to make The Professor Is In a source for the best and most current “actionable” advice, just as it is for the academic job search. I’m so pleased that we’ll be joined by Dr. Maggie Gover, who is Director for Professional Development at the University of California, Riverside. She does post-ac advising full-time, and runs a dynamic series of workshops and events dedicated to helping the lucky grad students of UC-Riverside confront the challenges of the non-academic job search.
Dr. Margy Horton
Margy Thomas Horton founded ScholarShape, a writing support service, in 2013. Through writing consultation and editing services, she helps scholars, researchers, students, and academics to work efficiently as they produce high-quality theses, dissertations, proposals, and other projects. Although based in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, she works with clients nationwide. Margy’s interest in helping academic writers began while she was a doctoral student at Baylor University, where she served alternately as a writing consultant, professor, and tutor. She taught courses in academic writing and collaborated with administrators to develop support services for Baylor’s graduate student writers. She has also published peer-reviewed articles. She blogs at ScholarShape.com/blog.
Margy’s consulting philosophy:
Margy wants to beat over the head any Ph.D. who thinks his or her only option is to pursue the tenure-track and/or serve in wage slavery as an adjunct. She believes that people who come by their Ph.D.s honestly are, in fact, brilliant at defining problems, locating the information needed to solve problems, and organizing that information into meaningful solutions. In her career consulting, Margy will help you to apply your finely honed problem-solving skills to your current career transition. She’ll help you to take a good look at your own unique mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities; then, she’ll help you to look at the world (dare we call it a “marketplace”?) and determine the unmet needs that only you can fill. She’ll guide you as you develop a specific strategy for turning your doctoral brilliance into a paying profession. She will probably refer you to some of the very resources she used during her own career transition.
[Note: the career consulting that Margy offers under TheProfessorIsIn is distinct from the writing consultation services that she offers through ScholarShape. The latter services are aimed at helping clients with specific academic writing projects. ]
1. From Academia to Small Business Ownership: Take What You Love and Leave What You Don’t
This post will point out the parallels between small business ownership and academic work (creativity, multiplicity, flexibility, uncertainty, and emphasis on problem-solving). I’ll also point out key differences between the two fields, specifically the relationship between cause and effect and the relationship between self and institution. I’ll describe how I crafted a career that enabled me to keep what I loved from academia and leave what I loathed.
2. Discovering Your Inner Capitalist: How to Carve Out a Profitable Niche as a Post-ac Small Business Owner
In this post, I’ll describe how I identified my marketable skills (expertise in academic writing, among other things), matched these skills to an unmet need in the marketplace, and developed a specific strategy for building a profitable business that suits me perfectly while also filling a real need for other people. As I tell my story, I’ll point out what is generalizable to other post-academics so that readers can easily glean practical insights.
3. Become an Editor or Consultant: Excavate Your Expertise, Then Sell It
By the time they earn their Ph.D.s, academics have so much more knowledge stuffed inside their heads than many of them realize. In this post, I’ll guide readers through the process of identifying the unique mix of expertise, skills, talents, and personality characteristics that they can sell by working as editors or consultants. I’ll touch on various forms of editorial and consulting work; readers may be surprised to discover just how many forms of editing and consulting are available to them. I’ll also describe my own recursive process of “excavating my expertise” (discovering, defining, and packaging it), and selling my expertise. In my work as an editor/consultant, I’ve found this to be a continuous process as I respond to clients’ needs and learn more about entrepreneurship, academia, and everything in between.
Dr. Maggie Gover
Maggie Gover serves as the Director for Professional Development at the University of California, Riverside. Her career is dedicated to helping students successfully complete their graduate degrees and then transition into successful professional lives. As such, she has quite a bit of experience helping students identify industries in which they may be successful and describing their graduate careers in ways that might be attractive to those industries.
While she is most knowledgeable in alternative academic jobs, she has helped students transition into private industry, government, and non-profit jobs as well. Maggie’s service to students began when she was an undergraduate at the University of Southern California where she served as an intern in the Office of Admissions. While she was completing her Master’s degree at the University of Oxford she served as a Junior Dean at St. Hilda’s College. When she was a PhD candidate at UCR she was the Coordinator for Academic Preparation and Outreach and then the Graduate Student Mentorship Program Coordinator. While she is now primarily an administrator, she is still researching and publishing in theories of new media and 19th C visual sciences. Get in touch with Maggie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maggie’s Consulting Philosophy:
I am a strong supporter of graduate education and think that society benefits from having those incredibly creative and analytic minds in diverse industries. I want to help students find careers that are satisfying to them and in which they will excel. Remember that no career search is easy! It will take hard work, knowledge, dedication, and perseverance. However, the great joy of working with graduate students is that they have dedication and perseverance in spades! You bring that to the table, and I can help with the knowledge.
Examples of blog posts:
Translating a CV into a Resume
Realities of the Non-Academic Job Search
Diversifying Your Resume (while still a graduate student)
Deciphering Job Postings
The Industry and Alternative Academic Cover Letter
Alessandra Asteriti says
I see that these ‘writing support’ companies are springing up all over the place (a recent one I came across to in the UK is called Academic Minds); mostly dodgy companies basically writing essays and theses or dissertations for students for a fee. In my mind this is a form of fraud which should be prosecuted. Several articles were published in The Guardian in the UK about the problem (here is a recent one:
I hope I will never have to go down this route. As for helping students in their writing and research skills, this is the role of academic advisors and students already pay for this through their tuition fees; the fact that there are companies exploiting students’ insecurities, or worse, and making them pay a second time for something they should be getting from their academic institutions is something I find appalling.
Margy Thomas Horton says
I agree that it would be unethical to write clients’ work for them or to coach them on what to say in their theses, dissertations, and papers. If a potential client were to request that sort of help from me, I would obviously decline. In fact, the work I do is endorsed by faculty and administrators at a variety of universities. For example, a major research university in the Research Triangle of North Carolina has recently contracted me to provide consultation services to graduate students who will be attending a Dissertation Institute there this May.
As I state on my website, my consultation services are “similar to those offered at the Graduate Writing Centers that some universities have established. Like these Centers, my approach to helping academic writers is rigorous, collaborative, and focused. I ‘keep the consultee actively involved in the session’ and ‘offer honest and practical encouragement and constructive criticism.’ (Those lines are from the Consulting Philosophy of Yale’s Graduate Writing Center, which I endorse.) However, such university-sponsored resources are available only to enrolled students, may not be confidential, and tend involve schedule restrictions. ScholarShape offers writing support that is more confidential and personalized than many universities can offer.”
Despite your statement that “helping students in their writing and research skills … is the role of academic advisors[,] and students already pay for this through their tuition fees,” this is simply not the reality for many graduate students, for a variety of reasons. Far better for students to have the option of seeking services like mine, rather than being tempted to turn to unethical services like the one you assume mine to be.
I want to chime in that scholarly editing companies and “paper mills” are two entirely different things. Many academics work with professional editors of repute to refine their writing, and that is the service that Margy provides. Paper mills, by contrast, are shady outfits that anonymously churn out papers for students and others who want to avoid writing them themselves. That is indeed totally unethical, and to be deplored. But the world of scholarly editing is a fine and upstanding one that provides a valuable service. Some of my best friends (and former colleagues) are academic editors and I admire their work immensely and refer clients to them all the time.
Margy Thomas Horton says
Thanks, Dr. Karen.
I think of the scholarly editor/writing consultant’s relationship with the writer-client as being akin to the relationship between Sixo and the Thirty-Mile woman in Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Here’s how Sixo describes the Thirty-Mile Woman to his friend: “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and she give them back to be in all the right order.” Editors aspire to do what the TMW does, helping clients make sense of their own ideas and express them well. (Not unlike the work of TheProfessorIsIn!)
Alessandra Asteriti says
Sorry I did not mean to imply yours was necessarily one of those shady companies providing essays, dissertations and theses for students. I am still uneasy about the fact that, once again, students with access to disposable income can buy themselves better grades, a better degree and better jobs, in this particular instance through the use of your company’s services. Good for them, and obviously good for you and your bank balance. But not good in general terms and for students of more limited means.
Margy Thomas Horton says
I make an effort to keep my rates as affordable as possible, and I always offer clients service options at various price points. One could argue that any educational enterprise necessarily reinforces the inequality in the world because no educational opportunity is equally available to everyone. One could also argue that my services actually have a leveling effect because they make it possible for a person with, say, an unsupportive advisor to have necessary guidance during the dissertation process. The systemic inequality in the world doesn’t release us (those of us who’ve been privileged with an education) from the responsibility of investing our human capital in the best way we know how. As a side note, I’m working to develop as many free resources as I can for my website.