We’re starting a new Q and A series on leaving academia. Please send your questions to email@example.com! For more concrete help, join the Professor Is Out private FB group, and consider signing up for our new Art of Leaving self-directed program.
Q: I’ve been an adjunct for a decade, and I know it’s time to move on, I don’t even know where to start and looking for something new. What do you recommend?
A: I assume that your dream was to become a professor and that you have really prioritized that. And now, all of a sudden, sort of under duress, you have to suddenly say, Oh, my God, who am I? What am I gonna do?
Let’s start from that point.
This is a very big question. (One I spend an hour on answering in my webinar on leaving the academy – find that here). In any case, if I had to whittle it down to just a couple of points.
- Grasp that you are a person of absolutely tremendous skills, hundreds of skills that are rare and unusual. You do not know how to identify those skills, because you’ve spent so long (and by you, I’m referring both to the person who asked me, but to academics in general), you have spent so many years with other people who share many of those skills. You’ve also spent so many years in an environment which only focuses on critique, rather than uplift, that structurally speaking, you don’t even recognize the skills that you have. So the first thing is to do a tally of those. And I talk a lot more about that in my webinar. Also, the final four chapters of my book are also about those skills.
- And then there’s the issue aside from that practical aspect, there’s the emotional aspect of truly, truly leaning into the grief, and the loss and the rage. That you certainly very justifiably feel. And you have to work through that and face it, and, and allow the emotional truth of it to also be part of your journey. It involves recognizing that this is not just the loss of a job, it’s a loss of a whole identity. It’s also the loss of a calendar, the way that the academic calendar ebbs and flows. It’s a loss of a community. And so it’s quite a bit of different kinds of loss. And I really want you to recognize that because you can’t move on productively without it.
- And then the third thing I would say, aside from those two things, is then that you do have to figure out what’s out there. And the one great thing about it is, is that you’re a researcher, so you know how to research, you know how to use the internet, you know, how to use all sorts of resources that are out there to find out what kinds of jobs are there so that once you get a better tally of your skills and your aptitudes, then you can begin to link up to jobs that exist. Or being a freelancer/entrepreneur, which I really, really, really recommend! I think academics are way more entrepreneurial than we ever give ourselves credit for. I think doing a PhD at all is a complete act of entrepreneurship. And I want you to recognize that in yourself and know that you could in fact, consider starting your own business. And I know that’s not usually the first thing that most folks think of, but it’s also something you can do and I do have a webinar on that as well.
I hope these ideas get you started! For more concrete help, join the Professor Is Out private FB group, and consider signing up for our new Art of Leaving program!