For a while I was spending quite a lot of time watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix. Since I basically hate football (much to the chagrin of my out-laws and my Big Ten classmates/colleagues), this was surprising even to me.
It’s a great show in a number of ways, but the thing I kept coming back to was this. There’s so much more that goes in to coaching football than I had even considered.
Watching past games. Analyzing player performance in practice. Conferring with other coaches. Negotiating for funding and schedules and what have you. Counseling and disciplining and hollering. Not to mention the actual breaking down of skills and forming coherent and effective regimens to improve players’ skills.
And plenty more that wasn’t dramatic enough to make it on to the show.
This would be why people think academics only work 6 hours a week
That annoying conversation you have with people who think academia is a dream job because, you know, it doesn’t actually involve much working? That’s because they don’t know what goes in to an academic job.
They only see the classroom time of teaching. They don’t see the prep. They don’t see the grading. They don’t see the advising.
They most certainly don’t see the research, or the writing, or the conference attendance. They don’t see the committee meetings, or the paperwork, or the myriad other things that are part and parcel of being an academic.
Oh, and that other annoying conversation you have, where someone says something like, oh, you live right down the street from Big Prestigious University, you should get a job there? And you’re trying not to laugh in their face or smack them, because if it were that easy do you think I’d still be looking and eating ramen? That’s also because they don’t know how this career works.
How many other careers don’t you understand?
When we think about what else we could do, we’re not making those judgments based on the actual facts of what that career involves. We’re usually making those judgments based on the same level of information I had (okay, probably still have) about coaching football or your annoying relative has about academic careers.
In other words, we have no idea what that job really looks like. In order to figure out what we might want to do, then, we have to figure out what those jobs really entail. What does an average day look like? What kinds of tasks would you be doing? What does it look like in different organizations? What do qualifications for that job look like?
There’s a lot to find out. But until you recognize just how much you don’t know about something, you’re apt to dismiss it based on Hollywood or assumption or rumor or your cousin’s best friends boyfriend’s sister.
It goes both ways
Just like you don’t know what a project management career looks like, or a training and development job, or a grant writing job, the people you’d want to hire you for the Next Right Thing also don’t know what you’ve actually done in academia.
They don’t know about the ways you’ve developed project management skills. Or event planning skills. Or communication skills. Or public speaking skills. Or whatever.
The harder part is this: Many academics don’t know that they have these skills either. And until you really understand what you bring to the table, it’s hard to argue that someone should give you a chance doing something new, something your research suggests you might like.
In other words, it’s in your best interests to both actually ask some questions about careers you might want to pursue, and explore your own history and experience to figure out what you bring to the table. Putting them together will give you a much better chance of landing something you’d actually like.
Want some help figuring out what careers to research and how to do it? Not sure what you bring to the table? Check out Choosing Your Career Consciously, a course designed to help you figure out what else you could – or would want to – do. The next session starts March 7, and there’s an early-bird discount through February 29.