You’re considering leaving academia. You think you might want to do something else. What you don’t know is how to do it – and the not knowing stops you in your tracks.
That makes sense. Looking for jobs outside of academia is really different from looking for jobs inside of academia.
The good news is that your odds are so much better than they ever were in 21st century academia.
The bad news is that it can be really overwhelming. When you’ve spent years thinking of yourself as an academic, it’s hard to imagine what else you can do. Who, outside of higher ed, would possibly need a Dickens scholar?
There’s not a lot of help out there. Your academic colleagues have no experience applying for non-academic jobs. Your non-academic friends and family have no experience translating skills and experience from one career path – academia – to another. You might not know what you can do, much less what you want to do.
While there are countless books about how to search for jobs and how to put together applications, they don’t help you figure out the transition from academic to non-academic. And they certainly don’t help you apply the principles to your own situation.
Learn from my mistakes
When I left my tenure-track job in 2005, I didn’t know anyone who had left. It was years before there would be an internet community talking about and supporting people leaving. In short, I was entirely on my own.
While I had worked in various jobs since I was 14, I had gone straight from high school into my undergraduate program and straight from my undergraduate program into graduate school. I had no non-academic professional experience to speak of. Filing Medicare billing receipts and retyping accepted academic papers in the days before scanners did not count.
Now, I’m a jump-and-deal-with-the-emotional-fallout-later kind of girl, so I took a deep breath and started sending out applications. Within six weeks I had gotten an offer, quit my job, and moved the entire household to another city.
I do not recommend this method. It may have been quick, but it was not easy, and it left me with years of tangled emotions I thought I could just jump over. So much for that idea.
That’s why I’m so passionate about helping you do it differently – and better.
Since then I’ve switched jobs and careers again, and I’ve hired dozens of people in various capacities into different organizations. I’ve seen career changes from both sides of the game, and I’ve helped over a hundred academics think through their own options and materials.
Leaving will never be easy, exactly, because transition is never easy, but it can be a hell of a lot easier than it was for me and for many others I know.
I’d like to help make it easier for you
There are two parts to every job search: the practical logistics and the emotional quicksand.
The practical logistics are mostly straightforward, even though they’ll be different in practice for everyone. There are strategies for writing a good cover letter. There are ways to narrate your leaving that will satisfy the curiosity of interviewers. There are generally accepted formats and standards for resumes. There are places to look for jobs, and there are ways to identify what you’re looking for.
At the same time, 99% of practical problems are really about our fear, anxiety, and grief. I can tell you exactly how to write a cover letter, but if you’re mired in an anxiety and shame storm that says you’re a failure and don’t have any useful skills, that cover letter template isn’t going to do you a lot of good. Until you can address that underlying anxiety and shame, writing the cover letter will be a painful, drawn-out experience.
Worse, when your application comes from that place of anxiety and shame, it’s much less likely to be successful. The anxiety and shame will color the whole thing, and you won’t be able to present yourself and your skills confidently and forthrightly.
Job searching may never be fun (although I do know people who enjoy it). But being able to identify and deal with the emotional crap while knowing how to solve the practical problems will make it less stressful and more successful.
Here’s what we’ll cover
In this six-week course, we’ll cover everything from how to network (whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert) to how to negotiate, from how to write an application to how to create a system that will help you job search without losing your mind.
Week 1: Overview
Before we jump into specifics, it’s helpful to have a map of what we’re going to cover. And before you can jump into the non-academic job search, you need to know how to leave academia, including optimal timing, processing your grief, and explaining why you’re leaving.
Week 2: Preparing for the Non-Academic Job Search
Before you can start applying for jobs, you need to know what you want to apply for and what gaps, if any, there are between the skills you can demonstrate now and the skills you need to demonstrate to land the next-right job. Hint: the answer is almost never another degree!
Week 3: Networking
People are a key resource in job searching. They provide everything from support to feedback to leads on actual jobs, and studies have shown that hiring managers are more likely to hire someone recommended by or at least known by someone they know. You’ll use your inherent strengths, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. There will be no smarm, I promise.
Week 4: Applying for Jobs
No one creates a job because they’re feeling nice. They hire someone because they have a problem they need to get solved, whether that problem is their editors being overwhelmed or not understanding how people use their widget. A successful application will demonstrate how you can solve their problem – without causing more.
Week 5: Interviewing and Negotiating
Applying for jobs can feel like dating, and just like in dating, both parties need to be interested. Once you get your foot in the door, you’re continuing to demonstrate your fit with their needs and you’re also finding out if they meet your needs.
Week 6: Putting It All Together
Maybe you’ve got 40 hours a week or more to devote to job hunting. Maybe you’re juggling job hunting around two classes, a toddler, and an unfinished dissertation. Whatever your situation, you need a strategy to keep your job search moving and organized.