The ten essential blogs for non academics. The road to non academic careers for MAs and PhDs is hard. These fine authors will help you down that road, giving tips and community support.
While Non academics are discovering more career options available to them outside of traditional MA and PhD jobs, alternative academic paths often involve a few years of career navel-gazing.
Here, in no particular prejudice, are 10 essential blogs for non academics looking for alternative careers with their MA or PhD.
Some are hilarious. Others will make you want to crawl into the fetus position, thinking about the years you spent developing obscure skills at grad school. But they all will help educate you, challenge you, and connect you with others on the same road.
If interested, the logic of my selection is that I wanted to reflect the current state of non academic careers. So I haven’t included sites that might have been started years ago and have since been abandoned by their authors.
I also choose blogs that focus on the emotional side of finding a job beyond academia. There is a long stream of mediocre career advice for MA’s and PhDs out there. But for me, the hardest part wasn’t making a few tweaks to my resume. To really find a job outside of academia, you need to deprogram your thinking. So I’ve chosen blogs that do just that.
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In 2004, a study was released by the American Historical Association. It showed that in a ten year span over 70% of PhD’s in History were forced to find jobs outside of academe due to the shortage of tenure-track jobs.
Beyondacademe was created as a response to this shortage of PhD jobs and it aims to educate historians about their career options outside of the university.
While the site is designed to help history majors find jobs, the career resources are useful for any humanities or social science major.
The site also shows different careers paths that other PhD’s have taken, including working for think tanks, non-profits, federal history, corporations, museums, corporations, federal government, editing, and university administration. It has articles and interviews from real History MA’s and PhD’s who have found careers in those fields.
Beyondacademe.com offers good advice for helping history majors demonstrate the value of their degree to non-academic employers, showing them how to reframe their skills beyond the traditional roles of researchers and teachers.
This ex-assistant professor from Vanderbilt University stands out from other post-PhD bloggers, as someone who left academia happily by choice–not as a result of the dismal job market. Her blog is a fun, clever revolt against the overinflation of high culture that you find in the university.
In other words, it’s a refreshing break from the whiny post academic melodrama you get at my blog Selloutyoursoul.com.
On her blog, the author (not sure if she ever gives her name), writes about pop culture, science fiction, selling the humanities for profit, and anything else that she feels like. It’s well-written and you can’t help but wish that the worst-prof taught your undergrad class. Sober or not.
The blog’s central insight is a bit of existential discovery. It will make you think about who you were before graduate school and help you rediscover your interests and personality traits that you might have repressed in order to cultivate the academic identity of the young, serious scholar.
[. . .] Have you ever felt like you’re an alien? Everyone around you is doing things that make no sense whatsoever, and you feel like you’re the only one not getting it? But you fear that if you say anything, these people will tear off their faces, reveal themselves as monsters, and eat your head?
That was my life in the Ivory Tower. Seven years as a grad student at the University of Texas, five as an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University. I hated every minute of it – so much so that I burned my PhD when I got out.[. . .]
Very funny. Very liberating. Not a practical career guide, but it will help you get over yourself.
And yes, she did burn her PhD. You can see pictures here.
A fun blog that features bits and pieces of post-academic life, career decisions, and advice on adapting academic skills to the real world. All that and a TMZ obsession with every move of Yale’s most famous PhD student and Hollywood actor, James Franco.
PostAcademic.org isn’t anti-academic. It’s a commentary on the frequent absurdities of academic job hunting, as well as the process of adapting to the real world. It’s well written and the authors (Arnold Pan and Caroline Roberts) have a very positive take on the leaving academia theme, making the blog a good place for depressed PhD’s to get a dose of witty advice and to share academic war stories.
The posts vary from teaching advice, academic stereotypes, the funny “Interviews you don’t want to have” series, and cynicism about certain aspects of academic life. And James Franco. You’re going to hear a lot about him.
4. 100 Reasons NOT to go to Graduate School
An ambitious project of sustained pessimism, methodically exposing the negative effects of graduate school. 100 Reasons Not to go to Grad School aims to present 100 reasons why students should think twice about spending their twenties chasing the tenure dream. The moral is simple. There are better things to do with your time.
Most of the reasons are valid and deal with real anxieties that you will face at grad school such as biological consequences (delaying children), publishing for the sake of amassing CV items, poverty, being an eternal student, having to always explain your vague career plans, and the often pointlessness of academic work.
The real theme of the blog, though, is the alienation from normal life that many grad students feel.
The author aptly describes this sense of alienation in reason 30:
[. . .] In a real sense, graduate school has the effect of pushing the trappings of adulthood further and further into your future and this can begin to confound the expectations of adults who have known you all of your life. [. . .] the longer that you spend as a graduate student–heavily invested in academic culture, but without the financial means to participate fully in the life of the middle class–the less you will be able to relate to the people of the outside world, and the less they will be able to relate to you. [. . .]
You might not make it through all of the 100 reasons. But the project is an important warning to young undergraduates thinking about grad school in the humanities.
5. On the Fence
Eliza Woolf’s blog On the Fence records the difficult period of her trying to land a tenure-track job, including selling her car to finance an expensive, prolonged job search, flying across the country for 30 minute interviews, and moving from town to town for teaching and research positions.
The central theme is whether she should leave academia and try to find an alternative career. This is a personal project, a snap-shot of life after the PhD and it shows the unhealthy sacrifices that young academics have to make in order to carve out a living within the university.
6. Alternative PhD
AlternativePhd.com. This is a new blog. It doesn’t have a ton of content yet, or even many practical resources for PhDs looking to find alternative careers. But I’ve chosen to include it because the blog has a worthwhile goal of providing a space for PhDs to connect with each other, share their anxieties and work through their wavering commitment to the profession.
The posts are diary-like, often sad, and show the experience of being torn between former academic ambitions and a new shaping desire to find careers outside of the university.
PhD’s thinking of leaving academia, or those struggling to finish their dissertation, will benefit from hearing these stories from other young academics.
I know this technically isn’t a blog about non academics. Idiotprogrammer is a large collection of thoughts, interviews with literary authors and musicians, environmental ideas, and other interesting bits and pieces of technology and culture.
But it does have a long article called “Straight Talk about Graduate School,” a piece that anybody considering graduate school should read.
In the article, Robert Nagle, the creator of the site, has amassed a long bibliography of different reactions to the PhD job crisis such as Timothy Burke’s 2004 critique of graduate school, as well as recent commentary by Penelope Trunk and Thomas Benton.
Based on the community reaction (123 comments as I write this), this post records a growing community of dissatisfied academics and shows a snapshot of different perspectives across countries and disciplines.
Idiotprogrammer.com also has some resources for grad students thinking of getting into technical writing, as well as a ton of other articles on varied topics such as self-improvement tips, productivity tips, and online culture. This site is a futuristic personal encyclopedia, showing that you can still have an active intellectual life and writing career outside of stuffy journal publications and monographs.
Not a blog. Versatilephd.com is a forum designed to help PhDs connect with each other and to share resources about tenure employment realities.
As the title implies, the forum covers the professional versatility of PhDs, encouraging a new breed of humanities and social science MAs and PhDs to look beyond the university for career options.
A useful feature is the job posting section, advertising various cultural jobs, fellowships, and research positions across North America. The biggest resource, through, is the ability to post a question (such as “Will my PhD help me or should I drop out?”) in the forum and receive the advice of an informed community.
[. . .] The Versatile PhD mission is to help humanities and social science PhDs develop and demonstrate their versatility as professionals. We want you to be informed about academic employment realities, educated about nonacademic career options, and supported in preparing for a range of possible careers, so that in the end, you have choices [. . .]
9. Because: A Manifesto
This isn’t a blog. It isn’t even a forum. And I don’t know who wrote it. But this anonymous manifesto surfaced in January 2011. It’s a short collection of reasons why the author is leaving academia, capturing in a few pages the types of things I have taken 8 posts to say on my blog.
Because the failures of a flawed system are not my personal failures.
Because I am tired of being made to feel like a failure because I have been failed by a flawed system.
Because my talents, accomplishments, experiences, and hard work are not acknowledged or rewarded in this system.
Because there are other places where that training and preparation will be rewarded, respected, and used.
Because I am capable of more than I can do here.
Whoever you are, you got my support. And I think that you will find much success outside of the university. If I had a company, I would hire you.
“Because: a manifesto” is reprinted in full at Inside Higher ED.
10. Living what I teach. Or Trying.
Again, this isn’t a blog or a forum. Just a single post. It was written in response to “Because: a manifesto.” But it’s an important call to action for academics, asking you to fix the broken system rather than just leaving.
I’m done. But not with academics. I’m done with not fighting. I’m done with protecting myself. I work with good people who deserve my support. I will no longer, to the best of my ability, participate in institutional injustice. I will put the interests of the group ahead of my own. I will no longer sit back and let my colleagues not be valued. I will fight until they are valued. And if they’re not, I will fight more.
Because I’d like to believe that if we all act together, for ONCE, for fucking ONCE, if we stop rolling over, start learning everything we can about our programs, our administrations, start listening to our colleagues, start making plans, start progressing, start trusting each other, this shit can change. We can keep the good teachers. We can have weekends with our families. We can have bank accounts. Love lives. Happiness.
I think it is the most important post to surface for a while. Take a look.
11. Mystery Blog????????
Add your favourite blog in the comments.
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