Jessica recently wrote to me and shared her story of quitting her PhD and finding career happiness outside of academia. This is a guest post by her. I found her story very interesting and realized that I need to allow myself her 4th permission at least a few times per week.
It’s hard to say exactly when I stopped wanting the PhD. I’d been ambivalent about grad school throughout my master’s program, feeling depleted by academia’s insistence on fueling its members by a relentless sense of inadequacy. I thought that might go away in a PhD program. It didn’t.
By the end of 2012, I was on-track to becoming a scholar of Russian History. I passed my Qualifying Exam last fall and defended my dissertation proposal to my committee shortly after. I had a fellowship lined up for next fall, which would allow me to spend the next year in Russia completing archival research.
And I didn’t want any of it.
Still, I waited for someone to tell me it was ok that I didn’t want to become a professor anymore. My advisor was incredibly supportive, selflessly encouraging me to leave if I wanted. But it was harder than I expected to just walk away from the career I had already invested five years in.
It took me far too long to understand that ultimately I was the only person who could give myself the following four permissions I needed to change my life:
Over the last few months, I’ve been unhappy with my skill development. I have lots of interests and passions. And while I work around 50 hours a week and have a satisfying career, I always have that nagging feeling of things I’m not accomplishing.
For example, there is a course I really want to take. This course is advanced and I know will help my career. But it requires me to invest a few nights per week, so I put it off. Yet, every month I delay I still think about that course, wonder what I would have learned, and feel like I need to sign-up.
Here is what I believe essential to happiness at work and the things I think I can do to feel more satisfied and fulfilled. (more…)
It was May. University was out forever and I was looking for an apartment. A mole-like woman in her fifties showed me the room. “And what was your major,” she asked. “I have an English degree,” I said.
“Oh!, so I guess that means you will HAVE to teach!” She said.
She was so happy when she said it. She was so happy to determine my fate. You studied English. Now, you HAVE to teach at high school.
Wizard school is over. Time to find a job in the real world, Harry.
As she told me later, she also took an English degree and taught at high school. Teaching at high school is an honourable profession. But just because you take an English degree doesn’t mean your only option is teaching.
I managed to escape that woman’s narrow thinking. You can too.
Here are 5 lucrative and growing jobs for people with English degrees that you probably haven’t heard of before.
1. This book to help you to not be intimidated by business majors.
2. This career book.
3. This article to help you understand how to sell your liberal arts degree to employers.
4. This basic tutorial to help you learn a bit of Excel. Not knowing Excel in the non-academic world is like not knowing how to use a word processer in academia. A little preparation goes a long way.
The word Entrepreneur. It probably makes many academics shake. I was always attracted to an academic career because of lifelong job security, quiet campus hallways, and a comfortable cheque appearing magically every month.
This interview offers advice from a PhD who left the security of tenure and launched her own successful business.
On grad school admissions websites, they lie. They tell you how long it takes to complete the degree–Master’s degree one to two years; PhD, four to five years–but they never talk about the years of career limbo after you graduate.
For me, the longest year of career limbo was after I finished my Master’s degree and was accepted into a PhD program. I had planned on becoming a professor since I was 19. I had spent most of my free time and academic years working towards that goal. I spent the summers reading French literary theory, wrote academic papers in dirty little apartments, collected quotes from Augustine, Freud, Kierkegaard, and St. Paul in a thick journal, and never once took a work co-op or gained any practical work experience outside of my scholar-path.
After a year of deferring my PhD program drop-out, I finally sent the email and cut my self loose. I expected things to change fast. Find that first good job. Move on up with my life. But I had no job specific skills. Worse yet, I thought I had skills. I had an advanced degree! Those are valuable, right?
Looking for jobs for English majors? This is an interview about how to become an editor with Benjamin Lukoff, a former Music Editor at Amazon.com and published author. We talk about how to get your first editing job and discuss some ways that Ph.D.’s, M.A.’s and other English majors can get jobs in editing. (more…)