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:
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.
Today, a reader left a valuable comment on an older post of mine. I thought that I would share it.
In the comment, the reader shares his or her personal story about the danger of specialization in PhD programs. Literary theories and department trends come and go–leaving the PhD student to put down a five year bet on which scholarly trend will win.
Victory means an average job, teaching at some college. Losing means a dissertation topic hiring committees scoff at and no job at the end of your program, a miserable bet. In academia, grad students pay the ultimate price for scholarly fads–their careers.
Why a Ph.D in English is false advertising and how to rebuild your career and find meaning outside of academic jobs. This article talks about some of the grad school cliche students I’ve met and why new thinking is needed in order to reform higher education in the humanities. (more…)
Here is a true story of my transition as a graduate student in the humanities to a search for a job in the real world. This article will give prospective grad students an idea of what to expect if you decide to leave academia. It also will give encouragement to other failed academics.