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…)
Last month, Selloutyoursoul.com launched a simple contest. Readers were asked to share the “best advice or lesson they’ve learned trying to find a career with a humanities degree.”
I really encourage you to check out the full response. There were really some insightful, knowledgable, and unique answers that will help you if you are searching for a job with your humanities degree.
Here is the winner of the $20. Without wanting to sound cliche, it was hard to pick the best answer. A lot of experience was shared. But I picked this answer because I think it is the first and most important breakthrough you need to experience if you are to find a job outside of academia with your BA, MA, or PhD. Everything remains in limbo until you realize this basic truth.
Fifty years from now there will be only 10 institutions in the whole world that deliver higher education.
–Sebastian Thrun, founder of a sky-rocketing digital university
There is a higher education experiment happening right now that could topple traditional universities. For elite universities, the brand they have built might not be relevant in the near future. And the old stigma of earning a degree online will fade. This article overviews the digital shift in education that goes far beyond ‘offering courses online.’
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?
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.