I regret NOTHING.
Life is funny sometimes. Today was my second week of my Out-Ac job. I realized going home on Friday last week that I had an entire weekend to myself. I had no papers to grade, no articles to write, nothing to research. I had no guilt about taking an entire weekend to do whatever I wanted, which was incidentally watch professional wrestling and make apple butter. The important thing is I had both free time and peace. I used a bit of that time to think about whether or not I missed the academy, the tenure track life, and the grind of research. And for a few hours, I did.
Fast forward to today, where a couple of big things happened. I got an extremely touching email from someone who reads the blog, and sounds extremely unhappy in their tenure track position. I also had a former student reach out to me to ask me about things they've heard about my departure. I also had some former colleagues reach out to me with similar questions. These are three things that really closely encapsulate what I've been thinking since my departure, and wanted to address here.
First, to the scholar who emailed me, I am so sorry you are feeling this way. While you are in your current situation, I would like to offer this small advice that I gave myself:
1. Every day, do something, no matter how small or big, to take care of yourself. Self care, especially in isolating and demoralizing circumstances is a revolutionary act.
2. Make and stick to a viable plan of both self care and movement.
3. Know you are not obligated to go on a field trip of someone else's feelings about you. People are going to say what they want to say. You are not required to walk through their feelings about you with them. You are not obligated to entertain them. You are not obligated to respond to them.
4. I'm still serious about the imagination thing from my first blog.
I'm seriously wishing you luck and sending support to you. Despite what you've been told, suffering is not in the job description. There is a difference in doing hard work, and feeling sad by it on occasions, and suffering for the sake of suffering. This narrative of suffering in the academy is just as toxic in my opinion as the narratives of busy-ness that tells professors to work 80 hour weeks, neglect their families and health and happiness for the possibility of tenure.
Good luck, and always feel free to reach out.
I'm going to combine points two and three here, because I feel they overlap. I want to start with the best advice I've ever given myself; which is, again, I am NOT required to take a field trip through someone else's feelings about me.
I guess the round about purpose of this entire post is about dealing with "fallout." I've gotten a lot of questions and requests for me to be specific around the exact reasons I left the academy and my former position. I'm going to use this space to publically say that I'm not going to do that here. Having bad experiences in a situation does not mean you need to say bad things about a situation, especially not in a massively public forum.. And that is the philosophy I'm going to take here.
As far as dealing with fallout with former colleagues and former students, I'm of two minds. There are students, from every institution that I've been at/worked at that I keep in touch with. They are always free to ask me questions, and I try to make a habit of telling them what I understand of situations. With former colleagues, I as always, respect them and their work. I know institutional politics are a thing, and I do not begrudge them for doing what it is that they do.
I suspect that I'll be dealing with "institutional" fallout for a while. Especially since I am planning to still attend a few conferences I was slated for this year. (I already paid, and I miss my academic friends. I'm also loathe to give up a chance to talk about my side project, Professor Dresser in Exile). In the midst of parts of this fallout, I miss parts of the academy. I miss my students. I miss aspects of the community. But then I have moments that sharply remind me of why I left. I also am happy so far in my Out-Ac role. Ultimately, when I receive letters from people who appreciate the blog, or think about fall out, I remind myself about not having to take field trips. I have no regrets about leaving.
If you make the decision to leave the academy, you will most likely deal with similar "fall out" issues. There will be backlash. Things will be said. Ultimately, you are responsible for taking the best care of yourself that you can. Let people run through their own feelings theme parks by themselves.
"Out-Ac" tips and suggestions
So, applying for “real world” jobs is awful.
When it came to the academic job market, I was EXTREMELY charmed. I don’t say that in Billy Mays font to sound vain. My academic job search was impossible. I applied for one tenure track job, ever, and got that one job. Let me reiterate. One cover letter. One skype interview. One in person. And then I started my life on the tenure track. I realize how this sounds to absolutely everyone else who has applied for hundreds of jobs. I’m not trying to salt the wound here, but the only story I can tell is my own. My experience applying for “real” jobs is much more similar to an everyday reality.
In the course of 2 months, I have applied for 130 jobs. The experience has been horrible, demoralizing, soul crushing, and terrifying. Even though two members of my immediate family work in corporate hiring and recruiting, I was largely flying blind throughout this process. Partially because they were sick of me asking them to look at my resume every other day, partially because they thought I was making a bad decision leaving the academy. I may seriously be making a bad decision leaving the academy.
I wanted to write this post to document some things I’ve learned about transitioning between a CV and a resume, and how to write a cover letter. When I get a “real” job, I will post examples of my cover letters on the site. Here are some things I’ve learned through this process:
1. CVs are a measuring contest. Resumes need to be short. I cannot stress this enough. Resumes are supposed to be no more than two pages. Nobody in the corporate world cares that you presented 3 papers at a single conference. Nobody cares that you went to every regional MLA. No one wants to read every book review your advisor pulled strings to get you.
2. Academic skills are super transferable. You just have to sell it right. All those humanities skills you picked up in classes are transferable. Did you make a syllabus? That’s curriculum design. Did you teach a class? That’s training and instruction. It’s all about telling the story right and figuring out how to repackage yourself.
3. Research Industry key words. Know what words to put on your resume that are specific to the field you want to get it. Recruiters search resumes by looking for key words. If you don’t have the right ones, your resume doesn’t get looked at.
4. Learn how to read again. Being in the academy really messed up my reading comprehension. I have a really hard time reading every word of every job post. While it may not seem like a big deal, it is something that you have to do. Skimming over job calls is not going to get you anywhere.
5. Get a LinkedIn account. I found it really helpful and a great way to connect with recruiters. Spend the 10 minutes to build a nice account, upload your resume, and have a good head shot.
6. Have multiple resumes. I have different resumes for the two different industries I’m applying for. Because they are so short, they have to be specialized. I will also post examples of my resume up somewhere.
7. Cover letters have to be specific, but not too specific. I have 3 major cover letter forms; one for every industry that I’m applying for. Each one talks about specifically why I want to relocate, why I want to work for that company, and what skills specific to the call I can do.
8. Save every cover letter. Every single one. So when they call you, you can remember what you told them you can do, and what the company does. That’s why it pays to be specific in the cover letter about why you want to work for the company.
Documenting the "up and out" process. Somedays are easier than others.