Monday, 24 December 2012

Post-academic Call for Papers and more

It's been a busy several months for many in the post-academic blogging community. We've either been right in the middle of academic labour frenzy keeping up with the demands of teaching, research and the imperative to publish, while wondering simultaneously if this is in fact the career path we are happy with and want to keep on pursuing - or we've been rewriting our resume/cv, waiting for invitations to interview, or settling into our new post-ac work lives. That dilemma, 'Should I continue or not' is what has led many to conduct Google searches using phrases like, 'Is there life after academia?', 'Is academia where I really want to be?', 'Academic redundancy', 'Transitioning from academic to non-academic life', 'Career choices outside of academia', and so on. When I discovered the many prolific post-academic bloggers out there writing about experiences and anxieties that were so close to my own story, I discovered a new-found comfort and support system that encouraged me to keep on with my career search out of academia and into something that was much more manageable.

And now the time has come to move forward. A few other post-academic bloggers such as Currer from Project Reinvention, Lauren from Mama Nervosa, JC From Grad School to Happiness
, and I have made the decision to pull our collective efforts together (thanks Currer and Lauren for the prompt) and create a website and ebook full of resources, advice and personal stories about the experience of leaving the Ivory Tower. We know this project will be much more successful and richer if it includes a breadth of contributions from others who have made the transition or are in the middle of working through the plethora of conflicting feelings they have about leaving academia.

Our website will include:
Practical Peer-to-peer advice for leaving academia on every topic from emotional issues to having to get food stamps to building up your resume/cv.

Our ebook of essays will include:
A wide range of personal stories of leaving academia.

We invite all those who have thought about leaving for one reason or another or more. We welcome a fully international scope of contributors. While we can see there are lots of post-ac bloggers from the US, we've spotted a few from Canada, the UK, Australia and beyond. We would love you to join us over here and get a sense of the common ground we share or can learn from each other across national boundaries. Feel free to start a topic. See below for details about the ebook. The website will be less structured. We intend it to be a 'One Stop Shop' for links and posts on all of the questions we ask ourselves when contemplating how to quit. Get in touch if you have an idea. Once we receive content (and have help setting up the site) it will go live.

What a way to begin thinking about starting 2013. Keep reading and find out more about how you can get involved.

Moving On: Personal Stories of Leaving Academia (tentatively titled)

Have you left academia? Or are you currently in the process of leaving? Share your story!

As post-academic bloggers, we know firsthand that there is a desire for stories that explore more than just the career aspects of leaving the ivory tower. People want to know how, when, and why you quit; emotional issues related to quitting; and examples of post-academic success. We envision this book as a source of advice and support for readers who have quit graduate school before getting their Ph.D., people leaving academia even after they have finished their degrees, and people who are adjuncting or working in academia who are looking to leave. Many stories of the post-academic transition have been told on personal blogs and websites, including our blogs and web site (forthcoming), but this is the first collection has been organized to speak directly to people’s experiences leaving academia.

We’re looking for thoughtful, personal pieces (non-fiction or creative non-fiction) that tell a story or develop a theme related to the process of quitting academia. Like any good paper, the essay should have a core thesis or concept that you’re exploring through your writing. We prefer submissions that are relatively jargon-free and more casual in writing style. Your essay can be any length, with a general goal of 5-10 pages double spaced (but we’ll consider shorter or longer!).

If you have poetry, art, or other (digitized) creative work that explores these themes, we’d be interested in that, too.

This collection will focus primarily on what happened after you quit; thus, we are not interested in treatises about the failures of grad school or the problems in higher education. You’re welcome to explore the reasons and circumstances under which you left, but please continue the narrative forward from there. You can be as anonymous as you like, although please include enough detail that the reader can be drawn into your story. We invite you to explore the messiness, difficulty, and contradictions in the quitting process. Not every story has a happy ending, and that’s OK. We encourage submissions on any of these topics, as well as proposals for essays that explore any gaps between them:

  • How, when, and why you left academia: hopes/expectations versus realities in grad school, specific incidents/anecdotes, the job market, what you wish you’d known.
  • Emotional dimensions of leaving -- loss or changes of identity, “deprogramming” from academic thought, relationship difficulties and transformations, isolation, mental/physical health issues, joys and new discoveries, family issues, etc.
  • Career Transitions: Teaching stories, writing stories, stories of how you discovered a new vocation/path.
  • Alt-Ac Careers, Adjuncting -- Life on campus when you’re not a prof or student, changes in relationships with “the academy.”
  • Success Stories: how quitting changed your life for the better, how happy you are, how glad you are to be gone.
  • Failure stories: screwing up, falling down, awful jobs, bad experiences, floundering, despair.

If you want to share a simpler or more straightforward story of your post-academic journey, please consider submitting to the website (email Lauren or Currer at the addresses below and specify that your submission is for the website).  

250 word abstracts due: Feb 1st
Goal of getting back to accepted folks mid-February
Final essays due: April 1st
Goal of publication by graduation in May 2013! :)

Email submissions with “E-Book Submission” in the subject line to Lauren at or Currer at  by Feb 1 2013.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Alt-ac Update

The other day when I was reading around some of the other post-academic blogs I was reminded of my less-frequent posting. Unsurprisingly, this has happened more since I've started my alt-ac job in September. Aside from having pretty busy hours there three days a week, I'm finding that my two days off have been filled with multiple, boring domestic tasks, car issues that need addressing, and a variety of doctor, hospital, dentist or orthodontist appointments. Some of them are my own regular visits and others are related to my children, so no, I don't have adult braces, but my daughter has them.

When I started this part-time job I imagined I'd have all this freedom to get more exercise, then lounge, catch up on sleep with mid-day naps (after all the exercise), read lots of fun novels, have lunch with long-lost friends, and spend loads of time writing for the blog. Well, I've been managing a bit of some of those things here and there, but lately in the main, the hours have disappeared with necessary duties like the list above (recently I've more fun trying to organise persistent plumbing problems/leaks, boiler breakdown). Some of the time I am spending while waiting for the plumber, I hate to admit, has been spent catching up with work emails that I felt were too important to wait til I was next in. This kind of thing was something I promised myself I would not do. I told myself if I took on work stuff at home then I would take it off my time at the office the next day or so, however, I'm finding the usual pressing list of stuff to do now or yesterday never ends. If I'm not careful, this can spiral and I'll just begin resenting the work and hating myself for doing this. I am the only one to blame here. Although there are some tight time frames in which I'm attempting to do things, I know some things can wait and will just take longer as I'm part-time.

So, I'm now trying not to spend too much time in front of the computer screen as it seems to lead me into too much temptation to check emails and follow up a thing or two. Like JC recently posted, it's probably a good idea to go offline sometimes. 

Aside from my own problematic tendency towards a negative self-surveillance that can lead me to over-working, the new-ish job is all okay, overall. Some of what I'm trying to manage at the moment, is taking up lots of time with fiddly bits of admin-type work that I hadn't quite banked on, but which I can see is necessary for me and not someone else to do, as I don't have my own personal secretary. As I work for a non-profit organisation, there is always a tight budget and less resources available to help support some of the ambitions of the organisation. This is a frustrating aspect of the job and it means that many people there are probably trying to do too much in the space of the working week. Many of them appear to do the sensible thing and take time in lieu when they are working over time in the week. There is a knock-on effect though, I noticed, when you need to have that person to do something important for you and they're off for a day or two because they are finally catching up. It's not a perfect situation, considering I'd like to achieve some of the things I've set out to do when I was hired. The reality is that these targets will need to be planned as long-term ones, maybe with a few small successes along the course of this academic year.

I thought it would be worth noting that I've come across a few other alt-ac professionals in the university with whom I'm trying to liaise about a few things. I'm finding it reassuring that these women are also confessing to feeling that when they left the traditional teaching/research path, they felt they were selling out or would be perceived as failures. But they've also found that their alt-ac jobs in the university have given them opportunities to use their PhD/academic skills in other really useful ways. And they seem pretty happy to me, at least at the level of the chats I've been having. I'm getting there. I still feel a bit awkward when I share my PhD background/identity to some of my contacts. But as time is going by, is getting easier and feels less awkward. In fact, I seem to be hearing little pockets of stories of this PhD who left academia and is now doing this or that. Ahhh, there is hope!

The holiday season is all impending now and the organisation is planning festive drinks and parties. The university closure time, we've been told, will be a whole two weeks. This means paid holiday time for all. I'm looking forward to this a lot, even though we haven't got big travel plans.We may drive to London for a night or two to visit my in-laws. This stay is always a bit short because my husband's parents are elderly and not set up for lots of visitors in the small flat they have. Hotels aren't cheap there, but we may think of an over night in a nearby one to make things a bit easier. The fact is that I actually really enjoy hanging around in the nice city where we live. It's a popular university city which becomes much calmer when all the undergrads go home for the holidays. It's got great theatre, cinema, restaurants, shops, all which we can walk to. The centre is about a 35 minute walk - a great way to burn off all of the holiday excess that we'll be subjecting ourselves to. There's no city like London, but we lived there many years and had loads of great times there before having children. I don't really miss it or get any great buzz on visits back. What I'm looking forward to this holiday season is a nice rest, knowing that my time off includes pay, and looking forward to returning to a secure job (at least for now).

Cutting to the chase now....Sunday night, UK telly means the US series Homeland is about to start. Offline fun begins now! Will try to return again before another lengthy gap.