Abandoning a sinking (academic) ship: what career next?
September 6, 2010 8:56 PM Subscribe
Help me brainstorm a career change! Catch: $45K, in the midwest.
posted by philokalia to Work & Money (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I am a professor. Over the past five years I have gradually come to realize that I hate my job. Academia is a bad fit for me, as is my present location, but I didn't want to be a quitter. Well, now I have tenure, and I want out. The paycheck (fairly meager, as academic paychecks go) is the only thing keeping me here, and that's not a sufficient reason to resign myself to 25 more years of misery. I also feel guilty about holding onto this position when there are literally hundreds of unemployed and underemployed PhDs who would do a better job than me, and would be happier doing it.
So I want to start over. Is there a new career for me somewhere? I am willing to consider almost any career path, but I have a couple of desiderata: I want to be closer to extended family in the Great Lakes region. I like analysis and short-term problem solving; while I can get things done independently, I am happiest with a fair amount of interaction and feedback, which my current career does not provide at all. (The only serious evaluations of my work over the past 10 years were done by outside reviewers during the tenure process -- and those evaluations were confidential, so I never saw them. Not knowing for years at a time whether I was doing a good-enough job = unbelievable stress.)
I really would like to find work that is useful, in a field that is not overcrowded with job seekers. Benefits and predictable working hours would be great. And when I started making about $45K I was able to stop worrying about money, so I would be happy to find employment at that income level (or even below, if there was a better than average chance of getting back to that level within two years). Other than that, really, anything goes.
I'm a quick learner, and I am not afraid of tech or numbers or getting my hands dirty: I did a fair bit of hard science and higher math and even some programming as an undergrad, about 20 years ago. But I have been in my present field (literature) for, well, 20 years. I don't have current expertise in anything except teaching, which I do not enjoy and would prefer to abandon altogether, and academic research/writing, which, along with $3, will get me a cup of coffee. I am ready to work at acquiring new skills, but I would like advice about where a middle-aged person can start (and also about how to start building a network of contacts in a new field, in a region far away from my current place of work and residence).
The "leaving academia" threads on the Chronicle discussion boards have been an interesting read, but I'm not anguished about leaving the ivory tower as so many people on those boards seem to be. That decision has been made. I'm now interested in the practicalities of making the move.
I know times are tough for job-seekers. Still, I think I could make myself useful, if I could just figure out where there's a need. I have the time and resources to do almost any kind of training course or degree, especially if elements of the training are available online. But every day I'm getting older, and unhappier with my situation. Time's a wastin', and the sooner I can make my move, the better.
tl;dr: Hate my job, hate my location, want to go home, willing to learn. Please give a burned-out academic your best advice for career prospects in the Chicago-Grand Rapids-Detroit-Cleveland region.