Escaping the Ivory Tower
January 25, 2012 10:35 AM Subscribe
I have a PhD in English. Enough said. No? Okay. How can I ease a transition out of academia and into the private sector, while still doing the part-time teaching thing?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I recently completed my PhD in English. I've been teaching part-time at the institution that granted me my degree. For the past many years, I've done nothing but "do" English — reading, teaching, researching, writing, all for an academic audience. But, this year, a string particularly rough professional experiences have me with my eye fixed on the door.
For now, I am teaching as a sessional. The money's okay, right now, albeit with no stability. I'm not exactly living large but I get by and am working on paying down some student debts in the process. But, I have no interest in become a life-time sessional professor. Teaching was always secondary to me to research anyway. Yep, I'm one of those notorious profs who teaches to pay the bills while being really interested in getting back to that article I've been working on. Not that I am a bad teacher — I get generally positive feedback from my students and fellow professors who have seen me at work.
But, in the meantime, I'm getting tired. I always had a time limit in mind for getting a TT job, but I find that my patience has run out before the clock. The idea of actually working from 9 to 5 once in a while, of being able to have weekends off sometimes, is sounding really, really good to me. Knowing that I won't have to reapply for pretty much the same job every four months? Heavenly.
The trouble is, well, I am an English PhD. I didn't do any non-academic work while I was doing my PhD. I worked as a teaching assistant, as a research assistant, and now I'm a teacher. I can write well, at least for an academic audience, and I'm a good researcher. It is pretty depressing when I look at the job listings that ask for these kinds of skills; the most recent job postings that came my way were for writing resumes for other people at $14 an hour. I live in a town with a particularly bad unemployment rate — one of the worst in Canada — but moving isn't exactly feasible either, as my partner does have a full-time job here that she likes and it's probably easier to find one job here than two somewhere else.
There are a few jobs I think I might be good at, even enjoy, but they are the sort of job every failed English professor goes after (editing, copywriting, policy analysis) and I'm sure there are more than a few of us these days; more than that, they all seem to ask for "real world" work experience that I do not have. I don't think I can afford (financially or mentally) going back to school to do something else. Nor can I afford to stop teaching and devote myself to finding work full-time, or do an internship. We simply need the income.
Is there anything I can do in the meantime, while I am still teaching (to pay the bills), to make myself an attractive job candidate if I do try to get out? Is there any hope for me? Where is the path out of this? What do I do?