Transitioning from academia back to a former job
December 28, 2013 1:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm coming to think that, while I don't hate academia, I'm beginning to like it less and less and have apprehensions about continuing through to my dissertation. I'm in my second year of the PhD program, and have a masters with practical application in the field that I was working in before deciding to continue on to my PhD. The place where I was working, a public library, is now hiring for a position similar to the one that I was in before I left. Typically my master's degree would command a higher salary, and I think I would probably need a little bit more than what they're offering to live comfortably and start paying down my extant debt accrued during my masters (I'm not taking on any new loans, thankfully). I left on great terms, and feel like a really strong candidate for the job with the skills I've gained in the interim, but would only be able to take it with slightly higher salary than they offer now. I loved this job, and it's looking more and more appealing compared to my current experience in academia. What steps should I take to contact the HR department of the library system to a) let them know that I'm interested and suss out how interested they might be in me, and b) talk about flexibility in salary?

A few other dangling questions regarding this...

Does it look bad that I'd be leaving an academic program without completing it?

What is leaving a PhD program like? The project that I'm funded through technically has me on contract for this academic year, I believe. What steps should I take, assuming I get another job, to leave gracefully and as painlessly as possible for all parties?

Throw-away account for further contact at:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think a lot of people realize graduate school is tough to make it through. I don't know the actual statistics, but I know many people who have 'quit' a PhD program because they realized it wasn't the best fit for them. I don't respect them any less. If you get questioned, just explain you thought it was your dream, but then you realized it wasn't. I'd try not to leave a position mid-semester if possible. Try not to flake on any teach responsibilities and offer to finish any most completely projects in your spare time. I think profs realize grad school is a 'calling' and if you realize your calling is different mid-way, they except you to bail. But discuss expectations with your adviser, once you decide this is what you REALLY want.

As for the job, I'd apply like you don't have all these concerns. Salary may or may not be negotiable once they make you an offer, but I wouldn't negotiate before then. Having a job you know you love is awesome, and it's not an opportunity I'd pass by lightly. Lots and lots of people would be thrilled to know such a thing is possible for them. But I think you have some soul searching to do. How much can you realistically live on? Are you willing to make sacrifices in your long term spending? I don't think you say how long you worked for, but I think a lot of people who haven't worked for a potentially 'indefinite" time period realize that school has some amazing perks, and some parts of working suck. Consider if this will really be your your dream job 9 months in.
posted by Kalmya at 3:29 PM on December 28, 2013

Most people drop out of PhD programs. The only thing you need to worry about is not screwing anyone over in terms of your TA or RA duties. They will want as much notice as possible. If you're on a semester this may mean finishing this year out. You might also owe the university for health insurance and tution for a term if you bail in the middle of a term.
Also don't quit... Take a leave of absence. You might want to go back.
Tell your advisor first - once you have a job. Tell him or her. Don't say you're thinking about it.
Then tell the grad admin. She or he will help you with the logistics.
posted by k8t at 6:16 PM on December 28, 2013

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