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Gigantic Harley-Davidson just out of shot

Gigantic Harley-Davidson just out of shot

After a few months of flailing and sadness, I found 2 non-academic jobs this week that I would like to do and that I think I’m qualified for. AMAZE. I’ve started filling in the application forms and have roped in a friend who’s a professional careers advisor to look over them. It’s only 2 jobs, I know, and I also know how horribly competitive they’ll be and that I have no idea if I’ll get either of them. My career advisor friend said similar things: don’t think about the application as achieving anything, just make it beautiful in itself and then get it sent off. This is very similar to the ‘always be shipping’ mantra that my friends in tech and design talk about – not that I want to be applying for everything ever and making sloppy mistakes in the application forms (after all, ‘always be shipping’ can lead to its own errors) but it’ll be good to get some momentum going on here.

And man, I allowed myself to think about what it would be like if I got one of the jobs and OMG you guys, it was amazing – like this little spark of neon hope that there a) was actually an Outside there and that b) it coud be pretty amazing. Even if I don’t get either of these two jobs, I’m planning to keep my job-hunting mojo going; even just seeing the job ads has been really useful in making me think about what type of work I’d like to do and that I’d be good at. ONWARDS.


Emotional exhaustion, piglet style

Apologies for the radio silence; life at Piglet Towers has been full of Life Events as I believe Psychologies magazine would have them. Some have been good, some bad, and none I will describe in particular detail. One major upshot has been that Potential New Career will have to be put back a year, at least, if I even choose to go for it. This has suddenly opened up the horizon again which would have me spinning like a panicked dervish…

…except that, because of the impact of some of the Life Events I have spent the past couple of weeks in a daze. At the point, some months back, when I decided to say “Aha ha ha academia, nuts to you” I felt some kind of careless lightness – that all the things I had been worried about, like publications and research grants, were meaningless and lifted away. I’ve now been feeling like that about pretty much everything; all the postacademic job and direction fears have just gone floated out of the window. It’s not ideal – my productivity has not been super as I’ve spent most of my time in work doing the 5-mile stare at the computer, or shuffling through various videos of Paralympic events. Whilst I would not wish for the world that the worst of the Life Events be repeated again anytime soon, I am hoping to capture some of this bubble-state in which I am actually pretty calm about the future because everything will be OK, in some way for when my adrenal glands start working again

(If you’re wondering just what it’s like inside my head right now, go into a cool dark room, cover yourself in a sheet and listen to this on loop).

A couple of links to keep you busy until next time (one of these things is not like the other):

–       New Kid on the Hallway is a former academic turned lawyer who made the career after (I think?) being denied tenure. She has some interesting perspectives on what it’s like going back from professor to student again.

–       An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education made me realize that one reason why there is so little transparent information about post-PhD careers is that there is no centralized body gathering that data in the US. In the UK we have Vitae which isn’t perfect but is better than nothing.

–  A short video of a piglet enjoying a warm bath.


Who loves ya baby? This fuzzy fuzzy blanket loves you.

Oof, I have been in a snit for the past week. All of the gung-ho “LEEEEAVVING ACADEMIA!!! LEAAAAVING ACADEMIA FORREEVVVERRR!!!’ mood which has been driving me through the past couple of months has sunk into a pit and been replaced by creeping, doomy fear and dread, and the sense that I should just hide under the duvet forever rather than trying to find a new career in the new world. LIFE IS HARD, you guys.

These are some of the things I have been grappling with, and how I am trying to get them into a headlock:

Read the rest of this entry »

The UK piglet sychronised swim team in the famed 'splodge' formation

The UK Olympic piglet synchronised swim team in the famed ‘splodge’ formation

So you probably know that the Olympics have taken over London, but did you also know that the Paralympics are here too? I am one excited piglet about the latter, and have tickets to see several of the events (although sadly not Murderball). The noise around the Paralympics is interesting – some of the marketing has been horribly patronising and there is far too much use of the term ‘inspirational’. Oscar Pistorius epitomises a lot of the problems – the man is truly amazing, but as this essay points out, it can be disingenuous to focus on the example of an outlier elite when the majority of that population struggle with general inclusion. Similar points have been made about women in the workplace  – what use is it to look to Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg when, by dint of being rich and powerful, they don’t face many of the issues around childcare and money and time and so on that ‘ordinary’ women face.

But don’t we all need heroes to look to? Read the rest of this entry »

True fact! Miuccia Prada (who may or may not have designed these wellies) has a doctorate in political science.

Hello folks – a longer post is coming but for now, have some more related links. First up, a discussion of all the things that are going wrong in the current system:

Freelance, part-time or fixed-term: Career options for academics. A discussion in the Guardian, following the Birmingham debacle, reflecting what is happening in UK universities and also making the salient point that the shift away from permanent jobs is also affecting support and admin staff.

The Postgraduate Workers Association. Working with the UCU and NUS to ensure fair conditions for postgrad students.

What about the authors who can’t pay?. Why the UK government’s embrace of ‘gold standard’ open access is – surprise – going to harm PhD students and early career researchers the most.

And, to stop you all throwing yourselves into a river (of tears), some more upbeat stories:

Doctor Twenty-Seven is another ex-academic who left the tenure track for life as a staff scientist in NY (jealous! but inspirational!), and writes about the old and new life; what I like is that ze is also clear that industry itself is not a land of milk and honey.

Gillian Tett is the US managing editor of the Financial Times, has a PhD in social/cultural anthropology, and is amazing. This is an interview with her from 4 years ago where she talks about the link between her research and her journalism.

Danah Boyd, the super-famous researcher who does work on young people and digital technologies, talking about her life at Microsoft Research. I’m not sure whether she counts as a non-academic as she currently holds positions in both universities and industry, but it’s an interesting read (and as a social scientist, has given me lots to think about and plan)

Not a pigeon

There is an excellent series of children’s books based on the character of the terrifyingly-Cyclops-eyed Pigeon, which I heartily recommend that you buy for yourself if you have any small children in your life in any way, or as a gift for those who do. Pigeon is a very keen and over-excited protagonist who really really really really wants to do something that he shouldn’t – stay up late, drive a bus, get a puppy – and the premise of the book centres around telling Pigeon “NO” loudly and repeatedly.  It is genius – Pigeon begs, whines, and throws tantrums on each page, and everytime you rebuff him.

“I tell you what: I’ll just steer,”


“I never get to do anything,”


“No fair! I bet your mom would let me.” 


In the Piglet household, the Pigeon books have become a byword for standing firm in the face of young academics wanting to take a series crappy  jobs in the hope of the great maybe. I have wheedled, partner Piglet has stayed firm. Read the rest of this entry »

I’ll start updating my LinkedIn profile in just….a….minutezzzzzzzzz

I work better to deadlines; they sharpen my porcine brain and give me something to aim for. So having a 11-month (and ticking down) deadline until I leave is good; on the other hand, what shall I do in the meantime?

This isn’t as facetious a question as it sounds. By the nature of academic work I have a lot of “slack time” built into my contract in which I’m expected to go to conferences, write papers and do all the other preparational things necessary for a glorious career in the academy; as well as the actual research itself. But what if I don’t want to stay here…? Read the rest of this entry »

Desolate piglet contemplates a future of ‘publish or perish’.

As a Type 1 leaver, I feel I have an extra burden to explain myself. I’m not leaving because I’ve spent years scrabbling between 700 adjunct jobs to pay the rent; or because there is only 1/2 a job advertised in my field per year; or because my discipline is slowly being side-lined out of existence. But *flexes trotters* I have my reasons to want out. Number 1 reason – it won’t get better.

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s over there? A great non-academic job?

Yes, yes, it’s another leaving academia blog (and isn’t it curious how many of those seem to be coming out of the woodwork…). A little about me, to give you an idea what this is all about:

  • I’m a research post-doc in the social sciences. I have about a year left on my contract and after that, I want out. I’d actually prefer to get the hell out sooner, but I want to see my current project through.
  • I’m a Type 1 leaver – I am making the choice to leave, despite being groomed by my current university to stay on for the longer term.
  • In addition to my academic work, I’ve worked in the public and private sectors and know that there are good jobs out there which don’t have much of the bad stuff that is inherent to academia. This is one of the spurs to get the hell out.
  • Because of my work background, I’m pretty confident that I’ve got the skillz to find good work (and a good career!) somewhere else. The challenge at the moment is: what will that be?

I have no idea if anyone will read this at all, but I thought it would be both a useful place to keep track of what I’m doing (and reminding myself why I want out), and also a useful resource to other folks in a similar situation.