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 mood which has been driving me through the past couple of months has sunk into a pit and been replaced by creeping, doomy fear and dread, and the sense that I should just hide under the duvet forever rather than trying to find a new career in the new world.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 »

I am adorable. Academia is not.

A collection of recent- and not-so-recent links about academic ridiculousness and miseries that I’ve been saving up. Have at them!

Too Many Snakes, Too Few Ladders – an editorial by the Times Higher Education supplement (nearest thing that the UK has to the Chronicle), finally waking up to the fact that there are tons of PhDs being churned out and very few places for them to go to; and how, by framing non-academic jobs as shameful and ‘loser’, universities are part of the problem.

Making Other Plans – an article in the same issue of the THE by a young postdoc (not me!) arguing that all PhD’s and postdocs should have a Plan B for if/when the magic dream permanent job fails to materialise.

How a Mathematician Found a New Career – US maths prof is denied tenure (for being rubbish at teaching, it seems), carves out a new life as a science writer. Parts of this rub me up the wrong way – the author is in a hugely privileged position when he leaves academia, and I don’t know how much the career he has now would work so well in the current climate viz, the death of paid journalism. But – it’s brutally honest about the shock of leaving, and is also one of the rarer pieces written by someone who left after several years in the system rather than after the doctorate or adjuncting so speaks more closely to me.

A farewell to academia – Astronomy assistant prof runs for the bright lights of Linden Labs; also really interesting discussion in the comments about the bitter funding battles in the hard sciences. I hope he is doing well; I don’t think it gives too much away to say that I can’t code but my God, I wish I could – seems like lots more options are open to those who can, see also Matt Welsh who left comp.sci. at Harvard for Google.

What you should know before starting a doctorate – This, by Tom Coates, doesn’t seem to be doing the rounds as much as it should. I love this rant about the cult of graduate school and the business models of universities. He’s talking  about the humanities, but I think a lot of it still applies across disciplines.


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.

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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.