Post Academic

Learning on the post-academic job

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on August 5, 2010
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We wanted to respond a little to all the sincere concerns and sympathetic support articulated in the comments section to “Can Being a Lowly Grad Student Kill You?”  We were heartened by the fact that so many folks felt compelled to offer their two cents, so I figured I might as well go into my own post-academic situation try and do what our statement of purpose says we do: “help people–starting with ourselves–figure out how to use and adapt skills to do things for which they might not have been initially intended.”

"A Notary in His Office" (1672) by Jan Berckheyde (Public Domain)

To expand on yesterday’s post unpacking the ballyhooed flexibility of academic jobs, I wanted to share some of my new experiences of working a 9-5 job–really, it’s like a 10-6 job in may case–in an office setting and what I’ve learned about my life as an academic from being a post-academic.  OK, my particular situation is a somewhat anomalous one because I’ve lucked out a bit finding employment that fits my training and skills well.  My job could be best defined as post-Ph.D./not tenure-track/no teaching/but still academic.  And I do enjoy some flexibility–note the semi-off-commute hours that accommodate me having to endure one of the bottom-10 worst commutes in the country many times a week.

With those caveats out of the way, I have to say that I enjoy having the structure of being in the office during specific times after basically setting my own hours working and studying since college.  Getting back to my original train of thought, here’s what I’ve learned to appreciate about having a stricter schedule and how I’ve come to the realization that flexible academic time might not have been so great for me…

Setting boundaries: Let me start by saying that the flexible schedule works for some people, since they manage their time well to find a way to be productive scholars, good teachers, and have a normal off-campus life.   And, of course, there’s an appeal to only being officially on the clock/in the classroom for, say, 10 hours a week, plus a few hours for office hours, plus more hours for administrative stuff, plus many more hours of prepping, plus many more hours of grading–wait, what was that about “controlling” your own “flexible” time as an academic?  Hey, that still doesn’t add up to 40 hours a week, does it?

More below the fold…


The Tenure Debate, Again: You First. No, You First.

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by postacademic on July 30, 2010
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More or Less Bunk took a page from Bill Maher and set a New Rule: “Any professor who thinks tenure should be scrapped must give up theirs first.”

That rule sure would stop the endless circular debates that never result in anybody doing anything about the number and quality of jobs in academia (or the education provided to students, for that matter). There are a few individuals, though, who are either letting go of tenure or just letting go, period. Consider the following examples:

1. The Self-Described “Worst Professor Ever”: This philosophy PhD got a job and left it. On her way out, she torched her PhD while wearing a Bettie Page wig. Best of all, she shared the photos with the online masses. That’s the best job departure since the one seen in the Dave Chappelle stoner opus Half Baked.

2. The Tenured Prof Who Moved for Love: This professor entered the Hamster World when his girlfriend decided she wanted to get a PhD herself. He said, “It wouldn’t be a story if I were a woman, because thousands of women do this every year.” True, that. But you don’t see professors giving up a tenured job for the Hamster World, either.

3. Leaving Academia and Escape From the Ivory Tower. Okay, no Bettie Page references or romantic undercurrents, but solid advice for anyone wondering what else can be done with a PhD.

The words and actions of just a few people show that tenure may not be the end-all, be-all for the intellectually inclined. Again, I am a Hamster, not an academic, and I am pro-tenure because I don’t want market forces to determine who teaches what when. But skepticism toward institutions is always healthy. Skepticism built more than a few academic careers, didn’t it?