Post Academic

Happy Birthday to Us!

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on February 28, 2011
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"Birthday Candles" (Creative Commons license)

Today is a big milestone day for us: This post is our 500th and it marks the one-year anniversary of Post Academic’s launch.  Thanks to all who’ve found their way here, especially the cohort of likeminded bloggers who made us feel as if we weren’t crazy, bitter, and alone.  Not to get mushy on you, but it’s really helped knowing the likes of Worst Prof, Eliza Woolf, Adventures in Gradland, Sell Out Your Soul, among others, are doing their thing–it’s helped to give us a sense of purpose above and beyond our own individual concerns and complaints.

When Caroline and I started Post Academic, I was mulling over becoming, well, post academic.  It just so happened that Caroline was interested in developing her own blog on job tips and etiquette, at the same time I had started thinking about compiling my futile attempts on the academic job market.  My reasons were two-fold: the first was practical–to learn how to blog and the basics of blog maintenance–and the second was more personal–to work through another year of disappointment on the market.  At some point, I figured I had to make a decision as to what to do about my so-called academic career: I could always find enough excuses and reasons to hang on and keep trying, to go through the same thing over and over again, year after year.  But you know what, I got sick of it, so I wanted to channel my energies elsewhere, which was my contribution to in conceiving of Post Academic.

To be honest with you, I’m not sure I would’ve ever done it–write about being post academic (or at least ambivalent academic), that is–if Caroline hadn’t shot off our first entry on UNLV’s football team and the school’s budget woes.  But once Post Academic became real and I realized I needed to keep up my end of the bargain, things took off.  Hey, checking site stats beats scanning the Academic Jobs Wiki obsessively any day!  Getting back into the habit of writing regularly did wonders for me, and it was just the act of writing and writing (good or bad) that helped me get out of my academia-induced rut, even more than the semi-soul searching of the posts themselves.  Maybe it wasn’t all the blog’s doing, but, post-Post Academic, we both started fulfilling jobs that made use of our skills, I got back into freelance music writing, and I’ve been unburdened of the doubt, expectations, and unfulfilled potential of all those years spent on my Ph.D.

Through it all–collaborating on opposite ends of the continent, family life, childcare, a new baby, job interviews, new work schedules, business trips, vacations, holidays, illnesses, whatever else–we posted every single day until pretty much Christmas time.  But upon our one-year birthday, we’ve decided that we’re scaling back the schedule for Post Academic, as much because we need a break from the routine as we find ourselves in very different places from where we began, when it comes to the blog’s reason for being.  For me, it’s just that I don’t define my identity in relation to being an academic, post- or otherwise, any more. In that respect (and many more), Caroline was a perfect partner-in-crime in this endeavor: She was a role model for me, since she had successfully navigated her way from the college campus to the hamster world long before I ever thought of it, with all the spirit and good energy that anyone who knows her can’t help but be uplifted by.

This isn’t goodbye–we’ll still be around to post, though somewhat irregularly, when we’ve got something to write about and will be around as a resource (if you can call it that) or a time capsule or an out-of-date journal we’ll be cringing about in a few years.  And besides, who else is gonna keep up with James Franco’s grad school progress, anyway?

Post Academic is 6 months old!

Posted in First Person,Housekeeping by postacademic on August 28, 2010
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We used to celebrate random milestones more often in the past, probably due to the immediate excitement of starting and maintaining the blog.  We haven’t marked one in awhile, in part because we lost track of time and what counts as an accomplishment, but we are commemorating our first half-year as Post Academic!  Not to toot our own horns, but we’ve achieved a lot of the goals we set out to meet when we started the blog and wrote up the statement of purpose, which we probably need to refresh now.  Indeed, maybe the best way to judge whether or not we’ve done anything–at least for ourselves–is that our bios are now outdated.

"Six-ball rack" by SMcCandlish (Creative Commons license)

Rather than just point to our favorite posts to reminisce, let’s take a progress report to see if we’ve made any, you know, progress…

#1. Did we get jobs? YES, we did get jobs, as Arnold documented.  Of course, Caroline did too, but she’s more circumspect and Arnold is a much harder case, really.  Not sure if we’ve helped anyone else with concrete results or even could, per our statement of purpose, but we’ll take credit if anyone wants to give us any!

#2: Did we keep our minds and writing skills sharp? Another yes at least to us, though you, gentle reader, would be a better judge of that.  One thing we’re definitely proud of is posting every single day during the last six months, often with multiple entries per day back when we started.  Writing the blog has not only pushed us to write regularly, but it’s also imposed some much-needed discipline.  Plus, we’re getting caught up with the social networking era, since we’ve been able to link up the blog with Twitter and Facebook, which we’ll try to keep expanding on, too.

#3. Did we get seek out audience participation and get much? Yes, we’ve gotten great feedback from our very smart and faithful readers!  And that day WordPress touted Caroline’s post was most heartening because of all the wonderful responses we got in the comments thread.  Still, we could do better on encouraging more audience participation than just running those fun little polls by putting out more calls for folks to contribute, although a lot of you have your own great blogs already.  So if, say, anyone wants to be a guinea pig and ghost-write a diary-like series about her/his experiences on the upcoming academic job search, we’d love for you to get in touch with us.

#4. Did we piss anyone off? Not as many people as we think, but probably more than we know.  We did get a testy retort from one of the subjects of a snarky post, but we might’ve deserved that.  We probably don’t have the constitution to get into flame wars any more.

#5. Did we get academia out of our systems? Yes and not really.  Caroline had gotten past the neuroses of academia long ago, which is why she’s able to write with more perspective and offer less baggage-laden observations.  Arnold is still working on it, although maintaining a blog that gives iffy advice on how to approach diss writing and job rec gathering doesn’t really show much improvement, does it?  But he really has gotten past a lot of the mental blocks in his way just six months and one day ago.

Thanks to everyone who’s read Post Academic!  And here’s to another six months and hopefully more, if we can only get ourselves on the blogging equivalent of the tenure track…

The First Hundred Days of Post Academic

Posted in Housekeeping by postacademic on June 7, 2010
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Post Academic is marking our first hundred days with a self-congratulatory commemorative post, which mostly involves us delving into teary-eyed reminiscences and recapping some of our favorite and most popular items.  So please indulge us a little bit today, since it’s kind of a milestone for us–we’ve posted every single day and, more often than not, the both of us!  Of course, we’d like to thank anyone who has happened upon the blog for helping us get this far, whether you’re a loyal repeat customer or Facebook fan or random browser.  Hat tips, too, to everyone who has linked to Post Academic, from Twitter followers to kindred blogs to Inside Higher Ed to even MLA higher-ups.

Caroline Says…When Arnold and I started this blog 100 days ago, I was worried most of the content would be bleak. News of the crappiest job market ever, underpaid adjuncts, and rude search committees made me wonder what went wrong with the academic system.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the academy as a whole is becoming more pragmatic, even considering altering the dissertation process. The academy has a stodgy rep in the Hamster World, but the truth is that the economy has prompted professors, grad students and undergraduates to ask tough questions and search for answers. We’re learning that you can get a PhD or an MA and do something other than teaching, we’re proving that there is value in a liberal arts education and we’re learning how to take charge of our careers. In the long run, this experience may reinvigorate the academy.

Then again, I’m just a Hamster talking. So, whenever the ivory tower gets you down, remember that James Franco is hanging out in there … somewhere.

Arnold Says…Without Caroline taking the initiative to set up Post Academic after we sent a few daydreaming emails about starting a blog, there wouldn’t have been a Day 1, much less a Day 100.  Beyond being a forum that has enabled us to write and a platform to test out our mad-scientist online publishing schemes, Post Academic has been a great experience for us as an opportunity to think about and work through the obstacles–mental and structural–of being an academic, whether you’re fully entrenched in academia, marginally attached to it, or looking for a way out.  The blog has given us a chance to be practical, silly, wistful, mad, and really mad.  It has also given us a chance to be topical and to participate in professional discussions that we never had before.

Lest I get too mushy going down memory land, here’s a list of milestones and faves over the first hundred days:

1st post: “Raising Funds for the Post Academic Life”

1st post that made us realize people were reading the thing: “5 Annoying Personalities You Will Meet in Grad School Programs, and How to Cope with Them”

Most popular post: “Interview with Adam Ruben, Author of Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School

Most cathartic post (for Arnold, at least): “Academia, I wish I knew how to quit you!”

The post that helped me figure out that my predicament is just tiny, tiny part of the larger scheme of crappiness: “Academic job salaries: ‘Worst Salary Year’ meets ‘Worst. Job Market. Ever.'”

My favorite piece of practical advice: “Tips to Squelch Ivory Tower and Grad School Gossip”–hey, the principles apply outside of academia too!

This retrospective is also an opportunity to take stock in what the blog is doing and to ask you, our fabulous readers, what you’d like to see on Post Academic.  Drop us a line at our email address (see the right column) or offer your suggestions in the comments section.  It would be great to know who’s visiting the site as well as what we can do to give you more reasons to read and us more reasons to write!  Thanks!

Post Academic is 100! (Posts, that is)

Posted in Housekeeping by postacademic on April 5, 2010
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If you’ll allow us this self-indulgence, we wanted to mark our 100th post by taking a stroll down memory lane and re-posting some of our greatest hits and most useful posts.  Thanks for visiting the site, whether it’s a one-off curiosity look-in or whether you’ve become a regular reader.   We didn’t think we’d get to 100 posts so quickly–just a little over a month since we launched this thing–but we’ve been wanting to keep the content fresh and frequent, because we know there are more and more of you checking the site out.

Let us know how we are doing by emailing us or by replying in the comments section.  We’ll continue cranking out content, from news coverage of the many changes academia is undergoing to some of the more idiosyncratic personal experiences we’ve encountered as post/academics.  We’re also thinking of ways to tweak and improve the site, so contact us with your suggestions.

For now, we hope you enjoy our greatest hits.  Thanks!

1. This series of posts on annoying graduate student personalities gave us our first big spike in readership.  Caroline started things off by identifying classic types like “The Downer” and “The One-Upper,” then Arnold jumped on the bandwagon with “The Networking Name Dropper” and “The Passive Aggressor.”

2. Indeed, grad school life has been a topic of interest, whether you’re an academic, post-academic, or aspiring academic.  Caroline tackled the inescapable phenomenon of gossip and wonders if grad school isn’t that different from a game of musical chairs.

3. We’ve also written up our fair share of first-person accounts of grad school and the academic job market.  Arnold writes *a lot* about how hard it is to make a clean break, even with the many absurdities of the job search process.

4. One of our main goals was to be as practical as possible in the kinds of advice we give, whether you’re (still) on the academic job market or transitioning to something else.  We’ve offered advice on transferring your skills, like how to write a resume, get started freelancing, and even how to dress.  Plus, we point you to great job search resources, like LinkedIn and  Media Bistro.

5. We imagine that pretty much everyone who has been through here is interested in jobs–we are too!  That’s why we’ve spent so much blog space on tracking the dismal numbers for the academic job market (particularly in English).  We’ve also checked into what you should or could or would be making, both in academia and out of it.

Thanks again for reading and keeping us going!

Last week on Post Academic…

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on March 7, 2010
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Thanks for helping us make it through our first week, readers!  Some of our earliest pieces have cycled off the front page (perhaps thankfully, in Arnold’s case), but here are links to the posts you might have missed because, like, you didn’t know we existed:

* Our first post!  Caroline finds a lawyer who wants to sell his degree–literally.

* Caroline offers hands-on practical advice on how to use the skills you already have, such as, you know, reading carefully.

* Arnold is obsessing about applications and spam.

Welcome to Post Academic: A Statement of Purpose

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on March 3, 2010
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What do people outside of academia actually do?  What do people inside academia actually do?  What do people in other fields within academia do?  What can academics do outside of academia?  And why is it so hard to explain how academia works to people who aren’t in it?  We hope that Post Academic can start to answer or at least think about these questions and more – with your help.

Chances are that you know either  Arnold Pan or Caroline Roberts or both of us if you are reading this.  We started this blog to address issues that we ourselves, close friends, acquaintances, and colleagues have encountered in varying ways, as well as to keep our minds and writing skills sharp.   Beyond offering the standard features of blogs, such as post aggregation, useful links, and first-person screeds, we’re aiming to 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.  To achieve this goal, we welcome and seek out all sorts of audience participation, such as your advice, your input, and your stories.  We hope that the blog will be interesting and relevant to all sorts, whether you’re actively making a transition, looking to see what options are out there, admirably persistent in pursuing what you want to do, or just curious.

Here are some of the subjects we plan to cover on the blog, conveniently listed under the “Categories” heading in the right column:

* Process Stories: We want to be hands-on in understanding the process of getting a job, any job, academic or non-academic.  What is the process in different fields and professions?  What is the process of transitioning from one profession to another, whether willingly or unwillingly?

* Transfer Your Skills: We’ll explore practical ways the skills we gained as underpaid, overeducated academics might translate to other professions.

* The Education Industry: We will track relevant news and topics regarding the rapidly changing state of education.  We might be (becoming) post-academic, but, without academia, we’d just be “post.”

* First Person: Tell us your stories, whether you’re a post-academic or a not-academic or a marginal academic or an aspiring academic or a happily employed academic.  We’re hoping that our various experiences can help folks brainstorm, identify, and commiserate with one another.  We might all be statistics, but we have good narratives too.

* Absurdities: We’re not above a little snark and pointing out the ridiculous in a smart-alecky way, which would be funnier if it hadn’t happened to us and the people we know.

Thanks for reading this far and let us know what you think/what you want to see on here.  Feel free to participate as anonymously or fully identifiably as you’d like.