May 26, 2003

Skill Sets

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

-- T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

So I've been reading up on how to leave the academy. It seems I need to identify a "skill set," the better to make my skill set "transferable."

At the moment I am not optimistic. Frankly, I am not very skillful at identifying the skills that I might transfer. I am willing to attribute this to a failure of imagination.

Then I come across Gary Sauer-Thompson linking to Michele Tepper's "Doctor Outsider" essay. "This is so good," he writes, "It says there is life outside the academy for those with PhD's. It says it so well. In doing so it counters a common view amongst academics who do not, (and here he quotes Tepper)

'...seem able to imagine that PhDs who step outside the academic fold might find employment anywhere other than the typing pool. Is it so astonishing to consider that people with the skills and intellectual acuity to complete a doctoral degree might actually thrive outside the academy, in a wide range of jobs?'

Reader Paul Watson responds, "You have got to be is a miracle, in Oz in 2003, for a newly-minted PhD to get a job inside or outside academia. They’ve got choice, all right – it’s Work for the Dole with Provider A or Provider B."

Gary responds by tempering his optimism. Though he argues that "there are alternative career paths for PhD's which involve reskilling," he concedes that things are rather gloomy. His conclusion: "From a boader perspective I reckon that a generation of highly trained student has been lost to academia."

Skilled, unskilled, deskilled, reskilled...This is sounding rather grim.

And there's more.

To quote once again from Timothy Burke's latest blog entry, "Monastery or the Market," the reason

that many academics express distress at a Ph.D in the humanities and social sciences choosing a career besides academia is that they’re thinking like utility maximizers. Privately, they're asking, 'Why invest the time in doing a doctorate when most of the post-academic careers that one could choose do not require or benefit from having a doctorate?'; Look at Tepper’s own career choice: couldn’t she have done that without a doctorate?

...There are certainly professors who teach their graduate students very well, but what they teach is largely the art and craft of being an academic. Becoming a Ph.D in history or literary studies is not about deepening expertise and knowledge that can be put to general use. Most undergraduate courses that are taught well bequeath knowledge and thinking skills to students that have many possible uses. Most graduate study in academic subjects is the opposite: it has no other use besides the reproduction of academia in its present institutional form.

Quite right. As I suggested in my "PhD as Preparation for Nonacademic Careers?" I don't buy this business about the humanities PhD as an opportunity to hone a valuable set of skills. I just don't believe my history Ph.D. has given me "transferable skills" that will be of interest and of value outside the academy. I think it's important for people to say this, if only to "preempt the equivocating tactics," as Devenney puts it, used by those who wish to continue producing PhDs for academic positions that no longer exist.

That said, I can't spend the rest of my life decrying the waste, though waste is exactly what I think it. Since I'm not quite ready to give up and go home, it's time I learned how to maximize my utility.

I need a (self)-marketing plan. Maybe I'll go ask the Happy Tutor for some pointers...

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at May 26, 2003 02:09 AM

What do you want to do? You'll get nowhere defining your "skill set" outside some context. Find job descriptions for things that interest you and define your skills in relation to those (don't worry about whether you're more or less qualified than anyone else yet).

You're right that you're likely behind the curve, but it's also true that when you get a job with a firm or non-profit doing something you're interested in, you'll find it easier than academic work and skills you take for granted as baseline competence will be appreciated and rewarded.

And, if you're looking for other jobs right now, do keep in mind that it's very hard, even for people who are way ahead of the curve, with engineering or MBA degrees, to find work at the moment.

Posted by: ogged at May 26, 2003 06:28 AM

I’m not sure if this is good news or not, but the process of re-skilling is really more one of packaging than anything else. Your current skill set with a nice think layer of B.S. over it should do the trick. I have watched quite a few friends and one ex brother-in-law get jobs out of or on the edge of academe, and there are some things in common.
-You may have actual skills. Most of my friends knew Chinese and/or Japanese which helped a lot . A little language stuff of any sort goes a long way, so as long as you were not foolish enough to study U.S. history you have at least one major qualification.
-Non-academic jobs are quite different from academic ones in that they are usually much less defined. When you apply for them they always ask about your salary band and what sort of duties you would be doing. This is always odd, since as good academics we are expecting a very defined job description. (Asst. Prof, 4/4, 7 sections of Intro a year, salary step B.) Academia works with a fairly defined and unchanging set of tasks, and jobs are matched up to them. This is not always true elsewhere, and I have seen people talk their way into jobs or higher pay with a bit of quick talking.
-It’s not just quick talking, of course. Academics assume that we are all doing the same job and others will judge us based on our work, and the talk is sort of beside the point. In a lot of outside positions this is just not true. What people know about you and what you do comes mostly from what you tell them. Self-presentation becomes very important. For example, a lot of fake-world (academe is the real world) people frequently have to justify their existence to avoid being fired. For an academic this would be bizarre. If part of your job is to teach a 3/3 load how can they deny you did that? They can claim that you did it badly, but that is not the same thing. The value of teaching (in the sense of showing up and doing it) is assumed. The link between what people do and the end result is not as clear in lots of other places, and this offers you an opportunity.
-Ever seen an academic career based on pure B.S. and self-promotion? Same idea, sort of.
-The problem, then is not so much one of getting new skills as one of getting a new personality. I’m afraid I can’t help much with that.

Posted by: Alan B. at May 26, 2003 12:26 PM

Yes, if you had to do it again, and knew that you were going to work for a Fortune 100 Company, you would probably not get a PhD in history first, by way of an entry-level qualification. So, that is what we call a "sunk cost," the time and money are gone. Write them off, down to zero, if you must. Then, the question is, of two candidates, one with the PhD in history, the other with a BA in Business Admin, which is the better hire?

Of course it would depend on the job, but here are the key issues -- general level of ability, willingness to learn, and attitude.

The biggest liability is not the lost years, but the lost innocence.

Questions an interviewer might think but not ask.

- Will she be bitter about starting in a job she might have gotten out of college?
- She is a lot smarter than I. Will she look down on me, or give me lip, and be hard to manage?
- Is it right for me to hire someone so over-qualified? Am I doing her a disservice?
- Why would a PhD in history want a job as a para-legal, or staff writer, or entry level trainer, is she desperate? Is this just a stepping stone? Will she invest herself here, or just see it as living hell?

From your writing, I get the impression that your day to day personality would be upbeat, good-humored and open to new ideas. Those are real assets.

Here is an interview question my boss always asks new candidates -- "What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Or the biggest challenge you have ever met?" What is looking for are people who have suffered -- believe it or not. He himself rose rapidly, got fired from a big job, and had to start over. He is looking for (in William James phrase) "the twice born."

The emotional maturity with which you handle this challenge will say a lot about you. In business, we are always under enemy fire. A firm may not be in business next year, the department may be downsized, the whole place may be reorganized. What you want are good people who can be loyal and clear-headed under pressure, and are good company in a fox-hole when the hope gets down to dim.

What you don't want are complainers, and those who feel sorry for themselves, and who think that life has done them an injustice -- not that it hasn't.

"Postive mental attitude" is the phrase used. ("Felicity," wrote Swift "is the state of being well-deceived, a fool among knaves.") Whether you have to trick your mind into it or not, be aware of the need to put a good face on it. Tell a positive story -- of high amibition, of challenges overcome, of resiliency, of courage, and of determination to succeed. Show the maturity gained from this debacle -- the first of many in a long career. But it is how you address and overcome these defeats that determines your worth to the company.

Don't blame anyone but yourself. Eat the whole loss and smile. Life is best 2 out of 3 falls, or 5 out of 9. See how you can do in the second round.

You have much to offer. Might have to change the your pen-name, though. How about Visible Excellence?

Posted by: The Happy Tutor at May 26, 2003 02:04 PM

"Find job descriptions for things that interest you."

This is the tricky part. As I am going through this process of re-identifying myself (detailed nauseatingly via blog) I am continually astounded by how ignorant I am about this. What weird little bubble have I been living in? I can't even remember being asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were definitely things that I found fun -- like playing dress up or drawing -- but I quickly figured out that doing those things for work involved far more fussiness than I was willing to tolerate.

One reason I am feeling horribly resentful of being shown the door out of academia is that this is the profession that I am good at, that I enjoy, and that I'm trained in (more research than teaching, granted). So the profession that would interest me most would be something combining independent historical research, developing theoretical models to explain my interpretation, and then writing about it. Sounds like "historian" to me -- so I have a very hard time trying to figure out what alternatives would fill my interests (and skills -- I'm at an age where settling down is a priority -- I can't afford to go back to school, financially or personally, to get new credentials) as well.

Actually, that last bit is probably the key sticking point, and part of the reason why I and IA and our kindred are so fretful about finding a skills match. We've deferred much of our lives so far -- to think of going back for more training in order to do alternative work that interests is a hideous thought.

And there's that old over-qualified/ under-experienced bind again. It's fixable in the long run, but in the short run it's hell.

Posted by: Rana at May 26, 2003 05:32 PM

The "Happy Tutor" makes me want to puke. How about this: Instead of learning a new way to lick boots, we find a few fellow malcontents for a pitchfork party?

Posted by: Thomas Hart Benton at May 26, 2003 05:44 PM

Don't despair. A person with an undergraduate "minor concentration in marketing" is unlikely to possess any deep business knowledge that you are lacking. He may have had one or two worthwhile courses, but that's probably about it.

You mentioned working for a "non-profit." I suspect you will find that, in general, non-profits are very political and credential-oriented institutions...they share many of the unlovable characteristics of academia. If you're leaving academia, why not go all the way and jump into the for-profit sector?

Posted by: David Foster at May 26, 2003 08:22 PM

Also, one comment for The Happy Tutor. Most of the possible interviewer-thought-questions are good ones...but I doubt that many interviewers would think: "She is a lot smarter than I," based purely on the interviewee's possession of a PhD.

On the other hand, they might well think: "She probably *thinks* she is a lot smarter than I," based on that same PhD.

The distinction is an important one.

Posted by: David Foster at May 26, 2003 08:56 PM

Why switch over? Rewrite old posts into a book about thinking about switching. The book tour circuit would eat it up.

Posted by: chutney at May 26, 2003 09:03 PM

"His conclusion: "From a boader perspective I reckon that a generation of highly trained student has been lost to academia.""

If the start of the hard times was the early 1970's, then it's 1 and 1/2 generations, and still wasting strong.

Posted by: Barry at May 26, 2003 10:14 PM

David Foster asks:
"If you're leaving academia, why not go all the way and jump into the for-profit sector?"

Good point. In fact, I cannot afford to limit my options to the non-profit only, and am starting to think about both non-profit and for-profit.
Quite right about the distinction you make, too.

Mr Benton: please don't shoot the messenger. The Happy Tutor is a fallen angel who now lives to delight and instruct. I am duly delighted and instructed.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 26, 2003 11:09 PM

A bunch of dittos. You'd be amazed how hard it is to find a competent person in the "real world." There is no such thing as a transferable skill, even between non-academic jobs (except, perhaps, the skill of asking people for money, which is transferable between politics, non-profits and college administration). The barriers between you and non-academic employment are flimsier than they appear.


Why do you want to switch? (You needn't tell us, of course.)

If you really want to spend your life reading, thinking, writing (which is presumably why you're where you are) then you need to be an academic, at whatever level. Don't knock access to an academic library until you've lost it.

An adjunct's work is light, pleasant, and clean, if not very well remunerated. While an adjunct is at the bottom of the hierarchy, the tenured are polite and smile. This is not true outside academe. Those on the top of the corporate hierarchy often reassure themselves of their superiority at the expense of those below. The sins committed in the course of college teaching are at worst venial. This, again, is often not true outside academe.

An adjunct's work is structured. You presumably have your fall courses by now. Since the range of courses offered to adjuncts is narrow, it's likely you've taught them before. You can reuse your syllabus and lecture notes. You know now what you will be doing the first week of December. I have, at best, a rough idea of what I'll be doing in June.

There is a poster which has apparently been appearing around New York. I saw it mentioned in Gawker. It shows a young Marilyn Monroe in a dejected pose. Above the picture are the words "THEN IT HIT ME." Below it says:

im not going to be famous
i wont get to be a rock star
i am going to be stuck on the payroll
doing work that doesnt interest me
for a very long time

Beware that fate.

Posted by: jam at May 26, 2003 11:22 PM

However, the adjunct's life is temporary, in that one can be denied renewal with little cause. The adjunct's life is poorly paid, which is fine for soloists, but lousy for families. The adjunct's life is taken up with the demands of teaching, which is a slow death if you are not "called" to teach. (The thought of teaching the exact same course year after year horrifies me -- I would die of boredom.) It also can eat up time that could be spend with family and doing research. The library does one no good if the only time you enter it is to place books on reserve. The adjunct must be willing to relocate across the country for a year, and to do this repeatedly, year after year.

But here's the crux of the matter, at least for me (I'm not going to speak for IA here). You ask, "Why do you want to switch?" Answer: I don't.

I want to keep working in academia. But, for whatever reason, be it personal or systemic failure, my search this year for a new position (my current one expires this summer) netted absolutely zip. Several places had their searches canceled due to budget cuts, including one which was clearly enthusiastic about my candidacy. Many more received applications in numbers on the order of 80-200 for a single position. Several were as near perfect as a match as I could imagine, but nothing came of them, not even interviews. If I don't have a job next year, it's certainly not for lack of trying!

(Though I suppose some could argue that I'm not trying hard enough, in that I have chosen not to apply to last-minute position announcements for someone to teach one semester in a field not my own on the other side of the country. I stand guilty as charged, on that count at least.)

Posted by: Rana at May 26, 2003 11:45 PM

Ah, I've done it again -- hijacked the comments into my own mini-me-blog.

IA -- as I suspect you can tell from my posts, I do feel your pain, especially regarding those damned "skills sets" advocates.

I do like chutney's suggestion that your posts on the topic of adjunct-dom and "making the switch" could form the basis of a useful book on the subject. (Though whether a how-to or a novel would be the best approach, I'm not sure.) The Happy Tutor could write the foreword....

Posted by: Rana at May 26, 2003 11:51 PM

Why is the only utility of a vocation seen in the job that one gets and how much money one takes home afterwards? I remember being asked (repeatedly),"What are you going to do with that?" when I told relatives that I was going to major in History at University. I usually mumbled something about teaching or research. But that, I now realize, is beside the point. The very joy of 'doing' history was, and is, in itself the justification for me. I don't begrudge anyone else, particularly someone with children, trying to find a more renumerative way.

Posted by: Dr_Funk at May 27, 2003 01:30 AM

Rana says "one can be denied renewal with little cause." Outside academe you can be called into the boss's office at any time, with no notice, handed two weeks salary, clear out your desk under guard and be escorted from the building. For any cause whatsoever or no cause.

Posted by: at May 27, 2003 01:04 PM

word from Tasmaina is that the adjunct style jobs at uni of Tasmania here are attracting LOTS of overseas applications, i don't think its just our local lifestyle that bringing 'em in

Posted by: meika von samorzewski at May 27, 2003 02:16 PM

A lot of advice here. I can't do better than The Happy Tutor (and was puzzled by Thomas Benton's reponse), but have a couple of pieces of advice:

1) The Non-profit sector sucks. It's highly unstable; people are unceremoniously fired all the time at the drop of a hat; pay bites; people are unhappy. (None of these are true of my large multinational employer.) If you are going to work for one, do it because you are committed to a cause, not because you want stability. It's better than the situation you are in now, but not by a lot.

2) The obstacle to getting hired as a PhD isn't that you're "smarter" (false) or "more intelligent" (David Foster's point is on target), but that it's an unconventional condition. The person hiring you is going to learn almost nothing from you in your first year on the job. They need someone to do a subset of their own tasks that they consider uninteresting. You have no advantage over a typical, younger applicant unless your competition is notably dumb or irresponsible. A person with a PhD brings on a host of concerns including a) do they want the job? really? (they often don't know how bad things are in academia) b) if I hire them, will they quit in a year? c) are they going to be OK with not being promoted right away? d) if they are OK with that, why? e) don't underestimate the prejudice against nonprofits in the for-profit world. See the problem?

3) The way to counter the problems in point #2 is addressing them straight on. Honesty is also very important. That doesn't mean you have to talk about your therapy sessions for depression; just be upfront in a positive way. (So it doesn't really qualify as honesty. Fine, call it "partial disclosure" then.)

4) Confucius say: "Intelligence is overrated; reliability is underrated." No one -- repeat NO ONE -- puts as much stock in "intelligence" as academics.

Great thread. This site is just very interesting.

Posted by: JT at May 27, 2003 02:52 PM

Dr Funk: I think your post is besides the point. No one argues that the people doing academic research find it interesting; the site and the thread is about job travails, about making money and having a decent lifestyle.

Posted by: JT at May 27, 2003 02:54 PM

Two points.

First, anyone considering graduate school in the humanities should spent 1-2 years working first. By working I mean not clerk in a bookstore, but in some profession/industry that can actually sustain bourgeois aspiration. In my case, two years of cosulting provided contacts and track record to smooth the exit from academic philosophy.

Second, just to emphasize what Dr. Funk says above, no one should go into graduate school unless 4 years studying some odd topic provides its own justification.

Posted by: at May 27, 2003 03:15 PM

My strong reaction is not against the "Happy Tutor" so much as the unwelcome but realistic message that he or she is bringing (with more irony than I noticed on a first reading). Call it a flashback to MLA 1998 and the battle with Elaine Showalter (who told us with "let-em-eat-cake" hauteur that we should just find jobs writing Hollywood screenplays.)

"The biggest liability is not the lost years, but the lost innocence."

So true. I will never completely trust an institution again. Somehow the hypocritical smiling is harder than the actual work of most jobs.

Posted by: Thomas Hart Benton at May 27, 2003 03:19 PM

I made the transition from poorly-paid adjunct to decently-paid grant writer for a non-profit. It took about 18 months of freelancing to the experience and the contacts I needed to get this full time job.

It isn't a perfect job, but I am happy. I used to be a childless academic flunky with a long commute whose co-workers didn't care that I was a brilliant teacher. Now I am a working mother with a beautiful baby whose co-workers can't believe how much money I have raised writing grants. They regularly come to my office and thank me for my work.

Yes, it sucks that I am not teaching full time. I do teach some adult education (no grading, all gravy.) Mainly I am relaxing. My work is so much easier than being an adjunct, and I get to see the people who benefit from it every day.

Posted by: RA at May 27, 2003 03:58 PM

I really appreciate these comments, and find the advice from the Happy Tutor, David Foster and JT especially helpful. I've been reading the "what color is your academic to non-academic parachute?" advice and am very sceptical of its upbeat message, since it glosses over such concerns. I need to know the worst, the better to prepare for the challenges.

I don't harbor any illusions that I am "smarter:" if I'm so smart, why the heck did I ignore all the warning signs and put all my eggs in the wrong basket?

Elaine Showalter goes down in the annals of the history of higher education as a near-perfect example of the kind of faculty irresponsibility that has helped create this mess.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at May 27, 2003 03:59 PM

Invisible Adjunct:

OK, you want no illusions about the transition out of academic life. OK, here you go. (This is a synopsis of research conducted during my postdoc at the School of Hard Knocks--a year of freelance writing/retailing/adjunct teaching before finally getting a Real Job in the business world that surpassed both adjunct teaching and the full-time visiting appointments I'd been offered before and turned down):

1. Identify some kind of field that makes use of your skills. Writing, editing, organizational skills, whatever. Repackage your vita into a resume. The other posters are right. Your skills as a Ph.D. far exceed a bright young B.A. In fact your skill sets in terms of oraganizing, working independently, and communication translate into skills that a middle manager in business with several years of experience has. Your learning curve is the langauge of the business world.

2. Find a job--any job--that can be a stepping stone toward the goal you've set. Here you will have some problems, most likely. The business folks will interpret you as overqualified and perhaps too academically oriented. This is what I went through. The goal here is to sell someone on the idea of giving you a shot. The job will probably be entry level, poorly paying (by business standards but not adjunct standards) and not ideal. That's fine for now. Think of this as a different kind of postdoc, but one that's a beginning, not an end. Learn, learn, learn. If you have an attitude of humility (but not humiliation) during job interviews, a candid sense that you have things to learn and are not an arrogant academic, that will help greatly.

3. Do the lousy entry-level job to the best of your ability for a year or two. There will be periods of cognitive dissonance, but as you get used to the business world, this will diminish. You may even find that you have bright, personable colleagues who are pleasant to work with. You may also find that the job turns out to be pretty good, and you don't need to be in a hurry to leave it. If, however, the opposite is true, then pay your dues for a reasonable time--at least a year--and then try again on the job market (but don't quit the job until you have a new one). Any subsequent search will likely be easier because you will have actual business expeience under your belt. At least, this is how it worked for me.

Posted by: Kevin Walzer at May 27, 2003 04:36 PM

The key thing to remember is that the typical 30-year-old Ph.D. has practically no job experience and is going to essentially have to compete for entry-level jobs. The good news is that most entry-level jobs pay nearly as much as a tenure-track position and certainly much more than even the most overworked adjunct can earn.

Posted by: James Joyner at May 27, 2003 04:37 PM

IA:"I don't harbor any illusions that I am "smarter:" if I'm so smart, why the heck did I ignore all the warning signs and put all my eggs in the wrong basket?"
I have a long-time friend who bailed out of my humanities PhD program 3 (long) years before I did. I always tell her that, by doing so, she showed once and for all that she was much more intelligent than I was.

Kevin's advice is very practical and good. The key thing is to land a non-secretarial job and then do it well. Hang in there; things will get better. Big smiley face: :)

Posted by: JT at May 27, 2003 05:03 PM

As a history PhD who found happiness and a satisfying job outside of academia, I read these posts with interest.

I completely agree about the irresponsible nature of tenured academics who fail to give real advice or, worse yet, give non-advice (Showalter may have suggested that lit people find jobs as Hollywood screenwriters but I still find myself reeling from the American Historical Association's suggestion that historians find jobs as "expert witnesses" at trials---what planet are these people living on?!).

That said, I do think that our generation/cohort (people who went to grad school in the 1990s) needs to be much more active. We need to do several things to change the culture. I say this b/c, when I decided to leave academia (and yup! I actually had one of those coveted tenure-track jobs---w/ a 2-2 teaching load), people reacted as tho' I was from outer space. I heard and continue to hear comments abt my strange decision (oddly enough, as a single woman, I hated living in the rural Northwest---a town of 12,000 populated by students and cowboys; altho' I loved teaching, it was not worth it!). These types of reactions (along w/ constant comments that I
would never find real work) made me postpone my decision for two years. I look at that decision now and am filled with regret for those wasted years.

My suggestion: put repeated pressure on professional organizations (constant letter campaigns) demanding that they address the problem by having lots (not just one) of panels on non-academic careers. Annual conferences should have workshops which address questions such as how to transform a CV, where to look for a job etc. Ask them to get recruiters for related industries (for ex, the US Govt needs fluent speakers of foreign languages---right now, they hire---and complain abt it---BA's in Russian from Middlebury as opposed to Russian historians with PhDs). Ask them to do studies and publish data on non-academic PhDs. Demand that they publish lists of
programs which have poor placement rates (as a sweetener, they can commend graduate programs which have good placement rates).

Also: ask professional organizations to have weekly columns/interviews of people who have left academia and found alternative jobs on their website. The more you see and understand how people found jobs outside of academia the easier it is for one to do the same.

As for re-tooling oneself and finding skills: I am always astonished by how unskilled most PhDs believe they are. I suffered from this myself (everyone I knew had a PhD so why would anyone be impressed with my degree? Yes, I spoke fluent French but really my French wasn't as good as some of my colleagues etc. etc.). Take some time and write down every single skill you have. Do this over a period of days. Ask other people for input (this is key---I was dismissive of my French and thought my Italian was only mediocre so not worth considering---when I asked several people what skills they would say I had, several, including a Belgian friend, said "Fluent French and great Italian"---I compared my skills to Europeans and to the PhDs I knew---once I saw my skills in the context of American society, I realized that yes, I did have assets which were
valuable to employers).

And finally, a quick comment on starting at the bottom when you leave academia. This is normal whenever you switch jobs. But one can move up the ladder very quickly outside of academia. I doubled my salary in 3 years. It did take 3 years tho' (I now make more than most tenured full
professors---unfortunately, many of my academic friends who are beginning to look for jobs outside of academia, look at me and my position and say "okay I want to make over $80,000 too---and I expect to be able to do it now." You do need to pay your dues!).

Posted by: Hana at August 13, 2003 02:45 PM

The following comment hit it on the head:

The key thing to remember is that the typical 30-year-old Ph.D. has practically no job experience and is going to essentially have to compete for entry-level jobs. The good news is that most entry-level jobs pay nearly as much as a tenure-track position and certainly much more than even the most overworked adjunct can earn.


Most areas where the people want to leave suffer from the fact that leaving means a serious pay cut.

I meet attorneys all the time who want to leave, but who also want to step down to no less than 120k a year, with benefits. Or doctors who are making two million a year (most average surgeons or anestheseologists) and who expect to be able to make the same amount,with three days a week off from work, when they leave.

Only in academia do you have people who in leaving improve their economic status so strongly.

Posted by: Anon Again at October 28, 2003 12:04 AM

As a former tenured college professor in Economics, now recently retired, I was on numerous hiring committees. We hired many full time and part time colleagues but the academic labor market changed with the glut of degreed people on the market starting in the eighties and became worse when grade inflation allowed everyone to be "successful" and get a degree but not an education. Communities and legislatures are still expanding degree programs with NO hope of most of these new grads, whether B.A., M.A
or PhD, getting decent jobs. The results are tragic for the highly educated professional. New graduates have no knowledge of the labor market. Professors have no knowledge of the labor market. Grads do menial service jobs because they don't want to starve. Simply put, we are graduating way too many degreed people who enter a dog-eat-dog labor market-let the buyer of a degree beware. So many of you are bitter and rightfully so! You have purchased a very expensive degree and you are all dressed up with no place to go!

Posted by: James Krannich at December 1, 2003 08:02 PM

I have been out of work for the past 1 1/2 years and have taken resume writing courses and been to job search study groups, networking groups, but this article has given me what was missing from these others.

I am deeply indebted to you and I now know I shall be back to work within the next two months as a result of this.

Posted by: Brian Brister at March 2, 2004 11:34 AM

Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what's right.

Posted by: Latman Jane at March 17, 2004 02:06 PM