Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: Life Beyond Academia

Monday, March 14, 2011

Life Beyond Academia

It's a scary world out there for a lifetime student

My comps. are over and I can barely believe it. Now all I have to do is cross my fingers and hope for a pass, and grad. school will almost be over. Of course, this means that my job search must now begin.

From the emails you all have been getting from the GSA, I’m guessing many of you are currently in the same boat as I am: seeking a non-academic job after 20+ years of life as a student. The GSA, Student Development, and Career Development at Fordham are currently trying to fill some gaps to help people like us, starting out with humanities students and probably moving their way on to the sciences. As they said in a recent email, they have recognized a need for workshops and other professional development programs that would help us navigate careers outside the strictly academic job market. And GSA is spearheading a project that intends to fill that gap.

What’s strange is that everyone seems to be realizing that this is an issue not just at Fordham, but in academia in general…and they’re all realizing it at the same time. When I went to the Chronicle (my go-to resource on all things academia, as you can tell) to look for information on this trend, I found at least 10 articles written on this or related topics in the last year.

One of the most recent ones, and one of the most helpful in my opinion, talks about the importance of “remov[ing] the stigma of a nonacademic career for the many students who are either struggling on the tenure-track market or don't want a teaching job.” Masters and even Ph.D.s shouldn’t be seen as useless or as a waste of time outside of academia. A lot of the skills we learn in an academic setting, especially teaching and research, are transferable to other jobs. And the experience of graduate school, in my opinion at least, is an opportunity for personal growth as well, which is never time wasted.

The authors of this Chronicle article make a good point though: we have to learn how to sell them to people in other sectors properly. According to these authors, many people outside of academia think of Ph.D.s especially as “overeducated and underexperienced.” I would argue that, on the other side of the coin, many graduate students think that doing anything outside of academia would be unmotivating and understimulating. I think we need to find a way to make academia less insular and isolating, because, as anyone in graduate school should know, discussion and conversation is the best way to learn and to find solutions. The new initiative by the GSA is the first step in this direction, and I’m personally very excited about it.

In case anyone else out there is interested in reading more about these kind of things, I recommend looking at that Chronicle article, especially since it links to several other good ones including one by Fordham’s very own Leonard Cassuto. There are also a lot of helpful websites out there for people who are in this boat (like me). The one I’ve heard about the most (including through a few friends’ recent witty Facebook statuses) is, a site you can subscribe to to get lots of inside info. on/support about different career tracks. From what I can tell, it’s definitely worth a look. And I’m sure the GSA will be sending out a whole lot more of these kinds of resources out in the near future for all of us leaving the academic world.

Happy Spring Break everyone! Hope you’re all getting some much-deserved rest and having fun!

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