I know what it’s like to be in the academy and look outside of it with curiosity. During the last two years of my PhD program, I began feeling frustrated with my choices and deep down wanted to try something new.
I’m not sure I belong here, but where is the right fit for me? I enjoy the life of the mind. I enjoy my friends and colleagues. I understand how academia works. I don’t know how the rest of the working world works, or where I fit in it.
But who can I talk to about this? Who can help me think through the implications and provide feedback on my thought about what to do next in my career?
I tried my university’s career services. I slogged through sessions of piecemeal information. I made every attempt to keep an open mind and implement their advice, which was almost exclusively to undergrads. It was tough to be the only grad student in the room.
- I was in my late 20s, they were in their late teens.
- I had a family to think about, they were mostly single and just starting out.
- I had an advanced degree, which means that employers would expect a certain level of expertise and work experience. They were getting bachelors degrees, and could pipeline into internships or entry- level positions.
I felt like a misfit.
I was exhausted with my attempts to gather information from career services, old college friends who’d been in the workforce for several years, family friends and mentors from my personal life, and Google.
A compilation of resources or a step-by-step program did not exist. So in making the transition, I created the tools to make it from academia to work. I learned how to tailor job search resources for academics, taking into account the strengths and weaknesses how we are trained and socialized.
That’s how Options4Success was born.
Since then it has served academics in fields as diverse as Mechanical Engineering, Linguistics, Education, and Anthropology. Just like these tools in Options4Success helped me land my first postacademic / nonacademic position as a program manager in the nonprofit sector, they’ve also guided course participants into new careers that are intellectually stimulating and pay well.
These same strategies have also helped me land consulting clients from Fortune 500 companies and national foundations, with contracts up to $25,000.
Why I Do This
I do what I do because I want academics to know they have options. I want academics to have the proper tools to be confident and strategic in their careers – whether they choose to stay in the academy or go beyond it.
I want PhDs to know that if they are going to stay in academia they should do so from a place of joy, with a plan and proper mentorship to accomplish their goals.
I want all academics to feel that they have a productive space to express their doubts or questions or uncertainties about pursuing an academic career. I want to offer a judgment free zone where those questions are productively hashed out, and where academics can receive tried-and-true resources from someone who gets what it’s like to be an academic.
I do this work because it energizes me to help other academics break out of the box of what it means to be “an academic” and pursue opportunities that work for them as individuals. For some of my clients that means maintaining a full time tenure track position while creating a side business in consulting. For others it means going full force into a new field outside of the university. While for others it may mean taking on a hybrid and administrative role within the university.
But that’s just the point – my goal is to create a space where you can be who you want to be and use the skills you want to use, and offer you the tools to help you make this desire for living out of the box a reality.
So if you are a little excited – and little bit uncertain – about breaking outside of the traditional academic box, you’re in the right place.
What are your biggest questions about living and working beyond the academy?