Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia
This book (which you can buy as an Kindle e-book here) was essential to helping me come to terms with my decision. That is, if you can really say I have come to terms with it. I’ve not made it public and don’t intend to do so until I’ve completed my viva or found a job elsewhere – whichever comes first. Not being open about it makes me feel like I haven’t fully accepted it yet because there’s always a chance I can still go back. I’m even halfway through a job application for a one year lectureship, though I don’t know whether I will finish writing it.
Anyway, this book is essential reading (and really cheap, so there’s no excuse!) if you’re thinking about leaving academia. Whether you’re still doing your PhD and having doubts, whether you’re on the job market already, even if you’ve been a tenured professor for years and you’re dissatisfied with your job, and especially if you haven’t started your PhD yet, this book is for you.
Each chapter is a different personal story written by people who have started but not finished PhDs, have finished but cannot find work, and people who are fed up with the whole system and its treatment of both early career academics and those who’ve dedicated many years to that system. There’s not a lot in the way of practical advice (though there’s a great resource list at the end of the book) but reading it is cathartic and will help you to either commit to academia or decide to leave. The editors of the book also run a great website on How to Leave Academia which has lots of blog posts and resources for if you’re thinking of making the move and changing your life.
It has made me realise that you’re not a failure if you leave academia after your PhD. You’re not giving up or letting yourself down, you are making a positive choice to do something else with your life that can be equally or more fulfilling. Because you’re not prepared to move across country chasing jobs, to sacrifice relationships or to compromise the other things in life which make you fulfilled.