I never thought I’d start a blog about the post-academic career process. Yet here I am. I’ve had enough thoughts running through my mind over the past few months, and I feel the need to try to set them in a semblance of order. I really wasn’t going to blog, but then The Atlantic published that article about how being married helps male professors “get ahead,” and it’s spurred me to action. The article felt very, very relevant to my own recent thoughts about an alternative academic life after the PhD.
… at faculty dinners, […] wives outside the academy explain they, too, once pursued a higher degree. Without fail, they look at you a little sadly and say, “best of luck” or, far worse, “stick with it.”
These faculty dinners are my new future, I thought. My husband has just started a new tenure-track job in a new city and state, and I am the oh-so-unfortunately named “trailing spouse.” He certainly doesn’t mean to put me in that position, but our luck of the draw has brought us here. The article hit even closer to home as it described the job searches of a husband-and-wife dual-historian couple. The similarities were too much to avoid:
He and his wife received concurrent doctorates in their respective fields, but he was offered a position first. “That meant the area she could look in shrank quite a bit,” he said, “and by then we had kids.” At the time, she was an adjunct professor without maternity leave, and so she stayed at home to raise their children. When she eventually returned to teaching, it was at the high school level.
When I started dissertation work, I moved to a rural location where my husband had just accepted a tenure-track job at a very (very) small liberal arts college. “At least it’s a job!” we told ourselves. Over the five years we enjoyed beautiful hiking and mountain music, we had a child, and I finished my PhD. I applied for academic posts, certainly, and I received a few interviews over the course of as many years. But when one of us, in this case my spouse, became the first to receive a better offer elsewhere – and in a large Midwestern city with plenty of schools and cultural institutions no less – we jumped at the chance.
Two years ago I received my PhD in religious studies, one of those humanities fields where full-time jobs are scarcer than adjuncts. Our daughter is now three years old, and we have one more child very much on the way. I’ve worked from home and I’ve adjuncted online and on campus as much as I could given my former rural location, but now that we’re here in the big city, I’m ready to try something else.
This blog will be a chronicle of why I got into academia in the first place, why I’m looking elsewhere for career options, and of the post-ac job search process itself. My life as part of a dual-career couple with a child certainly plays a role, but there are other reasons, too, for looking for a post-academic career, among them my own growing disenchantment with the academic life. If you’d like to read along to find out where I’ve been or where I might be headed, I’d be happy to have you here! And perhaps one day I’ll answer the question of what to do with all the books I collected over the years…