On 8 July 2018, Erin Bartram’s “What It’s Like to Search for Jobs outside Academe” appeared in the online Chronicle of Higher Education. In the piece, Bartram continues to relate her experience of transitioning out of academe and to present her findings as advice for others. She notes that discussion of such transitions tend to focus on where, rather than how, to look for work and that the non-academic job market is not necessarily simpler to navigate than the academic. Part of the difficulty comes from unfamiliarity on the parts both of transitioning academics and those who have not been part of academe with what the others do. Bartram asserts that conversing across the traditional town/gown divide is important before and during non-academic job searches before explicating several of the differences between the job-search types. She also reminds transitioning academics that they do have work experience and should apply for jobs as if they have been in fields for the time spent pursuing their academic dreams. And she notes that the simple announcement on social media of being on a job hunt can yield excellent results–results which are not often visible without taking such steps. Bartram concludes with notes about her own employment and a commendation to readers to investigate non-academic hiring before working on moving out of the field.
It is no secret that I have followed Bartram’s writing with some interest (as witness here and here, if not others). I was happy to see more from her, therefore, and I wish her well in her ongoing transition–partly from solidarity and partly because her own success would offer a model for others who, as she is doing and I seem more or less to have done, are making their own ways out of a system that all too often makes promises it cannot keep and has no intention of trying to keep. Too, her piece makes several points my own motion away from academe bear out as worth doing. The basic bit for humanities scholars is to parse job ads for future searches and better optimized responses to them. Using social media to find jobs, too, is useful, and the comment about scheduling job-search time–and an end to it each day–is eminently helpful. (Indeed, I wish I had had the insight to do that last.)
But there are some things that do not align with what I have seen as I have found my own (good) place in the world outside the ivory tower. The thing that sticks out most for me is the notion that years of work in the academy register as comparable years of work outside it; my experience says that they don’t often, if at all. I applied for close to 200 jobs between my last full-time teaching gig and the job I have now. Many of them were, in fact, entry-level (and those I got, in fact, were). Many others, though, were mid-level jobs that asked for two to ten years of experience–and I had that in teaching. But for the larger companies to which I applied, the fact that my jobs listed as “professor” or “instructor” meant that they failed to trip the keyword-matching that I have come to understand is endemic in larger hiring systems. And for the smaller ones, that my job titles were what they were meant that I was someone who couldn’t, per (that ass-hat) Shaw. Hell, even in getting the jobs I was able to get, I got to field the question of why I wanted them–and if I’ve landed in a good place, I know it was a stroke of good fortune that let me do so.
The transition out is possible, and it pays to talk to people in person and online. But it is also the case that there are more barriers to doing it than are necessarily evident, and it pays to be aware of them.