May 7, 2016 is the three-year anniversary of my dissertation defense.
Three years ago, my little daughter was 2, my oldest was 5. We were seriously muddling through day-to-day. Graduation day looked like this:I’d like to think that I had a very concrete plan for next steps after graduate school but the truth is that I was not entirely sure what would happen once I finished. I had a short term job lined up, I knew I would have to look for other opportunities, and it was time to start hustling.
And hustle I did. I said yes to everything that crossed my desk: committees at the college where I taught short-term, connections offered by my chair to local organizations looking for a researcher, professional development opportunities in the community. I just said yes.
I kept a list of people I met, organizations I admired, and skills I needed to cultivate. I paid incredible attention to everything. I sowed seeds without knowing when or how or what they would yield. But eventually, little opportunities began to grow. I still reap benefits to this day even though I am settled into a new and different role as a policy analyst and advocate.
So, it is fitting that three years after finishing my doctoral work, having left higher education for the time being, that I will be participating in an online conference for current graduate students and professionals who are considering leaving higher education to pursue other opportunities: Beyond the Professoriate.
Three years ago, I would have clung to the stories and advice that other panelists will share over the next two Saturdays. I am particularly proud of the writing and speaking I have done on this topic and can’t wait to connect with participants tomorrow as part of the Government and Non-Profit panel.
I started Rogue Cheerios four years ago this year as I was finishing up graduate school in part to document what was happening as I finished up one chapter and started another. In that time, I have made a transition out of the academy and into a career that I really love. Instead of reflecting on that journey now, I thought I’d compile the lessons learned posts I wrote along the way:
- Things I Wish I Knew (before I started graduate school)
- The defense in the rear view (the initial shock of being a Dr.)
- Consider staying (thoughts on a local job search)
- Don’t Fear the Resume (how to get over making your CV into a resume)
- How Do I Decide What To Do Next? (soul-searching)
- Interviewing for an Alt-Ac Position (interview prep)
- Negotiating Non-Academic Style (what to do when you get an offer)
- What Do I Tell My Students? (the tectonic shift)
- ‘Do You Miss Being A Professor?’ (reflections on the work transition)
For now, I am pleased to have a stable job. And though I am squarely settled into my current position, I am always thinking about what I might want to do in the future. I am not one to rest on my laurels–every day there are new things to learn, apps to master, connections to make. In a precarious job market, stability is about all you can hope for.
It is crucial to remember that nothing is guaranteed in life–not even tenure.