I spent a decade in higher education. After getting my undergraduate degree, I went straight into a master's program, followed by a PhD in American studies. I spent 10 years studying race, gender, ethnic studies, American imperialism, popular culture, and Asian American history. But a few years into my PhD program, I knew all the things that drove me into academia (teaching, collaborating, working with others, changing lives by changing perspectives), were in reality, only a small portion of what academia was.
Publish or perish.
The sink or swim and cut-throat mentality of academia, where labor is exploited and resources are always first cut for the fringe-departments in the humanities. (The very departments who increase the university's faculty numbers for women and people of color, the people who make women and people of color feel included at the university.) I was done with it all.
I decided I was going to leave after I finished my dissertation, much to the dismay of my advisors, who still absolutely supported every decision I made and understood why I was doing it. So in December 2020, I successfully defended, said goodbye and embarked into the unknown.
Then I got a job working at Motion Recruitment - they took a chance on me. In my late 20s, with a PhD, and no "legitimate" work experience on my resume (though I will always argue doctoral programs are careers, and "work experience" doesn't render visible those who grew up working). I've only been there for 2 months, working daily with software engineers, helping them find the next step in their career.
And I LOVE it.
And perhaps the part I'm most excited about - I never made more than 22K as a graduate student, fully funded. I'm making double that as an entry-level recruiter. And whenever I find myself overwhelmed or stressed at work, I remember that at Motion, I can find more support here than I did in academia. And at the end of the day, nothing is really harder than navigating the dangerous waters of tenure-track professors, an abusive academic structure, bitter and entitled undergraduate students and their helicopter parents.
So if you or you know someone who's in academia, trying to figure out how to make the jump, I encourage you to do so. Reach out with any questions, if you want to vent, or share a similar story if you have one.
But I want to make one thing clear, there are jobs for us who were in academia for a long time, conditioned to believe that life in academia was worth the struggle, harassment, and long-work hours with no pay.
And if you come across a resume with someone looking to make a career after a long-stint in academia, take the risk. You won't be disappointed.