Academics often experience disillusionment after years of hard work and dedication in their fields. If you’re an academic thinking about leaving your professor, postdoc or lecturing job, it’s essential to get clear on your next move.
I recommend switching from asking “what’s next?” to focusing on the “why,” “how,” and “when” of your career journey.
By reflecting on your motivations, values, and methods of success, you’ll gain clarity and find your way to pivot out of academia.
Understanding Your Why
To find your decisive direction, start by asking yourself why you pursued a PhD and entered academia in the first place.
What were your motivations and driving forces?
Understanding the reasons behind your initial choice will give you a foundation to build upon as you consider alternative career paths.
Exploring Your How
Next, consider the process by which you arrived at your current role.
How did you create success and achieve your goals?
Recognizing the methods that led to your accomplishments can help you leverage those same strategies in a different career.
By transferring your proven approaches to success, you’ll feel more confident and capable as you embark on a new path. For example, before my PhD, I did a lot of informational interviews by asking graduate students about their experiences and contacting possible supervisors at various universities to get my name higher in their minds. I even phoned the FBI Behavioral Science Unit to find out what kind of degree I should get because I wanted to be Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs!
Do the same with transitioning your job!
Connecting with Your Values
To connect with your values, reflect on the moments when you felt frustrated, angry, or unfulfilled in your academic career. What events or situations led to those feelings? What values of yours were compromised, exploited, or ignored?
Identifying your core values can provide you with a solid foundation for determining your next career move.
For me, the fact that I loved mentoring was a reason why I was hired and I helped created coaching programmes in academia but I was told I was redundant for not bringing in enough grant funding. So, going forward, I wanted my skills to be valued and my core values of helping people succeed (which is why I’m a career coach).
Discovering Your When
Once you have clarity on your motivations, values, and methods of success, it’s time to determine the right timing for your transition. Consider the factors in your life and career that may influence your decision. Will you need to acquire new skills or credentials? Do you have personal commitments that might affect your timeline? Reflecting on these questions can help you set a realistic and achievable timeline for your pivot out of academia.
Now is the perfect time since you’ll then be out before the August/September start of classes!!
Finding your decisive direction after leaving academia can be a challenging yet fulfilling journey. By understanding your motivations, leveraging your methods of success, and connecting with your values, you’ll gain the clarity needed to make your next career move.
The most important part is being curious, open, and open to exploration!
Embrace your curiosity and take the time to reflect on your experiences, as this will guide you on your path to pivot out of academia and into a new, rewarding career.