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Leaving academia and finding aligned work can be challenging, as it often involves a significant shift in priorities and self-perception. You’re leaving a situation where you’ve given your heart, soul and passion.

You’re exhausted from having given your love to this work when the love was probably misplaced. It feels like wasted time and misspent love!

It’s no wonder many people struggle with determining whether a potential job is the right fit for them: there is the fear of commitment and/or uncertainty about meeting their non-negotiable needs.

Many of our decisions are based on our gut-reactions and our emotional connections to what feels right for us. But we’ve lost that mind-gut connection.

This likely stems from having suppressed one’s own physiological signals while navigating the demands of academia, especially when we had to increase teaching and research expectations during the pandemic, while also home schooling our kids, and driving 8 hours to acquire a cat called – renting a car, waking up at 4am, driving to London and rescuing Lexi from living a life in a tiny flat.

Was that just me???

So, there are important first steps that will make a pivot easier

  • Identifying your core values.
  • Rediscovering your priorities.
  • Developing self-love
  • Becoming more familiar with your needs to thrive outside of the academic environment. 

You bring yourself with you no matter where you go next!

So developing self-compassion and acceptance will allow you to make the journey with more ease.

Many people struggle to determine if a job offer is the right fit for them, fearing they may have to compromise on various aspects that are important to them. 

But your values inform many decisions and make them feel lighter and easier.

For example, how will you tackle informational interviewing?

If your values include connecting with others, having a positive impact, and doing sole activities for self-care…

  • Informational interviews will be about building connections and getting to know people.
  • You will book 1:1 meetings rather than group gatherings.
  • You will follow up with your connections after the informational interview, thanking them for their input.
  • You will communicate with your connections about your next moves.
  • You will ask your connections how you can add value to their work.
  • You will inform your connections about any wins or aha moments and thank them for the input they had in that!
  • You will continue to cultivate your network and offer to help others with their journey.

This is just one potential outcome from identifying your values. I’m not offering this as a prescription for everyone. But I hope you can see how this works! The same will be true for the job search and identifying the type of job you want.

Values will also inform your actions in your first 30 days of work: how you will lead a team, how you assert your boundaries, and how you ask for help.

Turning now to finding alignment, overcoming uncertainty, and identifying which factors are non-negotiable in your life, you will need to be a good noticer!

Again, this process entails understanding how your body reacts in response to stressors and things that bring you joy. You may have lost that mind-body connection through ignoring the abuse and trauma you experienced within academia. 

As a stress researcher, I know all too well about the numbing we can experience over time!

To reconnect,

  1. Engage in activities with more awareness and intention. Find power in a pause and in the breath.
  2. Notice which of your work activities fill your cup and which ones leave you drained.

I’ve had conversations with academics that reveal that much of their conversations with colleagues involve cynicism and a sort of gallows humour.

Much of that results from trying to cope with the changing demands of a profession which itself is under extreme strain!

We are like Law and Order detectives finding humour as a way to deal with what we see on our streets!

Bring awareness and notice when your anger and cynicism has been triggered. Is this because your values are being ignored?

Bringing awareness will help clarify which aspects add value to your life.

Second, evaluate each aspect of your living conditions since life extends beyond one’s career. 

Map out your preferred way of living your life. Consider both small and large details of daily life that contribute to personal satisfaction 

1. Commuting preferences (e.g., driving once a week or taking public transit), 

2. Desired working hours, 

3. Time for extracurricular activities (e.g., hiking, cycling, yoga), and hobbies like crafting. 

Begin engaging in these pursuits now (carve out time, set better boundaries for working hours, take up a hobby) and observe how they make you feel.

This will provide clarity on which areas are most valuable.

Most of my clients are amazed at how going to a football club or going on a hike with like-minded people can open their minds up to more possibilities. 

Once you put yourself out there, you realize, for real, ‘this is something I really need in my life and it’s going to add value.’

As you become more familiar with what truly matters to you outside academia, you’ll gain greater clarity about what kind of job best aligns with the new direction you’re pursuing post-academia.

Third, embrace your newfound knowledge; let it empower you in making informed decisions about potential employment opportunities that resonate with who you are now. 

Becoming more familiar with what truly matters allows you to confidently reject opportunities misaligned with your post-academic identity.

As we transition out of academia into new paths, our goal should not simply be maintaining the status quo but rather embracing change and fostering growth in all facets of our lives. By doing so, we can collectively create disruption and revolutionize our lives after leaving academia instead of merely repeating old patterns.

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