If so, then let me echo my co-authors by offering you a hearty congratulations!! Deciding to leave academia is not something to be ashamed of ... it’s something to be proud of. You have decided what will make you happy and secure in your adult life, and you are going out and making it happen for yourself. So congratulations to you!!
You should feel happy and proud of yourself, and excited for what comes next. Unfortunately, however, you’re probably going to be navigating a lot of this transition on your own. Your friends and family might not be as supportive as you’d like. Your department isn’t going to help you find health insurance after you graduate, and your advisor probably won’t help you write a nonacademic resume. You may very well be starting from scratch on those things … and that’s where we come in.
Do we have all of the answers and a perfect roadmap for setting up your new life? No way. But we can offer some advice.
Elsewhere on this site, you can find advice about how to “officially” notify your advisors and leave your department, and about how to deal with your emotions and about looking for a new career.
This section, however, is a little different. In this section, we’ll be offering resources that will help you deal with some of the “other stuff” that you will need to pay attention to when you’re transitioning out of academia. The concrete decisions you need to make and steps you need to take on the way to setting up a postacademic life for yourself and your family. Things like:
- What to do to find health insurance after you leave academia, if you won’t have it through a new job.
- How to deal with student loans and other debt after you leave.
- Where to look if you think you will need benefits such as food stamps, unemployment, or other programs that can help keep you on your feet while you set up your new life.
- How to decide where to live or where to job-hunt, now that you’re not constrained by the whims of the academic job market.
- Advice for getting a “just for now” job - to get the bills paid until you find something you love.
- How to retain access to research materials and other resources without an institutional affiliation.
These are all things that academic quitters will need to think about and investigate … but they are also things that you may not know how to deal with.
After all, many academics have spent many (if not all) of their post-college years in a university setting. We’re used to having health insurance readily available through the university (even if we have to purchase it with our own money), and we’re used to having those student loans just sort of hang out, waiting for our eventual graduation. We’re used to thinking of our future locales as “wherever the one university that will hire me will be located,” rather than “where I’d actually like to live.” And we’re used to trying to find “the one [tenure-track] job that I’ll hope to keep forever” rather than “a decent job that will help me pay the bills until I figure out what I want to do next.”
All of these former realities are going to disappear when you leave. Your health insurance won’t auto-renew anymore. You might get a notice from the student loan company that your loans are coming due. You can take a job without fearing that you’ll be stuck doing it forever and ever. And you can go live anywhere you want!
These can be scary things, but they are also totally manageable and (in a couple of cases) actually pretty exciting! I mean, think about it … if you’ve always wanted to move to the big city, now might be your chance! If your long-term goal is to run a goat farm in rural Nebraska? You don’t have to wait for an academic job to open up outside of Omaha anymore … you can just go!
So in this section, we’re here to help you figure out what you need to do to set up a postacademic adult life … and to get it all taken care of. Dealing with finances, and geography, and keeping your family safe and secure while you make this transition … we have advice for you about all of these things.
And if it seems too daunting, never fear … we all did it. You can too!