Belated thanks and further thoughts

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The popularity of my post last month really took me by surprise. According to my WordPress stats, “I am not wasting my Ph.D.” has so far received 514 views! As a complete newbie to the blogosphere, I really can’t thank you all enough for your comments and retweets!

I was also really excited to get mini-mentions from two very experienced bloggers. Bora mentions my post in a round-up of “excellent, thought-provoking stuff”. And Zen Faulkes mentions my post in a round-up of his own comments – he was the one who alerted me to Seth Godin’s excellent post.

As I’ve said before, this blog is a work in progress. The more I write, the better my writing voice – or at least that’s the idea. I can’t promise that all my posts will be as great as “I am not wasting my Ph.D.”, but I will certainly try!

Also, apologies for not responding to each comment. It’s been so long (a month in the blogosphere is a long time!) that I am slightly embarrassed about trying to respond now. But there was one comment that made me think, and I wanted to address it here.

In her comment, Mary-Anne says:

Thank-you for talking about an issue, that feels like a dirty little secret.

How sad that leaving academia is considered a dirty, non-kosher topic in some circles! Recently, someone revealed to me that their graduate program doesn’t provide them with the resources to learn about and research “alternative” careers. And I had a Harvard professor complain to me once that there were too many career panels put on by our Office of Career Services (OCS) –  she felt that they were “corrupting” Harvard grad students, introducing all these horrible ideas into our heads.

What are these academics thinking? “If we don’t tell them about the outside world, they’ll have no choice but to stay!” <evil laugh>

Isn’t it better to make sure your students and postdocs are well-informed about their career options? What are you afraid of? That academia is such a horrible place that we’ll all leave if given half a chance? Maybe then you should spend more time reforming practices in academia…

Students and postdocs ultimately have the prerogative to do what’s best for them, their careers, and their family.

Despite that professor’s worries about “corruption”, I can tell you that many of my classmates chose to pursue academic careers. They are certainly familiar with the career options available to them (if not because of the fantastic programs at OCS, then likely because of me and my “alternative” career evangelism), but academia so far is a great fit for them and they are thriving.

I feel so lucky that I was “allowed” to learn and think about non-academic careers. For those of you who need to do this research in secret, rest assured – there are plenty of online resources! I’ve tried to collect some of them here, but there is so much more available out there.

Thanks Mary-Anne for sharing your “dirty little secret”! You’ve demonstrated that it’s ok (and good) to do what’s right for you. I’m so glad that you’ve found a job that you love!

I do want to make sure one point is clear. I might make jokes and/or disparaging comments about academia and research, but I certainly don’t hate either. I believe in the good of basic research – knowledge for the sake of knowledge – with all my heart. I have friends who LOVE being academics and/or researchers. I am as happy for them as I am for those who have left the bench and found a career love elsewhere.


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