By Marcus Arvan & Helen De Cruz
Helen and I are happy to introduce the Cocoon’s newest series: our ‘Alt-Ac Workshop’, where guest-contributors with higher degrees in philosophy will provide concrete tips on how to transition effectively from academic philosophy to careers outside of the academy.
Before I introduce our first post in the series later today – a post by Calvin Warner (MA, Georgia State University) on how to identify one’s marketable skills and potential non-academic jobs—Helen and I would like to each say a few brief things about why we started the series and what our hopes are for it.
As someone spent over eight years pursuing my PhD, came very close to never finishing my degree, and then spent seven years on the academic job-market, at many times I felt trapped and helpless: as though, if I didn’t make it in academia, I had little hope of a successful career. I not only had no network outside of academia. I had little idea how I could ever market the skills I had developed in graduate school in a way that would land me a good non-academic job.
According to the American Philosophical Association’s helpful new guide, ‘Beyond Academia’, only about 35% of philosophy PhDs since 2012 have secured permanent academic posts. Because permanent academic jobs are so scarce, Helen and I both believe it is important for our profession to help philosophers with higher degrees obtain good jobs both inside and outside of the academy. However, while I am heartened to see the APA devoting resources to this, in my experience there are still far fewer resources readily available to philosophers for seeking non-academic jobs than in many other fields. Our hope is that our Alt-Ac Workshop will contribute in some small but significant way in providing more resources here, by both
(A) providing academic philosophers with helpful tips from those who have experience transitioning to non-academic careers successfully, but also, insofar as we will be featuring philosophers in industry,
(B) presenting readers with non-academic philosophers to potentially network with (namely, our contributors)!
Helen and I have a diverse line-up contributors tentatively set up—including some philosophers who have made interesting careers in philosophy outside of the academy, as well as others who have pursued various careers outside of philosophy—and we hope you all find the series helpful. If you do know anyone with a higher degree in philosophy in industry who might contribute something useful to the series, please encourage them to contact me at email@example.com to express interest. Thanks, and hope the series is helpful! - Marcus
(taking over from Marcus here).
I’ve been fascinated with alt-ac for several years now – some of this is inspired by personal circumstance.
My sister got her PhD in medium energy physics and left academia right away for a job as a meteorologist. She told that she wasn’t prepared to sacrifice her personal life to pursue an uncertain future in academia. I have been a postdoc for many years, having a total of 3 multi-year postdoc positions and getting 2 PhDs. At the time she graduated and moved out of academia, I was on my second postdoc position. I then thought that alt-ac is all very nice for people who have a degree in a STEM field, like my sister, but for us humanities PhDs, academia is still the only option. And there lies the problem.
By thinking academia’s the only option, we’re in a seriously weakened bargaining position. We’re vulnerable to being exploited. So we need to create options. I’m not saying the system isn’t seriously broken. But one thing we can do is seriously consider options outside the academy.
To this end, I’ve recently started a blog Doing things with philosophy – beyond academia which showcases people who studied philosophy and who are now engaged outside of academia. People not only with PhD degrees, but also with MAs and BAs. If you would like to write for Alt-Ac workshop and want to be featured on this blog, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.