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It's a mystery to me how my job applications will go this year. However, depending on how bleak things look, I may look for jobs outside The Academy.

But, I just don't know where to even begin. I've never even had a non-academic job. I don't really know where to look for them or how to write the relevant application materials. I don't have anyone to help me.

It's pretty scary.

Helen De Cruz

There are lots of altac resources, for instance this one by former philosophy professor Zachary Ernst http://goodbyeacademia.com/wordpress/

Young Academic

Thanks for this Matt. I'm a young philosopher early in his career who is not willing to give up everything (i.e. living in a place I like, being surrounded by friends and family, etc.) in order to get an academic job in a Philosophy Department and am always looking at jobs outside academia (mostly teaching at private high schools...I love teaching).

It is really good to have voices like yours which emphasize how leaving academia is not tantamount to failure (it isn't, and the thought that it is is awful for our profession and those of us in it) and that one can have a good life outside of it.


Thanks for sharing Matt!

Matt Drabek

Thanks for the comments! I avoided getting into the details of putting together non-academic application materials because there's a lot of stuff out there and it probably does a better job of telling that tale than I could do. Helen provided a good link. But I do think a really quick bare minimum would be setting up a linkedin profile and filling it out with keywords, and constructing a basic resume that contains important keywords in your target industry.


I'm late to the thread but thanks for sharing. As someone who's very likely to be hitting the non-academic job market pretty soon this post was reassuring.

At point 3 you say: "Taking full-time work outside of academia doesn’t have to end your research."

I'm curious if you feel you have more freedom in terms of the directions your research can take because of your non-academic career. It seems to me that one wouldn't have to be so concerned about towing the mainstream line. That would seem like a perk.

philosophy phailure

From point 2 above:

``But this attitude can enter into a very nasty feedback loop with norms in academia that treat you as a “failure” if you don’t succeed on the philosophy job market. And that’s just utter horseshit.''

Not only is it utter horseshit, but given how pathologically status-obsessed academic philosophy is, and how basically everything worth wanting in an academic job is being strangled by the the corporate zombies that run universities and set education policy, it is staying in academic philosophy which is the real failure, intellectually and morally.

Intellectually, because `succeeding' on the job market requires turning yourself into, or pretending to be, a plaster cast of your academic liege lord. Morally because you perpetuate a system which exploits and manipulates you and your colleagues.

If you are lucky it will also be a personal failure, for continuing in a profession that has poisoned the love which made you want to be in the profession in the first place.

recent grad

Preach, philosophy phailure.

I don't even know if I would take a TT job this year, if offered. I can picture hating myself in five years (a fortiori 20 or 30!) for precisely the reasons you mention.

Matt Drabek

Hi, Milquetoast. Whether or not I have more freedom in terms of research direction may depend on how you look at it. On the one hand, sure. I have total freedom. I face no pressure whatsoever to publish in the "best" journals, and if I'm not interested in the topics that are valued by the field overall, I don't need to write about those topics. I spend no time thinking about topics I'm not fully interested in. But on the other hand, I don't have as much time to read the literature as a T/T professor. I work a full time job and I've done a much better job as a non-academic than I did as an academic of maintaining other interests and hobbies (e.g., pleasure reading, travel, knitting, time with friends, local activism, etc.). And so I'm unusually dependent on the research base I built up as a graduate student and during my first year out of grad school. This is obviously somewhat limiting in terms of my ability to jump into completely new topics and research areas.


Dear Matt

Thanks for discouraging people from using the spray and pray method, applying to EVERY single job whether there is a fit or not. It is really bad for search committees and, as you suggest, it is not especially good for a candidate on the market.


Do you have any objections to working for an "educational" testing organization? Do you think the common objections apply? I've considered such a career path but am hesitant.

Matt Drabek

Hi, pba. This was a major concern when I was interviewing and mulling over the job offer. I definitely considered myself a skeptic of testing and its value to the educational system.

I think the biggest thing I learned when I jumped into the industry is that a ton of research goes into what gets tested, why it's tested, and how the tests are put together. Also, many of the companies involved in the industry (e.g., ACT, The College Board - which does the SAT, ETS - which does the GRE and TOEFL) are non-profit, mission-driven organizations where people do care about the mission.

Insofar as there are problems associated with testing in the United States, and there indeed *are* problems associated with testing, those problems tend to come from sources like this: underlying factors that cause schools to excessively rely on standardized testing (e.g., underpaid teachers, under-qualified teachers, overbearing principals and/or school boards), schools using standardized testing for purposes that are inappropriate or ill-advised (e.g., for teacher raises and/or promotions), federal and/or state policies that mandate excessive and/or unnecessary testing.

It's also worth noting that many of the objections that you find out there unfairly conflate testing with distinct, but somewhat related, phenomena. For example, many people lump in objections to the *Common Core State Standards* with objections to testing, even though the Common Core is a set of educational standards and not a standardized test. There's no such thing, for example, as a "Common Core test", even though you'll see a million news stories about this alleged entity. Many of the alleged objections to testing are actually objections to curricula or textbooks published by for-profit companies like Pearson or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), companies that are involved in both the testing industry and other industries. If you saw John Oliver's recent segment on testing, for instance, this is most of what he was really objecting to.

So, in short, what I've found is that the non-profit, mission-driven side of the testing industry has a lot going for it and a lot to offer. It also has many challenges to overcome in terms of marketing itself to a world where it's easily conflated with the problems of the educational system and the less scrupulous, and less rigorous, side of the educational industry.

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