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10/12/2020

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Evan

Networking isn't cheating if the people doing the networking have the relevant expertise and skills that the other people may already desire. It's only cheating when the person is incompetent and yet still gets the job via networking.

Unfortunately, hiring such a person would be risky and so chances of successful networking without any relevant skills or knowledge would be low unless they're willing to train one on the spot and invest in one's education. Who would want to work with somebody who is incompetent and has no value to offer?

I network sometimes when I'm not working in my usual 8-hour job. But I make sure that the people I network with have the relevant skills and values that I desire. I feel confident networking because I have something valuable to offer and they have something to offer. For us, meritocracy (competence) and values are already there for all parties involved. Networking and collaborating can be the next step if you want to advance in your (self-employed) career.

Perhaps successful networking with incompetent people would be morally problematic and naive since they don't obviously deserve the job in the first place. Once you're already competent, whether or not you want to make more money or advance in your career via networking is on you. Networking is an extra or bonus procedure outside of the usual apply-for-a-job procedure.

Networking was something I did when I was at university. I networked with other organizations outside of my own university. They invited us to many of their events and vise versa. We helped each other. Now, I have friends in various industries: entertainment, business, music, medicine, science, etc. Many of them have benefitted from (business) ethics advice I gave to them.

However, a word of advice: Networking should be done cautiously. Even if both parties are equally valuable in terms of competence, both parties may have different values. Having your strings attached to certain people with problematic, unjust, or unethical ends can cause you and others harm. Unwise networking can cause a lot of misery.

Despite my networking, I always make sure the people I want to network and collaborate with are ethically good and wise people.

easy?

Academia really sucks in a whole host of ways. It's great that some people can get out. I worry that for most though it isn't going to be as easy as sending someone an email. I always wonder when people tell these stories what they might be leaving out. I know people who have left academia and found alternative jobs/careers, but none had an easy time doing it. Further, I don't think anyone I know ended up with a mid career position. For the most part the PhDs were considered mostly irrelevant, and they had to start over at the beginning. If anything the PhDs hurt them, because they seemed over qualified or people just found it suspicious that they weren't staying in academia. Non-academics don't really understand how bad the academic job market is.

Mike

I think the networking answer captures perfectly what networking should be, and is something I didn't understand until after I had graduated and failed on the academic market.

Regarding easy?'s question, I doubt most of these stories involve any hidden component --- Instead, the thing to keep in mind is that they're the exception, not the rule. I wouldn't be surprised if 10% (or whatever) of philosophy/liberal arts PhDs, 1-5 yrs out from the PhD, manage a relatively painless switch that happens via not much more than a resume-writing seminar and a lucky coffee chat or two. Some people are just in the right time at the right place. So, sure, there will be a good number of these stories. If anything, I suspect the format of the stories (i.e., it has to be a relatively short blurb in a blog or social media post) can hide some of the difficulty: e.g., months were put into that resume, it was the dozenth coffee chat, there were three dozen rejections too, etc.

Still, I suspect that most people (well north of 50%) will have a painful reshaping and relearning to go through, where they reinvent themselves, learn a new field, make new connections, etc.

Maybe part of it is your disposition, as well. Depending on how you want to tell the story and your personality, the same series of events could be either a relatively painless resume seminar and coffee chat, or an arduous process of reinvention and learning.

easy?

I'd just like to hear some stories from the other side where people really struggled to find a non-academic job. I worry that a story like the present one will make undergraduates think that if it doesn't work out in philosophy they can just email someone for a job. I doubt it's that easy for 99% of people, especially post pandemic due to the new great depression. I don't know a ton of people, but I've never known anyone who had such an easy time.

Mike

I haven't read Christopher Caterine's full interview, or his book, but I very much suspect that the blurb above hides the hard work. I assume he spent a lot of time learning about various professional fields and crafting his presentation to mesh with the needs of these fields. A lot of times when people talk about "making your own luck", they mean that you need to work really hard so that you're prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. I seriously doubt that anyone would give a philosopher a job based off a referral and a phone call/email, *if* during that phone call/email you talk like a clueless academic about your CV and publishing record, as if you were applying for a TT job at an R1. I assume Christopher had a sense of what kind of needs this person had, knew how his experience and skills filled those needs, and conveyed that in the email or phone call or whatever.

Maybe the way Christopher conveys the story in this blurb is misleading, but I think if you read enough of these stories, and enough reactions to them, it's clear that it's not as easy as sending an email.

As for stories that convey the difficulty, I've seen them here and elsewhere. One I remember off hand was the story of the philosopher who transitioned into project management. They discussed the various exams and certifications they had to get, the entry-level positions they took, how they learned to translate their academic experience into project-management lingo, etc. It was quite clear that this was months, if not a year or two's, worth of serious work.

I think the general strategy, and the work it entails, is pretty straightforward:

1. Learn whatever is needed for the new field, develop new skills, etc. E.g., learn to code, join a consulting club, learn photoshop, study for professional exams, etc --- whatever you need.
2. Begin to get integrated into the field at the entry level: Take internships, take small projects or contract roles, start going to professional meetups in the field and do coffee chats, etc.
3. As you learn the new lingo and cultural norms, polish your resume and professional presentation.
4. Continue networking (which should have been part of 1-3), and wait for that "lucky" break of someone calling and asking if you're interested in applying for a job. Maybe throw some applications out as well. When you get the call, send your resume and get ready to present your new, reinvented self in an interview.

Maybe not easy

I don't think the author found getting his non-academic job to be easy. He says in the book (pp. xi-xii), "...even for me, leaving academia was hard. It took over two years and meetings with more than 150 people before I found a job."

Evan

Worrying about the job prospect of your undergraduates and not doing much to inform them early on would be irresponsible. If philosophy professors and departments truly care about the well-being of their students, they should prepare their students early on about the reality of graduate school and the job market and having a Plan B. Maybe even Plan C too.

Ironically, I looked at many philosophy graduate school webpages and most of them have workshops or some class designed to prepare students for the job-market. It’s ironic because no such workshop exists for most UNDERgraduate departments for philosophy majors even when they are from the same university! I’d like to think that each level of education should also *mirror* somewhat like the next level of education. You’d think the amount of money philosophy majors pay to go to college, there would be something substantial for them in terms of preparing them for post college work.

I used to want to pursue a PhD in philosophy and be a professor. Then the more I stayed in philosophy, the more I realized I didn’t need most of it in the first place. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I related to what Kristie Dotson wrote in her article when she questioned whether philosophy was good enough for Black women.

The amount of hardship, intellectual gaslighting, pretentiousness, irresponsibility and toxicity in philosophy and higher education led me to realize that academic philosophy as it is now doesn’t deserve somebody like me. At least, not yet anyways.

Of course, I love philosophy. But it’s only one aspect of who I am. I guess there are those who want to be the next Kripke or something and make philosophy their entire life. It’s good to have such people around. We need them for intellectual purposes. But for me, I reached the top and now I gotta throw away the latter and move on with my life.

My tip is: figure out what you’re good at. What you’re willing to and can learn. And figure out whether you can capitalize on it. It was a philosopher who invented the sock pocket. Now he’s a millionaire. It’s such a simple device, yet so many people desired it.

I still do philosophy. But I mostly do it for myself. The idea of publishing and making a name for myself in the academic industry seemed enticing. But I realized that if I approached philosophy with that mindset, I’m disrespecting the process and the activity. It may even cost me truth. Doing philosophy is a noble activity. As such, I shouldn’t let my ego interfere with the process. I do philosophy on my own terms. I get no pressure from professors, colleagues, and departments. I have more time to arrive at truth and more time to negate and critique my own thoughts.

There’s only so much we can directly control in this world. But if you’re planning on getting a non-academic job, then you should really figure out what your other skills are. I do photography on weekends and when I’m not working at my usual job. I know an RN who also does photography on the side. It can be hectic, but I love it.

A second job outside of academia, may be good option to increase your income. If you have a spouse and/or children, then it would be difficult. Sometimes, surviving may come first. It’s important to communicate that with them and warn them that the time with them will be cut short if you do get a second job. Surviving requires a lot of sacrifices. I know. I’ve been there. A well-paying, stable, meaningful, and happy job is a privilege only a few people have.

Also encourage your philosophy majors to dual major if your university offers it. The value of philosophy does not necessarily end in being a philosophy professor.

Samuel Kampa

easy?: My wife and I both transitioned from academia to the private sector relatively recently. (I wrote about my transition in a Phil Cocoon piece a while back.) While the transition wasn't *easy* for either of us---and while summoning confidence in the face of an unfamiliar job market was a challenge---it took both of us less than 6 months to secure a suitable entry-level position, and it was *far* easier than securing an academic job.

In my experience, networking is a mixed bag, but it can be the key to securing mid-level PhD-preferred jobs. I networked my way into consideration for a midish-level management consulting gig (off of a cold call), though I had transitioned to ed tech by the time I was extended a phone interview. At the same time, I distinctly remember getting stood up at a coffee shop by someone I had cold called. And I'd say 50% of people I cold-called on LinkedIn never responded. Job hunting in this market is a lot like online dating.

I agree that we shouldn't give undergrads the impression that they can waltz into a non-academic job if academic philosophy doesn't work out. You have to prepare, and no amount of preparation will make up for the opportunity cost of 6 years in grad school (or whatever). But if an undergrad is going to be imprudent anyway (as I was!), they should at least know that transitioning out of academia is possible and probable, *as long as they prepare ahead of time*.

Everyone's journey is different, and it's possible that my wife and I were luckier than most. I'd be curious to hear from people who spent years trying to find a non-academic job. What industry were they going into? Did they find networking useful? How much time did they spend retraining in grad school (if applicable)? Maybe there's some good stuff in Leaving Academia, but I haven't seen much data on the messy details of ex-academics' job searches.

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