Creator discusses his e-book on leaving academia
Christopher L. Caterine seemed to be on the right track to work. He obtained a Ph.D. in classics from the University of Virginia in 2014. He had been a visiting assistant professor at Tulane University for a number of years, and had plenty of time to practice. However, he made a decision and left academe. He describes this issue – and provides advice – in Leaving Academia: A Principle of Principles (Princeton University Press). In this booklet, they provide advice on finding a good job and looking for a job (cover letters, CVs – non-students).
Answered questions about the book via email.
Q: You had a Ph.D. in classics as well as gig good assistant (tourist) gig. What motivated you to start an uneducated career?
Answer: The reason I was there was a change of mind due to my wife’s idea of rejecting work. The short story in this article – I say in more detail in my book – is that we stopped asking what educational opportunities would be like for us to reject and start asking how it would be best for us to save ourselves in New Orleans. The room was bigger than we all realized – especially since we had just moved here 18 months earlier. Since his position could be extended and mine was not, I decided to look for other jobs.
Obviously, there was a combination of other things lurking in the background. I have already mentioned that my wife and I experienced a “physical crisis.” After five years of our long relationship in grad school, allowing our jobs to separate us again didn’t happen. I was also tired of teaching the same courses over and over again and I wasn’t sure I wanted every semester to feel like a Groundhog Day until I retired. Finally, my work as chair of the Contingent Faculty Committee for the Society for Classical Study informed me of serious workplace problems and performance for many of the professionals in the US more about making a way than research made me happy. This realization made it easier to launch a new job search in 2015.
Q: Social networking is a topic in your book. How is communication different from uneducated jobs than academic careers?
Answer: I was a strong believer in ethics so it never crossed my mind to connect while I was still on academe! However, I find that I am building on other people’s time; worst of all, I see it as a kind of deception – trying to persuade someone to hire you for a boyfriend instead of having your best education. I think the other part is that I think networks just want to help yourself find a job. This is one of the reasons you make it, but if it is your only goal, you will not get far. To become proficient online, you need to learn about others and put yourself in their shoes to help them. Enter each workshop to learn as much as you can about the professional history, your goals and the challenges you face. Knowing this helps you connect with people who can help them deal with their problems faster than they can. In effect, you are giving back to those who need it most. Your advantage is the knowledge of how they work, the skills they need to work on and a good understanding of how it can be done on a daily basis.
In my opinion, professionals can be very effective and efficient in their work if they apply these skills within the school. But the culture of the grad school seems to keep most people from doing this. When I became involved with people on the Internet, I became fearful that I would offend people by asking for their time. Most – probably 80% – volunteered an hour to tell me about their work after I sent my email. This is perhaps in stark contrast to the connections between experts and other professionals around the world: poorly trained people prioritize networks and build relationships even though their calendar is very cumbersome and inconsistent.
As soon as I started writing my essay, my graduate freshman asked me to drive him to a specialist who had just given a 75-minute lecture at the airport. We had a good conversation, but nothing came of it at the time. Four years later, I asked the man to read the article that I was preparing for publication. They had some good answers, and we started corresponding. A few months later, one of my correspondents asked me to write a chapter for a revised book. The call came a few weeks after I volunteered to drop out of school – as I climbed the stairs to the night class where I was preparing for the transition. I decided to write the article as a barrier, thinking that perhaps there was a chance I could do well in my studies. I finished my title in early 2017, but some writers were late. Surprisingly, the volume is now coming next year – four years since I dropped out of higher education after I was able to write and publish the entire book at the same time!
Q: What are the main things students need to learn in relation to non-students?
Answer: First, it is your responsibility to explain the significance of your experiences by explaining them clearly to your audience. As a rule, find out why something should be important to them, and then go into the context of how it works. Do not think that others will appreciate what you do, and do not be disappointed if they cannot connect with unsupported drops.
Second, uneducated people. Help them like that. Be interested in what they do, how they got there and what they are upset about or what they want. It’s hard to date if you’re just talking about yourself or seeing someone with whom you can share support.
Third, be loved. People like to help those who enjoy socializing with them. Once you talk about the disadvantages of education and the difficulty of changing jobs, there is no doubt that someone will refer you to their contacts or offer you a job.
Most importantly, keep it short. You run the risk of distorting your audience if you provide too much and too little information. If they want more, they will ask.
Q: How should students deal with students who think there is only good work at the academy?
Answer: I would challenge the whole idea that this work is good and that it exists! Today, higher education is another job for many U.S. Ph.Ds, with only 7% of those enrolled in social and public schools eventually finding a job. COVID-19 has almost destroyed that figure. Of the remaining, less than 20 percent will have other responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities apply to other people, but many are abusive – low-paying jobs without support and support from organizations.
Students who think there is only good work do not do this, but have a responsibility to read this in teaching and mentoring. Their students, colleagues, leaders and supervisors need to push the issue as far as everyone can. This could mean asking teachers to ask students at academic schools to talk about their journey since their departure or protection. It could mean creating a LinkedIn team to promote dialogue between alumni, teachers and students. It would also mean consulting an external consultant (!) To facilitate a workshop on how to change postgraduate careers so that they can manage a variety of careers without reducing medical training. To get back to the numbers we started with, about 75% of those who enter the grad are already working outside the professor. This means that it should be easy to follow these ideas.
Obviously, if you have a PI, or PI counselor, you may want to quietly seek out other counselors and look for a job before setting out your goals. I did this for the first six months, “burning down my train” and announcing in public that I had just finished my last trip to the academic market.
Q: Can you describe your work outside of the academy and how you got it?
Answer: I am a professional writer and commentator for a global lighting company. On a fun day, I work with company executives to get a compelling message to sell or to work with our entire production team to send this message as memorable as possible. On a boring day, you can find me and use the mailing guide on the big notes or make sure everyone’s name and title are right in the organization chart. Basically, I use a variety of skills that I learned to get my degree: information production, weight of factual evidence, clear writing and making what is often fun in a fun way that attracts the attention of the audience. I used to travel almost every week to work with the teams on this page – and I will be the first to have the COVID-19 vaccine line if it means I can!
I found the job online. Someone I spoke to casually asked me for more information and he connected me with someone he knew in the company, and a good conversation with this person invited his boss who also taught him. The purpose of this song – and it has some useful expertise – was that people with higher degrees seemed to go to extremes when they applied for jobs: in his opinion it was best for people like me to get middle positions. At the end of our conversation, he hesitated a bit before asking me for notes. Apparently he was pleased with what he saw: as soon as he received it, he told me about a position he was about to hold. Little did I know that I was being considered for a job until I was asked to start an initial conversation! At the time it seemed crazy, but now I know that most workplaces in the center are filled rather than shipped. This allows students to step out of their comfort zone and learn how to connect. This is how you make your chances – especially in a competitive job like today.