"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another reason post-acs have such a hard time finding nonacademic work

Despite strong intellect, post-academics -- in the humanities in particular -- are a bunch of weirdos. We read 500-year-old books for FUN, for crap's sake! And take Foucault to the beach. I include myself in this bunch, of course, and when it comes to just being like everybody else, well, we sometimes have difficulty fitting in. "No, dear coworker," I find myself saying even here at the Petting Zoo, "I didn't watch the football game on Sunday. Your lunchtime kickball team in the park sounds great. Thanks for inviting me, but I haven't played kickball (or soccer or frisbee) since I was 11, and I'd probably fall on my ass and make a fool of myself. And no, I haven't seen that movie yet that everybody else has. What did I do this weekend? Er, I listened to a new recording of Beethoven's late quartets, took a walk, and then went for a drink at the hipster bar but didn't talk to anybody."

Yeeaahhh ... Great way to make friends.

Well, apparently, that's not how you find a job, either, according to this new study. Apparently, companies are more likely to  "choose new workers much as they would choose friends or dates, zeroing in on shared leisure activities, life experiences and personality styles."

So, if you're a would-be post-ac with weirdo academic-y tastes, hobbies, and habits and you're having a hard time finding that new, perfect, nonacademic, exit-strategy job, maybe the key isn't anything more than getting a personality makeover -- or at least pretending until you get hired somewhere, where everyone, of course for sure,  will learn to love you for just exactly the unique and special person you really are.


  1. There are specialized niches within the non-academic corporate world where academics are needed and valued for their intellectual and personality traits. Earlier in my professional life, I occupied one of these niches, and the reason I got the opportunity to do so was precisely because of my academic traits and not in spite of them.

    Of course, the trick is identifying these niches and presenting yourself to the people who control access to them.

  2. Yeah, that is the trick, and I'd say social class and gender complicate figuring it out. If you're not travelling in the right circles, you're going to have a much harder time getting access to the people who control the access to where you want to be. You might not even know where you want to be or where and how to find such people because your upbringing prevented you from seeing that such people and places even existed.

    Coming from where I came from, academia seemed like the only place where my intellectual and personality traits would be appreciated. Of course, I have since discovered that is not entirely true, but the lag time in working out where and how to situate myself outside academe, caused in no small part by the detour spent inside, has put me way behind the curve. It's frustrating to see people my age who didn't take that detour at very different places in their careers now. In ten years, I don't want to be where they are now but where they will be then or even ahead.

    Hopefully, some of my readers will figure it our sooner -- and my own ambition and proclivity for risk-taking will pay off.

  3. Your point about privilege-based access is an excellent one, and I definitely had that when it was relevant to me. There are corporate headhunters who specialize in this kind of placement, although I'm not sure nowadays how to find them.

  4. Yes, Comrade Physioprof is right about being able to find the niche(s) that your profile fits and finding the 'gatekeepers' and presenting yourself so that you can gain access. I think that Recent PhD is right that we're living in a time where we just have to take possibly bigger risks and be far more ambitious than we ever been given the dire job situation that exists.