Women In Academia

Women in Academia: There is Life After Grad School

Did you start a PhD or MA program and now want to leave? It’s okay. There is life after grad school. Let me show you how!

  1. Treat your academic experience like a job. All of those research papers and theses you wrote, those were inĀ preparationĀ for professional work, so treat them as professional work. My resume has me as “PhD Candidate” plus all of the skills I cultivated.
  2. What did you think sounded like fun when you grew up? I always wanted to be a copywriter (seriously!) and now, after much hard work, I write copy for major national brands. Explore your childhood dreams.
  3. Be humble. Look, I have an MA in Political Science. I was in a PhD Program. I was willing to pay my dues despite my over-education. I wrote endless reams of copy about chrome wire shelving and auto parts before finally landing an amazing job that is worth my experience and talent.
  4. Work for free. OK, I’m all about paying people for their work. But sometimes, if you are trying to leap into another field entirely, it’s worth offering your services for free. Try volunteering at a nonprofit or helping a start-up get going.
  5. Stop feeling guilty. When I quit academia, I felt guilty about it for YEARS. Learn to be okay with your new path. Embrace it.
  6. Pay your dues. There are a lot of awful jobs out there. You may have to work your way through a few of them before you land on something you like. Keep your goals in mind, much like you’d keep a PhD in mind through all of the dissertation hell.

So, what does your post-academic life look like?

By [E] Sally Lawton

My food groups are cheese, bacon, and hot tea. I like studying cities and playing with my cat, Buffy.

2 replies on “Women in Academia: There is Life After Grad School”

You get started by writing! I know that sounds trite, but you just need to build a portfolio. I blogged for businesses for free at first, just to prove that I could write for someone else. I then moved on to SEO copywriting, which is VERY in-demand right now, but it’s definitely not the copywriting I do now or see on Mad Men. But after paying my dues, I now work at an ad agency and write copy for a few well-known brands. I will say that the most important thing you can do is network (old advice, I know!) But the only way I got my current job was by putting myself out there and meeting people. It took a while, but I met the right person who had the right position.

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