February 27, 2005

Careers Outside of Academia

I've been checking out websites that have information for people considering job hunting outside of academia. There's a site called Sellout (doesn't the name speak volumes about the attitude of those staying in academia?) that has resources for academics thinking of leaving the fold.

As an outsider myself, I find it a little amusing. I've seen this kind of attitude with some of the patients in my clinical practice who have worked for years in a large government agency (I could tell you which one, but then I'd have to shoot you.) When they contemplate leaving, you would think they were moving to Outer Mongolia. The peer pressure is enormous to stay.

Although psychology graduate students are taught that they are part of the scientist-practioner model, meaning they are being taught to do both, in reality there are not enough jobs for all graduates to stay in academe and have a private practice. What bothers me is the hypocrisy -- "We want you to do this, but it is impossible for a large percentage of you to do it."

Clearly the same thing goes on in the humanities, although there are fewer opportunities outside of academe. Every year, thousands of Ph.D.'s graduate into a world that does not have enough of the coveted tenure-track positions for many of them.

And yet when they decide to look for jobs outside of the university environment they are called "sellouts". What a two-faced system!

I recently read The 2000 National Doctoral Program Survey of graduate students. Only 52% felt that they got adequate preparation in searching for careers or jobs outside of academia. Although 95% felt comfortable talking to their advisor about careers in academia, only 75% felt comfortable doing the same regarding careers outside of academia.

I'm glad that I didn't stay in academia, because it didn't suit my personality. It's clearly a wonderful career for those who enjoy all that it entails. I just wish that the system helped and encouraged people who want to take either fork in the road, and not just one.

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