Are you contemplating leaving academia?
It's a significant shift, one that can stir a mix of emotions and uncertainties. Here are some of my Top Tips.
1. Don’t get stuck in ‘Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda’: Focus on the Future, Not the Past
It's natural to dwell on thoughts like ‘What if I had...’ or ‘Maybe I should have...’. However, such reflections can be counterproductive. Remember, the key is to look ahead, not back. Your future is a canvas yet to be painted, and dwelling on the past won't help in creating your new masterpiece.
2. Allow Yourself to Grieve
Leaving academia can feel like losing a part of your identity. Please be reassured that a lot of people feel like this. It's okay to grieve the loss of your academic identity, or the partial loss of it. You might experience waves of sadness, but these will pass. With time, you'll start to see the exciting opportunities that lie ahead. The transition out of academia and the associated identity shift can take time. It can take time to embrace new beginnings, especially if they do not feel entirely comfortable or chosen.
3. Try to Embrace Uncertainty If You Can
There are likely to be periods of uncertainty when you leave academia. However, often academia contains plenty of uncertainty too: ‘Will my contract get renewed?’, ‘Will I get permanency?’, ‘Will I get that paper published?’ ‘Do I stand a chance with this grant application?’. Our feelings about uncertainty can depend on the context. Focus on the things you can control if you are struggling with uncertainty.
4. Surround Yourself with Your Cheerleaders
Find the people who remind you of your worth. Find the people who tell you how amazing you are. Put your fearleaders on mute and surround yourself with your cheerleaders. Change can be hard. You need positive and encouraging voices. If you don’t have cheerleaders, you can find some in the Alt Ac Careers Facebook Group.
5. Focus on what You Can Choose
Even if the career road isn't clear yet, you are likely to have some choices related to your ‘What’s next?’. Focusing on your choices and developing a strategy for making good choices can prevent you feeling buffeted from whatever wind happens to blow in your direction! Coaching support can be really helpful for develop a strategy which ensures you feel empowered and in control.
Leaving academia can be hard. You are likely to have invested a lot of time, effort, energy and possibly tears in academia so far. But ignore the thought of sunk costs. Everything you have achieved so far has value beyond academia, sometimes even more so!
Peer Research Network
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Charity Evaluation Working Group
Social Research Association
International Coaching Federation
Naomi Tyrrell PhD
How to Move Home with Kids