After the Academy: Whither next?

February, 2010 · By Justin Bengry

Whether it’s Stockholm Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Survivor’s Guilt, those of us considering a career outside academia find it nearly impossible to imagine just what life after the academy might actually look like. Part of this is because we find it hard to envision a career path beyond the university. We spend at least a decade sheltered in our departments, surrounded by and receiving our career socialization from other scholars. At the same time, academic departments are rarely the most supportive environments for discussions of non-academic career paths. Having just completed fourteen years of university in the middle of a major recession, I nonetheless see this as a time of opportunity rather than desperation. But I still ask myself, whither next?

I would love an academic job. I’m also a realist, and realistically it’s lean times. Most of us with PhDs will ultimately find employment outside the academy. Graduate school trained me to use proper Chicago citation style, how to manage a classroom, and the intricacies of navigating foreign archives, but I had little preparation for life beyond the university walls—until now. I’m suddenly tallying my “tra