Even though I don’t work directly in teaching or with students anymore, and my husband has left
Actually, that’s not exactly true. Even while I was in the Ph.D. program, I had already made a decision not to pursue academia. I wanted to go into either academic publishing or museums – something *other* than academia. I was all about the alt-ac before that was even a thing!
Why Alt-Ac Was Right For Me
To be honest, I look back on those specific career aims thinking I was naive about work. If I were to bet – and knowing what I now know – I would bet on a higher ed career to give me the time off and flexibility I value so highly over a museum or publisher. But we’ll leave that aside for now.
Who is Providing Good Alt-Ac Help?
Many, many years later, we (still) recognize the need to change. To provide viable, practical, livable career options for academics. But outside of 1:1 and small group mentoring and consultants, we still haven’t stumbled on a model that works.
We have calls to systematize alt-ac career guidance that suggest outsourcing guidance from faculty advisors to career or disciplinary centers. While I don’t know any specifics, the Humanities center at Ohio State that the author cites seems like a great example of a space that could tailor career options to one’s specific disciplinary strengths. But not every campus is going to invest in, nor have the expertise to create and lead such a discipline-specific center.
We have scholarly associations grappling with this. The American Historical Association has been doing an excellent job in this realm for a few years now. Others are making similar inroads, but some are still lagging way behind in honestly addressing the bleak jobs landscape. So if that is the trusted resource to which grad students are being pointed by their advisors, uh oh.
Alt-Ac Coaches are Neglecting ABDs and Master’s Students
And we have folks trying to define the scope of alt-ac career guidance so that guidance can be tailored to the correct audience members. While this is a good idea, this particular definition is not inclusive – it neglects those of us who, like me, made a deliberate and strategic move to LEAVE the academy before the Ph.D. to avoid even more career opportunity cost. So what of all us ABDs out here who are incredibly bright academic scholars but still need career navigation?
Not to toot my own horn, but until there is a proven model, I continue to think that investing in 1:1 coaching or small group mentoring by a consultant who has navigated these waters is money well spent. It’s an investment in your career, offloading a lot of research and knowledge that you need not bear on your own, where you can be guided by those who have been there and found success.