If you’re considering going alt-ac, or already are alt-ac but looking for a creative outlet for your truly academic self, I highly encourage a blog. Okay, that dates me (GenX here!) but a scholarly website. With or without a blog. Either way a spot to share your knowledge, your research and scholarly work, your skills in communications, and your dedication.
Gives YOU Control
So much of our careers is beyond our control. We have no idea how long our jobs will last, our functions will be around before they get outsourced to AI or algorithms, or even how much longer our employers will be around! But your online space is ALL YOURS.
Having a professional site gives you a chance to show off your thinking, your reasoning, your research, your data, your writing. Let’s dive into all the reasons I consider your own website to be a must-have for all alt-acs.
Grad school trains you to not just listen to but contribute to your field. You’re going to still have that need, that calling. You need a means to do it. You may not be able to apply for federal grants a PI (because you’re not a tenure-track faculty at a college/university). You may not be as easily able to find scholars to collaborate with on multi-authored compilations. But should that stop you from getting your work out there?
One undeniable advantage for alt-acs is that we’re not under the same narrow restricted definitions of what kinds of publishing “counts” that faculty are. Have you ever written a National Science Foundation grant proposal? They require you to address how the work would have broader impacts. One way your work can have broad impacts is by sharing as openly and broadly as possible. Think of how your work could be used or applied by preK-12 teachers, to higher ed professionals, for ingenious entrepreneurs in your community, to innovative applications of your methods in other industries or fields. Your reach can be much broader than a monograph or journal article.
Psst: Having a blog is also free or nearly free.
Demonstrates Mastery of Your Subject
Tending and updating your content does something else very important. It helps you demonstrate your growing mastery and expertise over your subject of choice. It is your space to document and share what you’ve learned, the patterns and trends you see, and how you approach your subject. Your angle.
And by the way, it’s a two way street. Finding and following blogs in your alt-ac field shows your growing mastery of THAT field, too, whether it’s academic librarians, science, teaching & learning, wandering science, nutrition…
It Demonstrates Your Communications Skills
One of the biggest transferable skills among academics is our carefully-honed ability to communicate clearly. If you are most skilled in and comfortable with writing, then blog away! If you are most comfortable in speaking, then start a podcast or video series. Show – don’t tell – your abilities to communicate complex concepts and ideas clearly. Over time, you will hone your own (less academic) voice.
It’s a Fulfilling Creative Outlet
Many academics fear that quitting academia will mean the death of a lot of their professional selves. And academics DO face very real ego blows and hardships in closing one chapter of their careers and starting on a new one.
Which is ALL THE MORE reason you need to be able to do something creative with all that you know, with all the work you’ve done. A professional site is a great space for personal expression, for sharing work and thoughts that aren’t peer-review ready.
I find designing and posting on my site to be one of the most rewarding things I do. It matters to me.
It Helps You Find Your Communities
As you keep at it, updating your content, sharing your work and ideas, over time, you’ll find more and more that you’re less of a lonely island and more of a member of an archipelago. You’ll find other sites, videos, blogs, articles to link to and comment on. You’ll start seeing who is playing in the same scholarly space. Or struggling with the same things you’re going through. Or talking about the same methods you use. Or carving out new paths in new fields. And you’ll connect. And they’ll connect with you.
When you go alt-ac, you are an (singular) anything. You never were, but now more than ever, you are a human who works in something and who geeks strong about your academic field, among many, many other things! I find a lot of new alt-acs in particular feel like outsiders. Outsiders in the sense of having left their PhD programs. Outsiders in the sense of being an adjunct, doing the exact same work as tenured faculty, only doing more of it for almost no pay, and definitely no job security. Outsiders in terms of working in a new role or industry, where you don’t “fit” in.
Finding your communities helps you feel less isolated, less unsupported, and less of an outsider.
It serves as a Professional Portfolio
As you build up the content on your site over time, it’s a link you should share. Share it on social media. Share it in your cover letters. Post it in your LinkedIn profile, and add it to your resume. Then when an employer asks in a job interview about your communications abilities, your willingness to learn new things, or your experience in web design (along with dozens of other things!), you can talk about your website. They’ll go check it out.