Monday, April 16, 2012

Non-academic work is fun. Mostly.

I missed my regular Friday posting (that discipline comes from being an academic and having to make myself do things that otherwise wouldn't get done), so I feel a bit out of kilter.

But I did just want to let all the post-academic job searchers out there know a little known fact - that not doing academic work is much better than you might think. I have read in many other comments/posts on other people's blogs/reflections (sorry, proper referencing is beyond me at this point) that there is a fear/misapprehnsion that if you have spent so much of your life dedicating yourself to the relentless pursuit of one topic that you always felt was your life passion, that nothing else can possibly be the same.

Well, obviously this is just another example of the totally deranged and narcisstic thinking that academic cultures need to prop them up. You can have a perfectly satisfactory job outside of academia that provides you with all the things you need to make you happy. Apart from a salary and a roof over your head that is. I mean, the things that you need to make your working life happy. Whatever they may be.

Another point that I think is important to mention too, is that your working life will in fact have a better quality to it because no-one is walking around thinking that what they are doing is a calling that they must suffer for or any of those other deranged things. They are normal, everyday people, who are thoughtful, capable, competent and articulate. They get things done and have fun weekends and interesting holidays. They take a proper lunch break and talk a load of crap about whatever they watched on TV/did on the weekend/something funny that happend to them, not more work.


Of course there are the boring parts too, like the colleague who doesn't pull their weight or the interminable meetings where nothing is resolved, but on the whole, the good FAR FAR FAR outweighs the bad.

So chin-up anyone who is feeling demoralised about career dreams not coming true, for you never, ever know what the future will hold. You may in fact realise that your true calling actually wasn't in academic after all. I think that the concept of 'flow' is important here (correct me if I am wrong, but was that Bourdieu on work?) - if you find something that engages you so thoroughly that you lose track of time then that's a sign that you have found your true vocation. So the theorist's say. I would also add, if you find something that you are good at without too much effort, but enough effort that you grow and are challenged to do your best, then you're probably on to a good thing. No grades or fear of failing or insecurities involved. Just the luxurious feeling of knowing that you're doing a good job and you're getting the rewards you deserve for it.

BTW - I can't recommend how much I LOVED Leslie Shimotakahara's The Reading List, from the blog of the same title: I was so excited that it arrived in such short time all the way from Amazon Canada that I stayed up way past my bed time reading it as soon as it arrived. I felt woolly headed and exhausted for the first time at my new job, but it wasn't because I was up all night marking or working on a conference paper - it was because I was actually reading something for pleasure!

Now that my guitly secret is out - that I can't put a good book down even when I have to go to work in the morning - I can't wait for more late nights with my favourite writers. Another perk of non-academic work :)


  1. Love this post. It's exactly how I feel about my job. It's not awesome, it's not a calling, it's not groundbreakingly important work ... but it pays well, and my colleagues are fun and friendly, and it's a perfectly acceptable place to spend 40 hours per week (since I get the rest of my time off!)

    The myth that the entire nonacademic world is like the movie "Office Space" really needs to die a painful death.

    1. Being paid and not having work intrude into your personal time (not even your lunch hour) are unquestionably the best aspects of academic life. I have even got the distinct vibe that even talking about your non-academic work in your time off is not cool. A friend used to tell me this, but somehow I never really understood how you could not want to talk about what you do for a living, as to an academic, it is in fact all consuming. What a revelation to discover that this is not so for most people.