Friday, November 2, 2012

Alt education roles

I haven't mentioned much about what my post-academic job involves previously, mainly for reasons of anonymity. But I figure I might as well describe a little bit of what I do, and conribute to the pool of knowledge around what one does after being an academic.

In essence, I work in a training role.

When I was unemployed, I read quite a few books on career changing and what-not, and perhaps the most useful tip I found was to write a list of the skills that you do have, think what you like to do the most, and then consider where you might be able to "plug and play" as it were.

So what skills did I come up with? Writing, research, teaching, project management, public speaking etc and then all the specific content and industry areas of my previous academic and non-academic jobs. Having worked since I was 17, this was actually a quite extensive list.

Then, I decided that what I liked doing best was never going to be making money for someone else. That ruled out doing anything for a profit-making company. I also hate wearing suits. Easy - nothing corporate then. So it meant something for the public good.

Now, there are A LOT of opportunities to work for the public good in this wide-world. But where would my skill set fit?

I am sure no-one would be shocked by this, but competition for jobs involving "research skills" is pretty fierce. In essence, it's too generic a skill set to whittle down the field. Lots of interviews due to the PhD, but I was always pipped at the post by someone who had worked in that exact field. It doesn't matter that I hold a world record in speed reading after being dumped in teaching positions where I had no prior knowledge - when your competition has the exact profile the employer is looking for, someone who is close enough, isn't going to get it.

Right, that's that then. Next, was "teaching skills". This is, in fact, far more precise than "research skills". Very few people have a teaching background like an academic, and there are far more roles that require teaching skills than research skills. So this is what I do. I work for a large organisation that does a lot of training. It's core business is certainly not education, but they need education professionals (i.e. me) to do some stuff for them.

Most companies, government departments and not-for-profits will be offering their staff some kind of training. And it's always much cheaper to have an internal person do it than send all your staff out on a training course. Alternatively, you could think about where they are sending their staff for training and find an opening in a company that delivers the training. Can you see yourself doing a training kind of role? Do you need to have any qualifications to do that or will a decade of adjuncting be enough? What kinds of roles do they have - after all, not all training requires actually standing in a classroom?How can you make your skill set fit with what they need?

So, that's my story. It's ok - it's still education and it's for the public good. It's permanent full-time and they pay me a decent wage. I also got offered a role in one of my content areas, but that's a separate story. What I do now, I would never have envisioned if I hadn't gone through the process of breaking down my work history into separate skill sets. I would still be wearing the "I am a researcher" hat and not getting a job. This alt education pathway too, I might add, has a significant amount of diversity to it - it's one of those areas that no-one dreams of going into, but once they're in, they stay for decades because they're is so much to do and so many different roles available.


  1. I've considered pursuing a career in corporate training or something similar in the future. It wouldn't be the same as university teaching, it's true ... but it would pay better and be permanent, so that would definitely be an improvement over adjuncting with no contract or working in a geographic location I can't stand, teaching unmotivated students.

    I'd be interested to hear more about your job (while preserving your anonymity, of course ... I totally understand that!)

  2. My new alt-ac job specifically involves training, public speaking and some research background too. The PhD has been helpful for usre, but if I wasn't shortlisted one of the other non-PhD candidates at the time of interview, I'm sure, would have been 'good enough' - well, I'm guessing this to be the case. I really like the training aspect of the job. It allows me to put to use some of those well-acquired interpersonal and teaching skills without having to carry around all of the rest of the higher education teaching/research agenda - sink or swim business!

  3. Informative for PhDs. Thanks for sharing.

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