Academic common room
Is it time for me to leave Academia?
FedUpAcademic · 26/03/2022 09:54
Hi everyone, this is going to be long so as to give a full picture... tldr I don't know whether to leave Academia or not.
I'm a SL at a RG university in a STEM subject, currently working part time as my WFH request was refused (pre pandemic). Pre kids and promotion to SL I was pretty research active,m; big grants, published at least a paper per year and got invited to speak etc. Once I could no longer work long hours and weekends, and coupled with the bullshit admin we get loaded onto us, my research took a nosedive. While I'm happy working on small projects, my publishing rate has taken a hit.
During the pandemic I finally achieved the holy grail of work life balance being able to WFH and had my most productive year yet. I spent so much time with my family I don't want to give up. However, now we are all back in the office I am back to the old stress levels which is affecting my health (panic attacks, dread, chest pains). Most of my office time is at my desk, on my own so it feels utterly pointless being there when I could be at home.
My dilemma is that I've just been invited to apply for an industry role in a specific job that I always dreamed about doing (although ideally outside of industry). This step could give me experience and skills to do that. It's FT and entry level salary matches my current salary, there's strong chance of progression and significant remuneration in future, it's fully WFH, but not specific to my my field (which isn't required to get the job). Sounds pretty good overall.
However, I just secured a little bit of funding and a student to do pilot work on a novel mechanism I've been wanting to study for years. I'm totally torn between wanting to stick it out another year or so and see how I get on or taking this opportunity to try something different that I'd always fancied.
I worry that I'd regret giving up an Academic job totally tailored to my speciality. If I'm totally honest, the thing I'd miss most is being recognised as an expert in my field. The bit of the job I love most is what I'd be doing in industry, just across different specialities but not my own. On one hand I worry that I'd be giving up on Academia at a time when it's hardest, and as my DCs get older I might regret it. On the other, I wonder have I always wanted to make Prof because I've always been an Academic and it's been conditioned in me? Plus, In truth, I'm not sure I have it in me to get to Prof and to deal with the ever expanding admin onslaught.
I'm completely torn. There is exciting potential with the new job but I've only ever been an Academic. The friend who recommended me for the job says leaving Academia has been the best decision they ever made. They don't do this exact job though so I'm trying to reach out to people who do, most of them have left precarious contracts at Postdoc level, not a permanent position.
Anyway, if you haven't fallen asleep yet, thanks for reading! I suppose I am asking advice on how I will know what the right decision is? Has anyone here left Academia? What was your experience? Any advice or support would be appreciated x
Gruach · 26/03/2022 12:49
What, exactly, does been invited to apply mean?
I was invited to apply for a very prestigious thing a few years ago. Put a huge amount of effort into the application. Told a tiny number of mentor type colleagues - who got all excited and put me in touch with other people who’d held similar roles. (My status went up considerably!) Submitted application. Began imagining my splendid new life. Didn’t even make the shortlist.
I will say that the process of applying forced me to really think at an elevated level about my specific career aspirations. It felt like a step change, even though I cried for a week when the rejection email arrived.
So unless they’ve told you the job is definitely yours the minute you hit ‘Send’ - applying isn’t a guarantee; it may just be an adventure. Possibly one that positively impacts your current work.
bigkidsdidit · 26/03/2022 16:49
Deciding to leave and then getting money to work on my favourite mechanism is the stuff of nightmares! I’m sorry. I don’t envy you this decision
WinterSpringSummerorFall · 26/03/2022 17:24
Go for it... applying will be so beneficial for you, even if you don't get the job. Or do get it and don't take it. Or get it and take it. Enjoy the process! Don't worry to much about the outcome (yet).
FedUpAcademic · 26/03/2022 17:39
Thanks everyone. By 'invited to apply' I mean my friend made a direct recommendation for me to the job and they emailed me saying if I was interested to apply, which I did.
I know it doesn't guarantee me anything, but the possibility has come at a time when I'm hugely questioning my Academic career and leaving the whole shit show. The whole thing has sent me into a bit of a mid-career crisis if that's even a thing! I just wonder if I'm sacrificing my family time (and health) in Academia for a future that will never materialise. So even if I don't get this job I'm seriously questioning whether to stay. I've been looking at the exit door for a while and I feel that now it could be ajar....
I suppose I've just got to roll with the punches and cross the bridge when I come to it. Would love to hear and post-Ac experiences though :)
Yogini1976 · 26/03/2022 17:50
Definitely go ahead and apply. You won’t lose anything by doing so. Even if you apply and get the job… you don’t have to take it. Applying will I think help you see more clearly what you want in life. I work in HE at a RG (not an academic myself but plenty close friends and family are) and the admin which seems to be your main bugbear ain’t going to improve any time soon… I get the thing about being an expert, but that’s par for the course if you move out of the field to any other role, in time you’ll be an generalist expert
FedUpAcademic · 28/03/2022 17:54
Thanks @Yogini1976 I've applied and also asked my current boss for a chat. I'm not sure how honest to be with him about how I feel.
Devilishpyjamas · 28/03/2022 18:01
I think it’s good to look at what else is out there. I don’t think you should be sacrificing family time and health in academia for any future - whether or not it might materialise. But then I very firmly took myself out of academia & now only occasionally dabble by getting involved in writing something.
Always worth taking a look at alternatives.
something2say · 28/03/2022 18:09
I'm not even remotely an academic, but I do help people and analyse their needs and I can reflect to you that all you've said, and then reiterated, is that you've had enough. That is clear to me. I think you should pursue an exit. Who knows whether you'll regret it? I bet you'll feel invigorated. We could all look back and question, but when I've felt that way you seem to feel, moving on has been the making of me.
Gruach · 28/03/2022 18:15
I'm not sure how honest to be with him about how I feel.
Isn’t this an opportunity to find out just how valuable you are (or not) to your current university? When you stress the opportunities awaiting you in the new job it’s open to your boss to try to find ways to make your working life more attractive to you. If they don’t …🤷🏼♀️
FedUpAcademic · 29/03/2022 18:38
Oh some great points!
You're right @Devilishpyjamas. I hadn't even thought about the sacrifice even if things do work out in Academia so that's given me something to think about. Can I ask what your exit was like? Do you miss Academia?
Thanks for that reflection @something2say I just read back my post, a few days on, and you're right. I feel like I have had enough of Academia. I know I will miss my subject so maybe I need to pursue a way of working in that area outwith Academia.
@Gruach my worry is that I'm not! But as you say, that would be telling in itself! 🙈
Really appreciate all the comments. Meeting with the boss next Friday and hoping I'll have some word on my application by then. Will keep you all updated.
Devilishpyjamas · 29/03/2022 19:02
@FedUpAcademic - my academic experience was a bit unusual as I worked in two different areas. Once I decided it definitely was not going to work I initially (as in for the first decade ) ran my own business providing the first stage of a research methodology (the time consuming boring bit) for academics. I have a severely disabled son so it worked out well tbh as I was based at home. It kept me involved but without all the grief. I know a few people who have adapted their academic work into something a bit more consultant based.
Now I’m retraining as a speech and language therapist. Will qualify soon. I would have done that years ago had I had childcare. My previous involvement in research is really helpful in my training and I involve myself in academic bits and pieces still - and I think I will continue to do so, just without holding an academic post. I would rather be a clinician.
goingpearshaped · 29/03/2022 20:49
Go for it @FedUpAcademic! Apply and take it from there. I am in academia and really questioning a decision to stay but no obvious other options that have similar pay etc. Hope the chat with your boss goes well. Mine could not care less about us so fingers crosssed yours is better.
FedUpAcademic · 30/03/2022 11:06
@Devilishpyjamas I am across two areas too! I've done a bit of consultancy here and there but not enough to generate a steady income, and if I'm honest, I'm not sure I have the energy to build it into more at the moment! Thanks for sharing and best of luck in your new role!
Thanks @goingpearshaped I was surprised at some industry salaries in life sciences, they are more than I thought! Hoping the chat with my boss will go ok, I'll keep you updated.
Disacappointment · 06/04/2022 10:40
how do you find the consultancy?
i hate it. i really do not like having to work for a client without full visibility of what they are doing especially when they want to use my academic credibility to "justify" what they are doing.
i had previously thought it would be a valid path, but i am totally reconsidering.
FedUpAcademic · 13/04/2022 08:52
Hi everyone, thought I'd update to let you know the talk with my boss went really well. He understood my reasons for considering leaving Academia and completely sympathised (tbh I was a bit shocked he was so understanding!). He gave me some great advice on what things I should be focusing on to progress and suggested I drop a few things that won't get me anywhere career wise. He also said I could WFH when I wanted too which is a massive weight off. Difficult to let some of my wee projects go, but he is right. I feel I have a clearer path forward. It doesn't solve all my problems but at least I can see some progression now. I'll still follow up the application just to see what's out there but Academia seems less awful than it did a few weeks ago! Thanks all for the advice and support x
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