Leaving academia...(?)


Background: I'm 26. I finished my PhD last summer. I'm 1.5 years into my first lecturer post.

I love research. I hate teaching.

I'm an introverted, socially awkward person and find teaching draining. I find making lectures engaging and disciplining students difficult. Additionally, most of my masters students have extremely poor English (to the point where a simple conversation is difficult) and I find myself having to 'dumb down'.

After every lecture I come away asking why I'm putting myself through this - I never planned to become a teacher and fell into academia by coincidence/luck. However outside of my teaching semester I love my job (flexible hours, freedom, writing papers, pay is reasonable for my age, University is in my home town). However, is it worth staying if I spend a third of every year feeling like a waste of space?

What opportunities are there outside academia? My PhD is in management but my research is not very 'practical' (closer to sociology) and I have no real industry experience. Are there any alternatives that pay a similar rate for a newbie?

Has anyone had to make a similar decision?


There are probably plenty of non-academic options that would be suitable but it's hard to recommend specific examples without knowing a bit more about what you do. In general terms there are various sites that might help you identify potential avenues - check out the #altac and #postac topics on Twitter or sites like Versatile PhD, From PhD to Life or Beyond Prof. If you're from the UK, bear in mind a lot of these resources are North American and sometimes get a bit bogged down in the specifics of their systems (i.e. 'adjuncts' vs 'tenured') but the post-academic options are probably fairly universal.

Before you leave academia, do explore other options within if there are still things you find appealing. Attractive though a lecturer contract might be, if you prefer research to teaching have you considered going down the research associate route rather than lectureships? Or aren't there any jobs of that sort going in your field?


I think if you really loathe such an important part of being a lecturer then leave sooner rather than later. I think Business School students are often a very difficult audience - lower standards of English seem to be tolerated and you have more students than most subjects do, who are doing the degree for employability rather than real interest. The combination for you given what you say about your personality must be tough. I think there are ways for people who struggle with teaching to become better teachers, but if you don't like it at all, then it is probably the wrong job. You have a long way until retirement - don't settle for being unhappy for decades.
I'm guessing from your age that you haven't had a proper job before - I just wanted to say that there are genuinely interesting ones out there. There are many aspects of my old civil service job that beat academia for one thing.


PS A more UK-centric site on leaving academia is: http://jobsontoast.com/ it might be worth a browse for ideas.


My first year or so of teaching was also rough, but it got better. It's definitely worth looking at your non-academic options, but it's also worth considering whether you will always hate teaching or anything might make a difference. I'm aware of many academics who are decent enough teachers but whose passion is all for research and they seem very happy in their jobs. I think being a good lecturer/academic involves being competent at teaching, and not finding it hugely stressful, but it doesn't require you to adore teaching.

Possible options depend on where you feel the problem lies. If you feel like the problem is your own competence in teaching, have you had any training? Will your university pay for you to do the PGCAPHE somewhere (assuming there is no in-house provision)? Perhaps you might want to do a public speaking course? It really doesn't matter if you personally are socially awkward or introvert, it's mainly about building a persona for use during teaching. Plenty of very socially awkward people are great lecturers, because they build up a persona that allows them to communicate energetically in the classroom in a way that they never would in real life. If you feel like the problem is the kind of teaching you are doing, can you switch to something else? Are you obliged to take the Masters students who don't speak English, for example, or can you negotiate making up your hours with more UG teaching? It may even be worth applying for jobs at different universities, where you may have more engaged students and less to do by way of 'disciplining' them. I just think 1.5 years is too short a time to be 100% sure that you will never enjoy teaching and that you hate teaching so much that it outweighs the pleasures of research and flexible working time and everything else that comes with a lectureship.