Whenever I talk with graduate students about how to prepare for a nonfaculty job search, there is one topic about which they share varying degrees of anxiety: how, and when, to tell their Ph.D. advisers.
Students who are determined to exit the academy are usually the least concerned about burning a bridge with their advisers. The most anxious are students who, knowing the odds are stacked against them on the tenure-track lottery, still want to play that game but also want to explore alternate career options. Those students worry that if they so much as express an interest in an off-campus internship or a nonacademic career, they will be labeled “unserious,” lose grant money, or be overlooked for academic opportunities.
It would be nice if I could tell anxious students that their concerns were unfounded, but that would be misleading. I have heard faculty members say things like, “anyone who won’t ‘do what it takes’ isn’t worthy of my time and investment.” And I’ve heard many adviser horror stories from graduate students and Ph.D.’s. It’s reasonable for them to be anxious about admitting their nonfaculty aspirations. <Read more.>