it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I’m very surprised to be one of the people writing in for good news Friday, but here I am! Attempting to leave academia this year, I was feeling fairly doomed. But thanks to an unconventional hiring process that prioritized small writing tests over CVs in the first instance, I’ve been offered a position at a tech company– not only that, a position the company added just for me. Coming from a background in academia and the arts, it was an amazing reminder that there actually are industries out there who have the money and will to invest in people they believe in, even in COVID times.

2. I just got the news that I had won a longed-for promotion. I am an academic, so promotion is a strictly codified system where you can apply once a year and you have to make your own case for promotion. There is a lot of paperwork!

For years, I had self-sabotaged by talking myself out of applying each year when the applications for promotion opened, because I was much more focused on what I wasn’t achieving than on what I was. Call it a galloping case of impostor syndrome…! Reading your column helped me to internalise that one can be imperfect but still a valuable colleague; and that women in particular benefit from more often and more loudly asserting our right to be appropriately recognised for the work we are doing.

I admire how realistic but how constructive your advice always is. Reading your blog has been more useful than any other training video or CPD I’ve seen. Thank you!

3. I have been working as in intern in a work-study setting during almost all of undergrad, and I am set to graduate this coming December. Throughout my first corporate experience, reading your blog and listening your podcast has been instrumental in helping me frame my expectations of a job. I try to be receptive to feedback from my managers, I know when and how to draw the line respectfully while working in a male-dominated field, and in general I work to be a good employee.

More recently, as I have been recruiting for my first entry level full-time job, your info on resume/cover letters, the hiring process, and navigating offer letters and salary negotiations helped me land four offers! I was shocked to see this especially due to COVID times, so I am happy to report that I accepted an offer from my “reach” company with an awesome salary, benefits, and work culture!

I used to feel a sense of anxiety and imposter syndrome in terms of my work and school life, and I realized early in my job search that this mindset was depriving me of opportunities that similar candidates would easily be reaching for. Switching into feeling confident and positive about myself (easier said than done!) was key in my success during interviews and the entire recruiting process.

I also realized the importance of salary sharing with peers when possible. By talking to friends graduating with the same degree as me, I was able to get a sense of salary norms within my field, and found out that my general expectation was about 18% less than what my offer ended up being! The offer I received and accepted was the same salary offered to one of my male counterparts for the same position, and actually 3.7% more than another.

I am thrilled to have reached this milestone, and I’m glad to be aware of ways I was potentially “selling myself short.” Thank you very much for helping me understand workplace norms better, as well as providing me with some much needed entertainment too!

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. Anhaga*

    LW#1, I hear you! That was my career path too–I started in academia (English Literature & Composition for me), which burned me out badly, and made a complete change at the end of 2019 when I got a position with a tech company largely on the strength of my teaching and online training background. The application process was very non-standard (very small company, the founder/main boss makes most decisions through interviews and conversations rather than through one’s work history) and I ended up in a newly-created position that was different from (and paid better than) the position that had been advertised. It’s been a really incredible change, in no small part because I actually get to shape company policy and practice here, which is something that I would have never been able to do in the bureaucratic behemoth that is any institution of higher ed.

    Leaving academia can be really, really hard, but when you get the break, it can result in some really awesome jobs.

    1. JR*

      OP #3 here! It was definitely a mental journey. I used to compare myself with other people constantly, and focus only on what I was lacking in terms of skills and education, which led me to a lot of insecurity and self-deprecation. Instead, I stopped thinking about other people and starting focusing *only* on my strengths, which led me to a more and more positive outlook on myself. Little wins at work and school started to feel so gratifying, and my shortcomings felt more like interesting learning opportunities to grow into. I also had to repeatedly tell myself that no one can know everything about a job before/while they’re just starting out; and companies not only know this, but *expect* it. Some days were harder than other to keep up this “shift” but the more I spent trying to be intentional/positive with my thoughts about myself, the easier it became to feel more confident.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I also had to repeatedly tell myself that no one can know everything about a job before/while they’re just starting out
        Funny story – my adult son said in exasperation one day, “you are all just faking your jobs!” He thought everyone got perfectly trained in a job BEFORE they took the job and had just realized that you learn the job by doing it. We felt like we had forgotten to tell him something big but I think it is just something you have to learn for yourself.

  2. Bookworm*

    LW1: Yay! I’m glad that happened to you because while I’m not in the same field or boat (yet…) I’ve been looking for openings while feeling there isn’t quite a match for my skills/goals. Good to know there are companies still out there who are willing to invest, especially right now. >_<

    Thanks as always to the LWs for sharing their good news. :)

  3. Brett*

    LW #1
    Tech is weird right now in that there is huge amounts of churn, but tons of recruiting going on. There are definitely plenty of jobs out there.

    Hiring has been weird. There are industry rockstars who are becoming available and actively seeking new jobs (often because their companies folded or had layoffs), but unfortunately they are also getting a lot of offers from established tech and well funded startups. That means we are picking up some amazing finds, but also that it is becoming very common to get down to our fourth choice hire or deeper before someone accepts. (But, even the fourth choice is still plenty capable and an above average hire.)

  4. I Love Llamas*

    I love these. Congratulations to all of you!! Each one of you should be so proud of yourselves!!

  5. Rosemary*

    LW1 I’d love to hear more about that unconventional hiring process! My SO just finished a graduate degree in the performing arts and is looking for *anything* that could use a background in teaching and/or the arts, since freelance performance and music lessons aren’t exactly flourishing during the pandemic.

    1. lapgiraffe*

      I second this, and big congratulations!! I know leaving academia is hard on many fronts and I’m glad you’ve found a path and are finding happiness on it :-)

      1. LW #1*

        Thank you both so much! It’s still a big adjustment, but I feel so fortunate.

        The hiring process wasn’t wildly unconventional, just more writing-focused up front than almost anywhere else I’d applied. Basically, they asked for a very, very basic application form and written answers to a few questions at first (a mix of classic cover letter topics and ‘how might you write about [x topic that we cover]’), rather than a resume and cover letter. Then I had to do a writing test where I edited some pre-written text to bring it in line with their style guide (they sent me an abbreviated version of it, only about a page). It was obviously more work than just sending a resume and revising a cover letter, but after applying to jobs for months, genuinely the only interviews I got were for the two jobs that asked for writing tests as an initial screening method. So it seemed pretty clear that my PhD was scaring people off for whatever reason, but when given the opportunity to just demonstrate my skills, I could convince people I’d be able to do the work. I wish I had more advice to offer off the back of this, except I guess that sometimes to break into a field that your resume isn’t a natural fit for, it’s actually to your benefit (even though it’s more work) when offered the chance to just demonstrate your skills up front!

        1. Rosemary*

          Thanks, LW1! I suppose it was too much to hope for a magic bullet, but I’ll keep an eye out for jobs with initial writing tests and similar. (I’m also an escapee from academia, but I was able to land in a more traditional alt-ac position where they’re familiar with PhDs making the jump.)

  6. Jinni*

    LW#3 – Go you!!!! Like an earlier comment said – I wish I’d known this. Not only did I focus on my ‘lack of experience’ or shortcomings – which led me to go to graduate school – a decision I do not regret, but was a huge time/money suck – but both my undergrad and graduate school career office AND my parents had this mindset. I’ve always been self employed – but until I read this Alison’s advice to someone that you don’t need to have *ALL* the qualifications, I never saw it that way. My career offices/parents always said you had to exceed all of the qualifications to even get a chance. So I never got in the race. MANY of my friends were taught the same. And we’re all self employed.

  7. squidss*

    Hooray to all, but to #2 especially! I am going through my first promotion process this year and it’s so overwhelming. Also very puzzling to everyone around me who is not in academia. So happy for you to have your achievements acknowledged :)

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