it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I work in a niche position for a large government agency that has a central headquarters and various offices around the world. When I moved to my current office location 4 years ago, my section had a unique mission to the organization and a large staff who supported that mission.

A couple of years ago, that mission, along with its funding source, went away and it threw my whole office, and especially my section, into turmoil. We had to cut half our staff, which we managed to do through natural attrition, but there was a period of months where rumors were flying about a reduction-in-force. Our headquarters was even considering whether the entire office location should be shuttered. It was rough, and what made it worse is the senior leadership at our office refused to communicate with the staff about what was happening. They deliberately kept everything close hold while it got figured out, while the rumors flew and uncertainty mounted.

It all came to a head when my star employee gave his two weeks notice because he got tired of the instability and took a job elsewhere. My grandboss kind of freaked out and scheduled a meeting with me because he was concerned that I would leave, too. He shared how much I was appreciated and wanted to hear my concerns and how he could address them. I figured there wasn’t much to lose, so I was extremely candid with him about the lack of communication and its impact on morale and mission. He thanked me for my response, and I figured that would be the end of it.

Then, two months later, my grandboss scheduled another check-in. I went into the meeting having no idea what to expect, since anything more would just be rehashing what I had already shared. He reiterated how much he values my work and that my niche skill set is very much needed at our office. Cue my absolute shock when he announced that they were offering me a retention incentive to commit to staying in my job for the next 18 months.

Since then, I’ve seen a huge difference in the respect my senior leadership has shown for my skill set and contributions, and am feeling more satisfied with the work I’m doing. And, of course, the extra money doesn’t hurt.”

2.  “My good news is a little out of date, but it’s definitely thanks to what I’ve learned reading AAM! This past summer, my boss retired, and I was able to apply internally to take his place. I now supervise four employees in my department at a university and – while it’s a lot more work than my former job, and there continues to be a ton to learn – I LOVE it! My boss was pretty darn checked out by the end of his tenure, and it’s been so satisfying to identify things that were falling through the cracks and figure out solutions; to actively engage with the task of managing staff and supporting them in the work they want to do; and to be in a place where I have more leverage to make things work better for everyone.

My staff have all been great about the transition (several of them have been here significantly longer than I have), and we were able to hire someone into my old role who is working out better than I could have possibly dreamed. We’ve gotten feedback from students that the services we provide are working well for them, which at the end of the day is one of the most important things.

Best of all, my partner and I are expecting a baby, and the pay bump from my new role will allow him to quit his (low-paid and extremely stressful) job in public education to stay home when the baby is born. This has been something he’s talked about as long as we have known each other, and in my old job there would’ve been no feasible way to make it happen.

Things are not all sunshine and roses, of course (public higher ed will always have its challenges, not least of which are money and staffing, as well as the day to day stuff). But I’m feeling grateful for where I am right now!”

3.  “A little over a year ago, I emailed you to ask whether I can negotiate a raise when applying for a lateral transfer that did not require an interview. My boss soon informed me that an interview would be required because the job description was in the process of being revised, but an updated description was never provided.

After two months, I informed my boss that I was looking for jobs in other departments and may apply at other organizations if I did not receive additional information about the transfer opportunity and the funding status of my current position. She completely understood, tried her best to get more information, and supported my job search. She even provided me with the salary range for a promotional opportunity I found and set up an informational interview with the hiring manager of that position.

During the informational interview, I realized that the promotional opportunity was not right for me. Frustrated, I started looking for jobs at other companies that night.

A few days later, I saw an opening that fit my skills and interests. I was interviewed for the position a few days later and it was a great fit The pay would be higher, the job would be fully remote, and I would be able to learn new things About a week later, the company asked if I was interested in a different job at the same level as the first one. I decided to apply for that job as well and was offered it a few days later. They even increased my title due to my experience and I negotiated a slightly higher salary.

I have been at the job for almost a year now and could not be happier. Your advice helped me manage uncertainty, be open with my manager, follow my instincts, get this job, and then deal with changes in management. Plus, the community continues to offer so much support. Thank you!”

4.  “A few weeks ago, I noticed my coworker was not quite their cheery self. In our next one-on-one I decided to mention it and let them know I was here to support them. My coworker let me know they were navigating some personal stuff and they appreciated me checking in. Thanks to all the advice you have given over the years, I felt more capable of having that conversation in a way that respected work/life boundaries. For example, I didn’t ask for details on the personal issues (they weren’t relevant!) and instead focused on what kind of support would be helpful in the workplace (moving deadlines, taking on a more time sensitive task myself). I also offered them the number of our company’s EAP — something I only know exists because of AAM!

I don’t mean to be too self-congratulatory, I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that all the advice you have given others helped me walk the line of acknowledging how the rest of our lives will follow us into the workplace, while still respecting that we were in a workplace. I’m newish to my career and workplace, so your blog has been a huge gift to help me figure out where my boundaries are and how to enact them in a way that still gives me the reputation of a helpful, friendly coworker.”

5.  “I’ve been a daily reader of AAM for over 5 years and am SO excited to share good news!

Up until about a month ago, I was working as a faculty-level researcher in a scientific field in academia. By the standards of my field, I was considered to be successful: papers published, grants successfully funded, etc. But the more I progressed along the academic track, the more I wondered whether there could be other paths for me that would allow for better work-life balance, more collaborative work (academic research can feel very siloed), and higher earning power. I wasn’t totally sure how to approach a job search outside of academia, but I talked to as many people as I could, worked away at some online courses that I thought could be relevant, and put together a resume and cover letter using advice I found on AAM.

After about 6 months of information-gathering, applying, and interviewing, I finally got an offer from a company whose mission I’m really excited about! I successfully negotiated the offer, accepted, and I’ve now been at my new job for about a month. I absolutely love it and have learned so much already, while also being able to use a lot of the skills I developed during my academic research career. My starting base salary at my new job is also 20% more than I was making in academia, even though my current position is relatively low within the structure of the company (whereas I was considered an expert in my academic field).

To anyone who is interested in making an academia-to-industry move, please know that it is possible! I had honestly been wishing for a long time that I could leave academia but didn’t pursue it because I assumed my specific skill set wouldn’t be marketable in industry. It wasn’t until I started actively seeking out informational interviews with others who had made this switch (some were former colleagues or friends of friends, others were total strangers who I cold-emailed on LinkedIn!) that I realized my skills and experience were actually really valuable; I just needed to understand how to adapt and frame them a bit differently. I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who helped me figure all of that out, as well as to Alison and the AAM community—I know that this site was instrumental in helping me understand professional norms outside of academia, as well as in showing me that people can and do change jobs and careers, and that it’s okay to do that when the time is right.”

{ 13 comments… read them below }

  1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’m proud of you, LW4! It’s hard to strike the right balance in those situations and it sounds like you did a great job.

  2. Ring ring bananaphone*

    I’m going to have a Friday good news soon. how do I submit it?

    1. Molly*

      I think you can just email Alison like you would a regular question. that’s what I did, anyway.

  3. Sara without an H*

    Yay for LW#5! Some of the biggest barriers to leaving Academia are internal — 1) the assumption that your skills are only valuable inside the Magic Circle; and 2) that leaving is an admission of failure. Congratulations!

    1. Sweet Clementine*

      Agreed! Congratulations to LW#5! I had spent my entire life preparing for an academic career, and then life threw a curveball in the form of Covid. I left academia, convinced that I was a failure. A couple years later, its the best thing that could have happened to me!

    2. dryakumo*

      Congrats LW 5! I joined the military to get out of academia after I finished my PhD 8 years ago…that wasn’t the right answer either but I found a wonderful job in the private sector about a year ago and I’m so much happier! My best wishes for you!

  4. TSportsCat*

    What a great collection of different stories! I’m always thankful for those who submit!

  5. Escape Velocity*

    Check out the book “Leaving Academia” (Chris Caterine) for step-by-step advice on reframing your past experience and organizing your search.

    A friend followed the framework, to move from the humanities to a tech job. Within 12 months (and a couple lucky breaks), she tripled her salary, in a growing field, to a fully remote job… and no more moving every year for contingent faculty roles.

    The biggest obstacles were around mindset (accepting that leaving academia didn’t mean she was a failure), time (searching for a non-academic job on top of a full teaching load), and self-identity (thinking she’d never be happy working outside academia).

    Now, she’s saving for retirement and can afford to buy a house. In contrast, most of her PhD classmates still haven’t found a tenure track job… more than five years after they finished their doctorate.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1000. Academia runs on one of the most exploitative labor systems on the planet. And it convinces most of the victims that it’s their fault.

  6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    Update 1 (retention bonus): A good outcome, but keep your ears open about organizational change. I have seen these used in the context of “this person is a flight risk for leaving ahead of our planned date to lay them off, so we need to ensure they stay and don’t jeopardise our transition plans”.

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