it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1. “I am an ex-academic who has just transitioned into private industry. I had reached a point where my old job was so toxic I felt perpetually poisoned. I was consistently miserable, at work and not, paying thousands for therapy to try to cope, and completely OWNED by the sunk cost fallacy.

I followed your advice and wrote customized, specific cover letters and resumes that focused on outcomes. I treated the interviews as conversations. I asked the magic question and impressed the heck out of my interviewers with it. It took 100 applications and 10 interviews, but I found a place that saw me as an investment, instead of a pricey, high-risk, late-career hire.

I was in a senior position with no realistic hope for any promotions or meaningful salary increases, ever, for the rest of my career (annual salary increases are typically around 1-2%, sometimes less, even for the very top performers, who are working whenever they are awake). I was a manager, whose main responsibility was to regularly deliver bad news to my employees, and to ask them to do unreasonable things on unreasonable timelines. My only level of influence was to soften the delivery, and apologize for asking. I kept waiting for things to get better, and trying to make them better, but they kept getting worse.

I’m now three weeks into my new, for-profit career. I’m not even a manager, and it was an increase in salary over my last position, with tons of headroom for both raises and promotions (if I choose to pursue them) in the future. I have received more sincere positive feedback from my boss in three weeks than I received in three years at my old position. Already, I see a strong relationship between my performance and my company’s response to my work (those things were unrelated, or maybe even negatively correlated, at my last job). Usually no one is expected to work when it’s not work time (totally foreign to me). The difference in how I feel about work is even bigger than I expected.

All my long career I’ve been told that: leaving academia is failure, and selling out to the capitalist machine; for-profit careers lack honor because they serve money instead of the mind; the job security of tenure is the most important career benefit over some place that could lay me off tomorrow; and that the sacrifices required of academics are worth it to have a stable, honorable, profession. And I believed all that. I know a lot of your readers are in the same career I was in, so I want to tell them: you don’t have to live this way.

What I didn’t see until recently is that universities are capitalist machines every bit as much as for-profit companies, and every bit as willing to exploit their workers, they just do it by expecting their employees to work for the love of it, instead of for the money. Honor is available in almost every career, and is about your own choices, and how you respond to the choices of your company. Job security is as much about your ability to get a NEW job as it is to keep an old one. Something I definitely did not consider was that of all the sacrifices of choosing an academic career, one of the biggest costs was actual money. If I had made this flip 15 years ago, my salary would be SO MUCH HIGHER by now. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Read an update to this letter. 

2.  “I’ve been reading your posts for a few years now and I have to thank both you and the readers for being my voice of reason in a recent transition. I thought I had found a job that was going to be it for the next few years. It turned out to be the opposite. From a colleague with a bullying/actually getting the job done problem, too many ‘experts’ in the room, the role regressing into something I had no desire doing and ultimately a truly disappointing outcome that led to me losing $1000+ in transportation costs (always get everything in writing, folks), I decided to find a new job.

I just completed the second week and the difference is stark. I’ve learned so much already, I’m receiving great feedback and most importantly, I’m being treated like an adult. I feel like I fully respected myself for the first time in my life when making this transition and it wouldn’t have been possible without your page, the community and my amazing therapist. Wild, isn’t it? You never know how bad it is until you get out.”

3.  “My workplace just organized! Well, we’ve been working on it for a long time and went public a few months ago, but the vote was recent. We’re an academic library at a very highly ranked private university, and one of a growing number of academic libraries to unionize. The vast majority of the eligible employees voted, which made the landslide victory especially sweet. In addition, the librarians/”professional”/salaried employees voted overwhelmingly to be in one union with the “nonprofessional”/hourly staff. (This is a pretty gross distinction that our profession makes and I hate that the NLRB perpetuates it in the voting process, but here we are.) It’s really good to know that the divide won’t be extended in this case by having us be separate bargaining units. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for how pro-union your blog is! It’s wonderful to have organizing treated as a normal and important part of a healthy workplace.”

{ 138 comments… read them below }

  1. tw1968*

    LW1: You are right on about universities being capitalistic machines. Our oldest just started 1st year of college and the university told them they won’t have on campus housing for them next year, find an apartment, good luck. Their provost also told the local paper this year EVERYONE has on campus housing, which is a shock to the 200+ students still housed in a local Comfort Inn. It’s all about the money for THEM, so why shouldn’t it be for YOU? 1-2% raise means you make less every year due to inflation, meanwhile tuition costs outpace inflation every year. Where is all that money going???

    1. MorallyGrossAdministration*

      The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska system yesterday voted to give the president a merit increase of over $144,000, which is more than 10% of his salary. Meanwhile, faculty and staff received a 3% increase (but not everyone even received that). So, administrative bloat, deferred building maintenance, athletics (esp. Div. I), and other costs are driving those tuition costs up.

    2. megaboo*

      Can we talk about football and those salaries? When I was an academic librarian in a black mold infested, ancient library it used to steam my beans to see the new locker rooms or other stuff.

      1. MorallyGrossAdministration*

        LSU librarian? Ohio Wesleyan? What am I saying, it could be anyone of hundreds of university libraries!

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I want all colleges to take Spelman’s lead. They decided to drop the athletics program that benefited 4% of students and redirected the money to campus-wide fitness and wellness.

        If NFL wants a minor league, it can damn well fund it and pay the players.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          One of the things that most shocked me about higher education in America when I first moved there was how a lot of universities are basically an athletics department with a bit of education tacked on. Don’t get me wrong, universities in the UK have many of the same issues as the US (toxic work environments, access issues, underpaid staff, high workloads, burnout etc.), but sports at the collegiate level are much less of a thing. The amount of money that American football coaches get paid at many big universities is just obscene. But hey, that’s what the wealthy alumni want, I suppose.

        2. Brooklyn*

          The University of Chicago – previously a founding member of the Big 10, winner of the first Heisman trophy, where such football classics as numbered jerseys and huddles wer invented – backed out of the Big 10 and de funded their athletics programs in the early 30s. Ten years later, it was the site of the world’s first sustained nuclear reaction and an integral part of the Manhattan Project.

          Giant private academic institutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, but damn, can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t waste all that public money on sports stadiums?

    3. Sara without an H*

      Higher education has lost its own plot. Nobody can agree on what it’s supposed to do or how to measure the results. The demographic pool of 18-25 year olds is shrinking. But if anybody suggests some radical reform (such as unionizing graduate students), you will hear screams of “You’re a barbarian! You don’t respect The Life of The Mind!”

      “The Life of the Mind” is one of the great myths that keeps academics from realizing they’re being screwed.

      1. Eater of Hotdish*

        During my PhD program (at a large public university in the US) I was part of a graduate students’ union. We struck every three years like clockwork, but usually managed to get a decent contract hammered out without too much brouhaha. Best health insurance I’ve ever had in my life–I didn’t even learn what a deductible was until after I graduated. Meanwhile, the adjunct faculty union at the same place was desperately scrambling for a fraction of what the grad students had.

        I wish I’d realized sooner that as much as grad school might leave you feeling like a cog in the machine…it really, spectacularly, stupendously does *not* get better when you defend the dissertation.

    4. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      That money is going to exactly two places: the salaries of everyone in upper administration with the word “provost” or “president” in their title (e.g. Assistant Executive Vice Provost for Administration, I’m not making that up) and, at least the last place I was, “consultant” fees. I was amazedly disgusted and disgustedly amazed when I found out just how many blah-blah-blah provosts and blah-blah-blah presidents “consult” with one another over Terribly Important Issues (like which flowers to plant on campus), for which they pay one another astronomical honoraria. It’s revolting.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        @Tangerina Warbleworth and meanwhile our admin staff are taking money out of our 401(k) accounts to pay rent.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        A friend who has been teaching at the same college for *checks notes* over 20 years is on renewable contract that gets renewed every few years. He is not and never will be tenure track. Whenever he walks across campus and sees the spring flowers, he mentally thinks of how many adjunct salaries are essentially planted in the ground.

      3. Foila*

        A lot of it goes to buildings as well. Weirdly, it seems to be an amount that is always simultaneously too much and too little.

    5. anonymouse*

      Labor creates money. If a company has employees, they are making money for the company. If the company is underpaying the employees, it is not because the revenue is not created, it is simply because they can.

    6. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      Just a plug from your friendly Canadian big-3 university (public) higher ed professional staff to support and push for unions! Our professional ‘union’ (this term is debatable for some reason, but it is indeed a union by any characteristic I’m aware of) just negotiated a 10.5% CPI increase for the 2022 & 2023 years, retroactive, on top of our annual 0-3% merit increases. If your uni isn’t unionized, maybe it’s time to start chatting with your colleagues*!

      *I know nothing about US universities or if this is terrible advice.

      1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        It is not terrible advice, not at all. In fact, most state universities already have unions, but only for the state civil service workers who work at state institutions. Further, more than a decade ago, graduate assistants at the U.S. university with one of the largest graduate student populations — the University of Illinois — unionized. It was a long, rocky road, but everyone is better off for it. It’s a conversation that has endured for at least twenty years now, among faculty and academic professionals. Spelman’s example is great; but, especially reading the latest news about college football conferences, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

        1. Hotlanta*

          right. Spelman is small liberal arts private, african-american women-only/gender inclusive but not to cis men. they weren’t rolling in athletic donations anyway. And when they ended intercollegiate athletics, they chose to emphasize physical health and wellness of all students and their community.

    1. Well...*

      Congratulations!! I love seeing this. Thanks for doing your part on behalf of academic workers and in solidarity with workers everywhere.

  2. Anonymous Today*

    Letter 1 is making me start to cry. I don’t want to do this anymore. I love my students (mostly) and I love the field I teach in, but I am SO SICK OF THIS.

    I have a side business that operated at a loss the first two years (normal) but this year, my third year, my side business profit was equal to my university salary. And I’m wondering if reading this post this is a sign…

    1. Anonymous Today*

      I just took a second to think about it. My side business profit this year is not equal to my university salary. It is significantly higher…

      1. SnickersKat*

        That’s an even bigger sign. Get out and do the job that you like AND will pay you. How much would you make if you did the side job full time? (Also, I’d love to see a Friday good news post from you next year telling us how you’re doing awesome!)

        1. Anonymous Today*

          There are definitely things about Side Business that drive me nuts, too (it involves sales, and the public, so of course I’m going to get annoyed). But it also is something I can make all the decisions about MYSELF, not the people in the layers of bureaucracy above me. And the bit in this letter about no advancement and 1-2% raises REALLY hit home… If I did my side business fulltime, I kinda feel like the sky is the limit.

          (oh God I suddenly want to make very clear that my side business is not an MLM! Not that I’d be making money if it were…. I’m just being vague about what I do because I am paranoid a coworker could recognize me.)

          1. NeedRain*

            Is it higher than your salary and the cost of your benefits like health insurance? If yes- or even if pretty close- you can get the heck out of your soul sucking day job.

            1. Anonymous Today*

              I’m not sure. Maybe? But my partner teaches at the same school and I could get on their insurance. I’d have to figure out things like pension, etc., though. I definitely am not gonna bail right now, but I might be putting things in motion…

              1. Sara without an H*

                By all means, do the math. (Don’t forget taxes!) Even if you decide that you don’t want to bail right away, having the alternative will make a huge difference to your mental health and happiness.

                My life became much happier when I paid off all my credit cards AND the TIAA rep assured me that I could retire whenever I wanted. I worked another academic year, but was much, much more relaxed about it.

    2. DrD*

      As an academic, I too had a strong reaction: rage. All of my side undertakings are of the decidedly unremunerative sort, but for you, yeah. This is probably a sign. If by any chance you have a sabbatical on the horizon, I would consider taking it before you completely shift.

      1. Anonymous Today*

        I’m a fulltime non-tenure track instructor so I don’t get a sabbatical. But I have decided I’m going to head into this school year testing out the idea mentally that it is my last one and seeing how I feel about that.

      2. bleh*

        Wow LW1. That letter hurts me to read because I am you before the transition. The rage is real DrD. Luckily I do have a sabbatical coming…

    3. Team Midwest*

      Oh my gosh, this internet stranger, former academic librarian is giving you permission to TAKE IT AS A SIGN AND GET OUT. I had given talks and workshops and seminars for years in academia related to my research area. I recently left higher ed to do consulting and research work in my area FT. I’m still not positive my self-employed income will match what I made at my salaried role, but I AM SO HAPPY I GOT OUT. You’re already ahead!!! Do it!!!

      1. Anonymous Today*

        Thank you! I’m going to think in my head that this is my last year and see how I feel about that.

        1. Runner up*

          And, since it’s more than your salary as a side gig, presumably it wouldn’t even have to be full-time for you to come out ahead. I’m excited for you, and hope you can make this work.

    4. Elinor*

      ooof. Same. I’m at a community college. I love teaching and I love my students, but I am not sure how much longer I can do this. I’m poor and exhausted, and the college’s response to our concerns is, “You can leave.” My problem is not knowing where to go or what to do. I’m in liberal arts. (weeps)
      So yeah. I see that sign too.

  3. MountainGirl19*

    Academia sounds a lot like bed side nursing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told when nurses push for higher pay and better/safer working conditions, ‘but it’s a labor of love! You should be passionate about patient care!’ Okay, but I need to get paid a fair market rate wage too!

    1. J!*

      Ooooh, you should definitely read Work Won’t Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe. It’s so great and dives deep into many examples of these “labor of love” type industries.

      1. yet another librarian*

        Would also recommend the article “vocational awe and librarianship – the lies we tell ourselves” by Fobazi Ettarh. The concept of vocational awe is popping up in a lot of nursing lit too.

        1. MountainGirl19*

          Thanks for the reading recommendations! “Vocational awe” is A Thing for sure! I felt guilty and selfish for years because of the ‘but what about the patients?’ coming from management/execs. I am out now doing a nursing WFH job (for-profit company, paid very well, very low stress and I am extremely happy with it), but it took me a while to get over my ‘hero complex’ and move on to something much more healthy for me. I had one nursing friend that was burned out in the ICU so I brought up getting out of patient care for a bit (there are a ton of jobs out there looking for experienced RNs that want to move away from the bedside) and her response was, ‘but then I won’t be relevant anymore.’ Wow. I admit, that one hurt a bit :(. She stuck with it for a few more years but I heard now she is apparently a very happy, irrelevant RN lol.

    2. Industry Behemoth*

      Yes. Hospitals can be as toxic, political and ruthless as any other organization in their admin and management.

      I temped at one place where the CEO ran the place like his own kingdom. Eventually he was deposed, but I don’t think his successor was any improvement.

      At another place, I interviewed with a direct manager who I really hit it off with. But his department administrator made it sound like, if I don’t like you it doesn’t matter who else here does.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “Hospitals can be as toxic, political and ruthless as any other organization in their admin and management.”

        From my own experience – AGREE!!

    3. Art of the Spiel*

      The gaslighting makes me gag. As if medical institutions themselves weren’t throwing patient care under the bus any/every time there was a dollar to scrape up. Nurses are at the very front of the line when it comes to who cares about patients, in 2nd place is about half of the doctors. Everyone else is so laughably 3rd place they aren’t even in the same race.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      You can be passionate about a lot of things but still be more passionate about paying the fucking rent!

      I left academia halfway through a PhD and my first job in the private sector I made more than my PhD supervisor, who was a tenured full professor. And it was a well-paid job but it wasn’t THAT well-paid. When I left the university was eight or nine years into a pay freeze so no one had gotten a cost of living adjustment in nearly a decade.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “You can be passionate about a lot of things but still be more passionate about paying the fucking rent!”


      2. Allison K*

        When I was a professional street performer, people would ask after the show, “do you make a living at this?” And I’d say “I make a lot more than I made as a university professor and I don’t have to do committee meetings” and every word of that is true.

    5. Well...*

      I’ve heard this referred to as purple collar work (not with nurses, but with artists and academics). The idea that you love your job so you should do it for free. It sucks to hear it’s being applied to nursing as well, which is an undeniably taxing and essential job.

      Not that arts aren’t taxing and essential. Just that it’s much harder to make that argument against nurses.

      1. Yeah...*

        I am always appreciative of new vocabulary. Today I learned “purple collar work.”

        In my experience, people expect government workers to do purple collar work. (I work for government.)

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      If it’s so loving and passionate shouldn’t all those yelling about it want to get into nursing? What’s that? They’re passionate about YOU doing it for chicken feed, you say?

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I say this to people who complain about teachers. If it’s such a sweet gig, why don’t you do it? Oh, it doesn’t pay enough? Or it requires skills/temperament/talents you don’t have? That means not everyone can do it, so we should value it more, you jackwagon.

        (not you, you’re not the jackwagon, you are a goddess)

    7. datamuse*

      Look up the expression “vocational awe”, coined by someone in my former field (librarianship). I’ve mentioned it to friends/acquaintances in education and healthcare especially and watched the light go on.

    1. Angry socialist*

      I did! As a former professor, my life and health are SO much better since I got out!

    2. Goldenrod*

      “Did anyone else hear a heart-swelling, uplifting soundtrack playing alongside Letter 1?”

      I heard it.

    3. STAT!*

      I wish I did. I just heard my teeth grinding in fury at the absolute BS that is inculcated into people. All the stuff in letters above about nurses being told they should be doing the job for love not money has made me similarly enraged.

  4. Medical Librarian*

    LW1, your words resonate with me–the below COL “raises” and that “capitalist machine” applies to universities. I’m so glad your change to private industry is going so well.

    LW3, congratulations–and go union!

  5. HigherEdEscapee*

    LW3: CONGRATS! That’s absolutely huge!!! Having been through that process myself, this internet stranger is SO proud of you! All the !!!!! today! Huzzah!

  6. Michelle*

    “…universities are capitalist machines every bit as much as for-profit companies, and every bit as willing to exploit their workers, they just do it by expecting their employees to work for the love of it, instead of for the money.”

    Just wanted to come here to say PREACH. Large non-profit universities are machines that sell tuition and athletics. Campus leadership, athletes, and star faculty members are rewarded with $$ and most other employees are mere cogs in the machine. My individual tiny unit has great stability and work-life balance but that’s not the case for everyone and I can see that from where I sit.

    Source: I work at a Big 10 University

      1. higheredrefugee*

        Co-signer from my experiences in the Big East, B10, and Mountain West and that one famous independent football school

    1. Well...*

      I just started a tt job, and I’m already hearing this from faculty here. It’s wild to me because our field is typically one of the “safe” ones in that it’s usually got a lot of weight to throw around on campus. What can we do to fix it? Not that I’m going to fight any battles pre-tenure review, but is there any hope?

        1. Well...*

          Do you really think it’s cultural and not institutional exploitation? Because it seems like everyone values education (the state funding my university gets is truly wild, wayyyyy higher that UC’s) but the admin is like a cancer attached the research/teaching and sucking all the resources out. They have power to just eff us over for short term vanity projects.

          1. bleh*

            Mine gets 7% of the budget from the state – and we actually get raises. Admin might be overpaid; I would never deny it. I would argue that usually (perhaps not in your case) that blaming bloated admin is a conservative talking point to let states and everyone else off the hook.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Read A Third University Is Possible by La Paperson – it’s not so much about fixing workplace culture but it is about how to ‘hot-wire the university’ to do good in the world rather than just ‘accumulating prestige, publications and patents’ on stolen land.

    2. Stephanie*

      I went to a Big 10 university for an MBA (the blue M one) and I remember my marketing prof saying the university received millions of dollars annually in logo licensing alone…

      1. D’Arcy*

        While it’s true that major sports programs pull in impressive amounts of money, their expenditures are so obscenely lavish that even the NCAA itself admits that *only* the top dozen men’s football programs even manage to consistently break even. All other NCAA sports are a net negative to the parent university.

      2. Eater of Hotdish*

        Ha, I went to the same place…for a doctorate in a humanities field. Three guesses why I don’t wear the logo anymore.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, congratulations! And while you may not work in academia, it sounds as though your former employers were playing similar mind games on you. Good on you for seeing through it and finding something better.

  7. DrSalty*

    LW#1, I am so happy for you!!! I hope you will also share your newfound happiness with your ex-colleagues and especially grad students and post docs so they can also see there is a better way.

    1. Anonymous Scientist*

      Agreed! They need to know that leaving academia doesn’t mean they’re no longer whatever they were and that there are many paths. True story, someone actually told me “So you’ve left science” and someone else said “Oh, you work for the devil”. Both of these interactions took place at academic conferences, which I was attending because my (non-diabolical) employer wanted me to be there.

      1. Jackalope*

        I used to work for a nonprofit, and several years after I left, I visited them to attend an anniversary gala. One of the people there (not a former coworker, at least, but a volunteer that I think I’d worked with) asked me how it felt to leave a life of purpose and meaning to sell out. I was so mad at her! I was polite about it, but oh that annoyed me.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          “Sorry, I can’t hear you through the rustle of adequate salary and benefits and not being run ragged by impossible expectations.”

        2. Zarniwoop*

          It’s a lot like dealing with a cult member. They have to see you as an evil apostate because the alternative is seeing themself as a victim and dupe.

          At least you haven’t been declared a “suppressive person” that they’re not allowed to talk to.

      2. Zarniwoop*

        I went into industry instead of academia because I wanted to get to actually do science instead of spending all my time writing grant applications like my thesis advisor did.

  8. Beth*

    LW1: My first career was in the arts. I feel EVERY DAMNED ONE of your feelings, all too well. I had to spend weeks undoing the brainwashing before I could get out.

  9. ZSD*

    #1 Congratulations on escaping the academic mindtraps! I’m also an ex-academic (though I got out earlier in life than you did), and good Lord but does it feel nice to work my 40 hours and be done. No guilt, no sacrifice, no it’s-a-calling-why-aren’t-you-doing-it-at-10 PM-Friday-ism.

  10. Bookworm*

    LW1: Congratulations!!! I’m not in academia but I could relate SO hard about universities [insert my field here instead] being capitalist machines and am trying to do the same. Definitely don’t have to live this and we shouldn’t. Thank you for writing–while we don’t have the exact same experiences, you gave me a little hope. :)

  11. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    LW3: Solidarity and congratulations! Just remember that your union reps amd officials won’t do the work unless you make ’em. The dues you pay oblige them to do everything they can for you.

    1. Jackalope*

      This seems… unnecessarily hostile towards Union reps. Most of them in my experience as a rep are volunteers, although that’s not universally true, and in our union the reps are doing union work alongside the same jobs that everyone else is doing except for those at the very top. Also in our union, bring a member gives you access to some benefits that other non-member bargaining unit employees don’t get, but there are still limits to what we have to do. We normally try to help out everyone who comes to us, but if you’re lying to us or trying to commit fraud or whatever we don’t have to represent you. If you’re a jerk to us we don’t have to represent you. If you want us to push back on our employer on an issue not covered in our contract (and therefore unsinkable by us in most cases), we don’t have to continue your quixotic attempt to try to win.

      Super strong response, I know, but this comment just sounded like the people who come into a store and expect that the employees have to give them everything they want even if that’s not realistic in any way at all.

      1. Boof*

        I’m sort of on both sides; unions are really just another regulatory block; one more directly supported/involved with the employees but as prone to self-interest as any other group of humans. I think a lot of union reps are volunteer though, not paid by dues? IDK I’m sure it depends heavily on the actual union structure.

    2. Curious*

      Dues pay for membership and service. Are you saying that’s bad? Was this an attempt at a joke?

  12. NeedRain*

    Yay for LW #3! We need more outcomes like this so people don’t feel compelled to leave like LW#1. (this is not a criticism of that choice, either, believe me I know university as capitalist machine to train new little capitalists but you don’t have to sacrifice yourself for it.)

  13. UncleFrank*

    I totally understand if you’re not comfortable doing this, but I’d love to hear a little more about your university role and new private sector role, LW1! And congratulations on getting past the sunk cost fallacy!!

    1. LemonToast*

      Me too! I am a manager at a university, and have spent my whole career in higher ed. I am in the exact same spot right now. I’ve been applying to lots of jobs, and getting rejected from all of them. I would really love to hear more about the role that LW transitioned into, because I’m not seeing a way out of management for me.

  14. Sara without an H*

    My morning thus far:

    1. Logs on to AAM.
    2. Reads Friday Good News.
    3. Puts down coffee mug.
    4. Stands up and cheers!

    Congratulations to all three letter writers!

  15. Clever Alias*

    I’ve worked in academia for nearly four years now. I switched *in* to academia to meet a very specific need while my children are small. All I can say is I have no idea how or why people do this long term.

    1. Godbert*

      It helps to have a person or a pile of money ready to meet all your needs outside your job. There’s a reason people so rarely “break in” from outside the economic upper class. The whole thing is structured on the presumption that Someone Else (parents, spouse, your mountain of inherited wealth, etc) will take care of your non-academoc needs.

      1. Clever Alias*

        Indeed. My academic moment is largely due to a supportive spouse carrying the economic weight while I carry the family (without entirely cedeing my career). Its what allows me to largely shrug at the insanity, but still. Big yikes!

    2. Boof*

      FWIW, I am in academia’ish – as a physician. It’s a bit different because we are doing work that generates revenue (seeing patients); and it will TOTALLY DEPEND on how the institution adheres to it’s core values, etc. I like it because I do get to see less patients and do more exploratory stuff, but I do make probably a half to a third of what I could make churning through something cushy and private. And I really don’t see anything wrong with that either; lots of people get sick, being a doctor is draining, making a nice QOL (doctors make good money, yes, but we’re talking good overall average; not like top CEOs etc – and it takes years of 60-80 hr work weeks and mountains of debt to get there) and rapidly paying off all the debt then saving for retirement and getting out while helping lots of people is ok.
      But I still have a bit of seething resentment for my attempted PhD (stopped at a masters) and the risk/work/reward payoff for the publishing and grant grind. It’s inefficient, redic, and only getting worse. The more I do the more I move a way and kind of love cooperative groups and industry for being way more nimble much of the time (although, depends on the industry / group / etc; they are all made up of people and thus failable, just easier to switch to a better one if one is sinking)

      1. Clever Alias*

        Ha! I came from large healthcare and thought I understood bureacracy. True academia is… unexplainable.

    3. Goose*

      At least coming from a professor in the arts, being in academia lets me have benefits, a consistent place to live, and a stable salary, none of which I have in the freelance part of my job, but mostly I just think that getting to be part of folks’ journey bridging adolescence and adulthood is magical. I get to be a small part of supporting people making choices about and growing into who they’re going to be for the rest of their lives! (But also if there was a career that could let me make cool stuff with and mentor young adults without all the BS of academia without taking a significant pay cut I would be there immediately because WHEW is the BS exhausting.)

  16. Sudsy Malone*

    Congrats, LW3!! You and your colleagues are part of such a wonderful wave of organizing in the academic and cultural sectors. I hope you get a nice breather over the next few weeks—and then I hope you fight for the contract you deserve! Being part of a union drive and contract fight at my workplace was the most rewarding thing I ever did at work, and the best professional development I’ll never get credit for :) cheers to you!

  17. Goldenrod*

    Congrats to you all!!

    LW 1: “Honor is available in almost every career, and is about your own choices, and how you respond to the choices of your company.”

    Yes! I love this! It is so true.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes! I’ve run into people who denigrate my job as “just” food service, but the company I work for is committed to COL raises, green building and composting (all our delivery stuff including plates/silverware/packaging is compostable) and donations to tons of worthy causes, local and otherwise. The fact that quite a few people have worked in this “just” a job for fifteen to twenty years shows that any career can be fulfilling if the higher ups commit to that.

  18. Hello kitty*

    LW1: I’m very happy for you. But I want to push back on the idea that just because you’re in private industry you’re getting raises of more than 1-2%, or really at all. My husband and I are both stem PhDs in industry. He hasn’t gotten a raise since 2010, and mine average out to 1% a year.

    1. Hello kitty*

      I’d also like to add that I am underpaid compared to what the local unis pay their faculty. (My husband is not.)

    2. Anon for this*

      Your story though is one of many, with a lot of diversity. I’m someone who switched from academia to industry a few years back and I’ve tripled my salary. In academia I was confined to the 2% raise and couldn’t even figure out it how to get myself money from the grants I brought in (weird situation, could only buy out not increase salary). Sure, I’ve also experienced lay offs. But the letter writer is right, the stability is not in tenure but the ability to transition. Many people do get larger raises or promotions even if you have not — it’s possible, rather than structurally impossible.

  19. cleo*

    Just want to highlight this quote from LW1:

    “Honor is available in almost every career, and is about your own choices, and how you respond to the choices of your company. Job security is as much about your ability to get a NEW job as it is to keep an old one.”

    1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      That line about job security might have CHANGED MY LIFE, thank you LW#1 and cleo.

    2. A mathematician*

      I’m an academic, though not in the US, and the comment about job security really did resonate. The university I work at has to give me six months notice and then pay severance if they want to make me redundant – and I’d need all that time and more to find a new academic job (this job I started six months after I applied, and that was fairly fast). My husband, who doesn’t work in academia, was given four weeks notice that he was about to be made redundant, and (as the last employee left) didn’t get any severance. Three weeks later he’d had interviews with three new companies and offers from two of them.

    1. LW3*

      I am a librarian, and it’s horrifying. People with just as much skill and experience (and often exactly the same qualifications) get half the vacation time and massively lower salaries, which really makes it clear how inequitable the field is. It’s especially frustrating when those on the librarian side buy into it and think they’re actually more valuable than other library workers.

  20. Corgi*

    I had the most wonderful thing happen at work this week. I’m out at work as non-binary and queer (even though it took me a few years to come out there). I now wear pride and pronoun pins on my work lanyard and co-chair our company’s new LGBTQIA+ employee resource group. We’ve been able to do a lot of good work through our ERG like participating in our city’s large Pride celebration for the first time, and now having the option to put your pronouns on you work badge.

    A young, shy employee started working in my department a few months ago. The other day she came up to me and awkwardly tried to start a conversation (she kept pausing, saying “wait, never mind I’m bad at words” and starting over). Eventually she was able to say it: “I’m a lesbian. I just really wanted someone I work with to know.” It was seriously the most heartwarming moment and I was so flattered she picked me to come out to (she’s not ready to be out at work yet because of bad experiences at a previous job). I shared my own experience coming out at work and told her about our ERG in case she needs a support network at work. I’m still grinning about it days later!

    1. Goldenrod*

      “Eventually she was able to say it: “I’m a lesbian. I just really wanted someone I work with to know.””

      Awww, that is so sweet. Well done on successfully communicating that you are someone she can trust!

  21. Pivot Time*

    OMG- the first letter writer spoke to me and so many of you are here. I’ve worked in an academic library for 14yrs now in an Ivory Tower and I’m finally working to leave and do something else. I look forward to a day when I won’t get yelled at over email and called stupid by people with PHDs because library school didn’t teach me how to read minds. I swear the more letters after someone’s name, the less of a decent human being they seem to be. I’m tired of being told there’s no money for staff while higher ups brag about the endowment. The struggle of leaving a place that spends lots of money every year telling people how great it is, is not one that many people understand, but with all these comments I feel seen in general. Thank you all!

  22. Godbert*

    Many of us in medicine in the United States (surely other countries also, I just wouldn’t know the details) aspire to follow in LW1’s footsteps. Wages are simply frozen in most health care professions — meaning they are effectively sliding backwards year on year. The “It’s okay to not be okay” and “What’s your why?” posters are still up from the pandemic. It has become clear that they will be our only reward. Meanwhile patients get charged more and more, and that money goes somewhere. But not to the people doing the work and shouldering the burden. And half our coworkers, still drinking the Kool-Aid, sniff that maybe not everyone is cut out for the Very Special Work of Caregiving.

    Here’s to all of us trying to get out. When there are none of us left, maybe the execs can figure out a way to rob each other.

    1. Boof*

      I’m an academic physician and I’m feeling this but also acknowledge my salary is pretty good compared with most average professional salaries; much of my extra work is “self imposed” (I can set my own schedule, say no to things, etc but it’s hard! I want to help and do things! But I don’t always have to be the one to do it myself!) I finally sent up a distress signal to my leadership and they’ve been helpful in offloading and reorging a bit. But maintaining boundaries, politely and persistently asking for help and saying no to tasks that should be delegated and/or making it clear what else will drop if you don’t have the support to delegate safely, and avoiding scope creep etc, is vital to not burning out.

    2. Ready to retire*

      I have been a professor in academic medicine for almost 30 years, and at least at my institution, things have changed dramatically over that time. The place is now run by administrators who have their own metrics that have nothing to do with education or patient care. I think those other things mattered in the past, but now the leadership seems to view the place very much as a business that just happens to involve students and patients instead of widgets.

      But the leadership wants it both ways. I still hear from the leadership how we have to be good citizens and volunteer to do things for the institution for free because of the poor students! and the poor patients! And they keep saying I need to work harder plus do the work of the support staff because there are so many vacancies because we both treat them badly and pay them poorly. Because the students will suffer otherwise! And the patients will suffer otherwise! I am at the tail end of my career, so I can shut out a lot of the nonsense. But if I were just starting out and had to jump through all these hoops to move forward, I don’t think I would last.

  23. Extreme Anon For This*

    LW1: all the congrats to you! Your letter gave an underpaid staff worker much joy. (and yes, I am planning an escape – just going to take a while yet)

  24. Natebrarian*

    Hah, LW3, I think I know exactly which university you’re at. And if I were the brand-new president of that university, I would be asking the library dean/UL some very tough questions about why the librarians felt such a move was necessary.
    (Insert “things that make you go hmm” gif here…)

  25. Not Jane*

    LW1 thank you for inspiring me to keep persisting with looking for a new job. I have been basically looking and applying for jobs for 3 years now, I always tailor my resume and cover letter to the role, I’ve completely revamped my resume format, I try to write cover letters like Alison says to.. And I just haven’t been getting anywhere. This year I have had a long break for medical reasons but now I’m ready to start looking again and the old fear of rejection was holding me back a little. Part of the problem is I want more money, I haven’t been developing my skills and experience for 10+ years to be paid less money. I was even starting to think maybe it’s not all that bad in my job, but reading your post reminded me how bad it is and I deserve to be treated like a actual person not just a number and there are organisations who treat people well and I should therefore continue with my pursuit.

  26. A Fed Up Librarian*

    Letter writer 1 makes me cry because this is the same situation at my large Southern US flagship university.

  27. LadyClegane*

    I’m a young tt faculty member and honestly, this work is kind of killing my love of the job. I took a post at a “teaching college” public university (intentionally so I could work with students who shared my underrepresented background). Whoever said University teaching is only 10% of faculty work was right. I spend so much WASTED time on committee nonsense and supporting all the faculty-led initiatives that plug the holes left by insufficient university funding and resources that I don’t have enough time for teaching/course-building, etc, let alone writing. I don’t mind the lack of resources at my university, or even the beauracracy, but I mind having my time wasted and committee work for the sake of committee work. I’m not saying anything new here, but I would love to hear from OP 1 or other academia escapees: Where did you go? How did you know what kinds of jobs to look for and where? This is all I know and I just feel so stuck now. I wouldn’t necessarily leave, but I would like to know my options, especially in a creative/liberal arts department.

  28. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    LW #1 = There is NOTHING wrong with working in the private sector where things – to a great degree (not universally) are determined by YOU and YOUR PERFORMANCE.

    I spent nearly 50 years working in the “DPS” (Dreaded Private Sector) and thrived, most of the time. Yeah, I had to travel to some places I didn’t want to go to. I had to work nights and weekends at times. I had to work at my own professional development and education and growth.

    Some family members – who worked as schoolteachers, wondered WHY did I put up with it all? Well, 26 times a year there was something nice in my mailbox.

  29. Ebar*

    I have a few friends and family who were in the academic world (in Europe) while I worked for nearly 15 years in the admin side. In all cases were in the past tense. My observation was that it is an area where the young to young-ish are paying for the sins of the old. Too many academics got tenure back in the day and functionally stopped doing anything useful. While those who followed found themselves stuck in a cycle of two to three year contracts. Eventually all of them bailed out of academia.
    Don’t know how it compares to the USA but my semi outsider view of academia and third level education is it’s a broken model.

  30. Barefoot Librarian*

    This is exactly the post I needed to see back in middle 2021 when I was agonizing over leaving academia. I was struggling with getting tenure and being handed a list of committees that needed me instead of a raise.

    The administrations and boards really do take advantage of the faculty, librarians, and staff who believe in the the mission of fostering intellectual growth and opportunity for their students. Between the tenure disappointment (I had only had one raise in 8 years so I was sure I’d at least get a boost for that accomplishment) and one of the economics faculty taking over a faculty meeting to present a rogue breakdown of the salaries of administrators and athletics staff over a 10 year window (bless her), I was ready to get out. But actually leaving was the hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. I did what I did for my students, I told myself (and it was true). It was hard to admit to myself that I had worked for student success, academic recognition, and pats on the back for so much of my adult life instead of monetary compensation. I BELIEVED in the mission and drank the kool-aid.

    Less than two years later and I’m making 60% more in the private sector and that doesn’t even include bonuses. I’m treated like an adult and really enjoy my work (I’m in a software field adjacent to education but I’m not even a dev). Better still, I still feel I’m doing worthwhile work, but I don’t have to take on new job tasks from employees that leave/retire and aren’t replaced, I don’t have to publish unless I feel like it, I don’t have to serve on any committees. I work my 9-5, travel occasionally for work, and generally do less for so much more compensation.

    If, like me in 2021, you’re thinking of leaving academia but worried about life will be after – TAKE THAT LEAP. There is life after.

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