I always thought that I would go to graduate school sometime in my twenties. I ask questions that are pretty geeky and difficult to answer, I think learning and research are pretty important, and I want to talk to people about ideas, projects, and theories. There are skills I need to be able to address the questions I have and background literates that I wish I were way more familiar with.
It seems like a good fit. Right?
Right. Well, right only if we accept that graduate school is a mechanism for personal betterment. While that has to be part of it, mostly graduate school is a job and the first in a long line of possible jobs. The academic career path has merits and demerits, but it's still work, and I think to ignore this, makes it possible to accept atrocious labor practices in the academic world.
Somehow, without much intentionally on my part, I've found a career that I enjoy. Even more curious is the fact that being a professional writer with some technical background is the kind of thing that enjoys a certain kind of perpetual demand. And better yet, it's impossible to get a degree to support this career: as near as I can tell literature degrees, history degrees, theology degrees, theater degrees, and psychology degrees are all equally relevant and irrelevant.
While I'm not convinced that I never want to teach, if the "getting a job" portion of going to graduate school is somewhat moot, then I'm left with a couple of questions:
- If additional schooling doesn't affect career options and possibilities, then does it make sense to spend significant time in pursuit of an advanced degree?
- How do I develop and maintain an intellectual and scholarly practice without graduate school?
- How do I prevent my career from stagnating and from getting stuck in less than ideal jobs in mid-career and late career stages?
- I work in field where the need for human labor is constantly (and ideally) being automated away. The conventional wisdom is "develop specialties, but don't get too cemented in a particular function so that you have options for after your job gets replaced. Combined with the orthogonal issue that writing and the work of writers is horribly misunderstood by just about everyone, figuring out "career paths is not necessarily easy. How do I deal with this long term concern in a more manageable way while being mindful of the future concerns.
While I sometimes feel like this blog can stray into the "overly meta", I think that prefer intentionally over aimless wandering. Indeed, I think this career issue might have been a great deal easier for me had I figured some of these things out earlier. I know that we don't always find clear and definitive answers to these problems and that solutions come in pieces and very slowly.
This series is about thinking about these issues to increase the possibility of intentionally and to document my process so that people can provide feedback. With luck, this will also help form a model for people who want to think about ways of contributing to scholarly conversations and grow intellectually, but needn't do that in the context of the academic training and labor market.
I look forward to hearing from you and working with you all!