After being in academia for many years, some academics may have developed distorted opinions about what it is like to work in nonacademic jobs. Unless individuals look for context to demystify these distorted opinions, current academics might perpetuate myths about the professional world to future generations of academics, making it harder for those who want to leave academia for nonacademic jobs. The following is some information to demystify the top three myths that some academics seem to believe about nonacademic jobs and could help you with the decision between working in academia or industry:
The hours are inflexible.
Academics become accustomed to setting their own schedules each semester, so working 5 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. may seem too restrictive to some. If you work in a nonacademic job, you will not be able to casually take a half day of work for lunch with a friend without having to use one of your limited number of vacation days. Although you may need time to adjust, you will eventually come to appreciate that outside the seemingly inflexible hours of nonacademic jobs, your personal time is your own. After 5 p.m. each day and for two whole days each week, you won’t have to grade assignments, read articles, or write papers unless you want to; instead, you can go to yoga class, read for pleasure, or enjoy quality time with friends and family.
Bosses and coworkers will be rude, ignorant, or lazy.
This overgeneralization is simply not true about either academia or industry. In life in academia, you met people whom you liked because they were kind, intelligent, and hardworking, but you also met people whom you disliked because they were rude, ignorant, or lazy. The same will be true of the people whom you will meet in the professional world. In fact, you may even enjoy working with nonacademic coworkers more than with academic coworkers because you will not be in direct constant competition and conflict. As long as you maintain an open mind free of predetermined misconceptions, you will likely find plenty of people in either academia or industry with whom you will enjoy working together toward a common goal.
The work is boring and mundane.
Again, this is another overgeneralization that is simply not true concerning either academia or industry. If you are open minded and willing to look for professional work that coincides with some of your academic interest, then you will be able to find a job that challenges you intellectually. For example, if you have a degree in math, you should not dismiss a professional position in accounts payable, a position in which you would use your mathematical skills to solve challenging accounting problems every day. Keeping a positive perspective about nonacademic jobs will help you find work that is as interesting as, if not more than, the work you did in academia.