Saying Goodbye to Academia

Congratulations! You have finally achieved graduating from graduate school and are ready to tackle the next phase of your life! You may have decided to leave academia, perhaps because you just can’t bear to read another book or write another paper for the rest of your life or because at the moment, you can’t find the ideal academic job to support yourself and to pay off any student loan debt that you may have. For whatever reason, you have decided to escape the shadowy, musty halls of your alma mater and to join the ranks of professionals in the world outside academia, but you may have mixed emotions about your decision to leave.

Even if you have successfully completed a life goal by graduating from graduate school, you may feel scared, sad, depressed, guilty, and like you have failed if you have decided to leave academia. All of these feelings are normal and to be expected. Post academics may feel scared, sad, and depressed because a huge phase of their lives is ending, a phase which for so long had been a fundamental part of their identities. Besides feeling scared, sad, and depressed,

post academics may feel guilty and like they have failed academically because they have not committed their lives to the academic relationships that helped them develop the professional skills to sustain themselves post academia. Peers and professors you have academic relationships with may unintentionally contribute to post academics’ negative feelings about leaving academia by seeming wistful about their departure and even by spreading myths about the professional world outside academia.

If you are feeling scared, sad, depressed, guilty, or like you have failed because you’re leaving academia, please understand that you are not alone and that these feelings will eventually pass. Please remind yourself that you have accomplished a life goal that less than 11% of Americans accomplish (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Not only should you celebrate graduating from graduate school, you should also be anticipating the new goals and adventures that you will undoubtedly have in the next exciting phase of your life. Try not to care too much about what other people think of your decision to pursue goals and adventures outside academia; only you can know what is best for your life direction. If you have decided to say goodbye to academia after graduating from graduate school, you should embrace your decision and apply the same principles, ethics, and drive that motivated you during your time in academia, and you will undoubtedly succeed as much in the professional world as you did in the academic world.

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