“Breaking out of the academy may seem daunting, but scholars’ skills transfer to many other jobs. Matthew Reisz talks to four who made it to the other side. But then there is the final move out of the world of work – plan well, recommend Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell
Life seems unlikely to get any easier in higher education over the next few years: contracting job markets, stagnant salaries and increased workloads are all more than distinct possibilities. Some academics may be forced out of higher education altogether; others may become increasingly disillusioned with a changing sector.
The question, of course, is how one responds to this. One can grin and bear it, and probably become ever more bitter, or one can actively plot one’s escape. Here we tell the stories of a number of academics who have left the academy and built new lives for themselves. All have essentially happy endings and reveal how many academics possess transferable skills they can fall back on, should the need arise.
Much of it comes down to a question of self-definition. As long as one pigeonholes oneself as “an expert on eels’ parasites” or something equally limiting, it may be hard to think how to excite a potential employer or recreate oneself as something quite different. Yet a slight shift of the kaleidoscope can often open a range of fresh possibilities.
But while this feature celebrates the positive achievements of academics who have remade themselves, it also raises questions about the frustrations that seem to be pushing some of the talent out. Where this involves people who are talented writers, as in a couple of case studies below, there seems to be something particularly dysfunctional about it, with the universities losing their champions of “impact”, the very people who could take their work out to a broader public and enthuse potential students and paymasters.”
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Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.