Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Careers for historians

Historian Alexandra Lord left a tenure-track job teaching at an American university a dozen years ago, and she eventually launched Beyond Academe, a website that advises history doctoral grads seeking to do as she did. In a thoughtful article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, she can do the negatives:
In academe, despite the premium placed on freedom of speech, discussions about nonacademic careers, the job market, and other issues in academic culture are almost always done under a pseudonym. I understand how and why whistle-blowers prefer to be anonymous, but I also believe that there can be no change until people are willing to discuss, candidly and openly, the problems inherent for some in pursuing an academic career.
Or the positives:
[T]he university is not the only place where one can live the life of the mind. Believing that myth is what leads smart undergraduates to rush to graduate school and is what prevents doctoral students from exploring varied careers with an open mind. A good start would be to acknowledge that there are many ways to live the life of the mind, that nonacademic careers are so diverse as to defy simple characterizations, and that neither a Ph.D. nor an academic position are prerequisites to writing and publishing excellent scholarship.
 Her most impressive testimony may be her evidence that indeed there are careers beyond academe for historians -- something I often doubt even as I pursue one. Course she works in the US, not our smaller market.
Follow @CmedMoore