Considering Leaving Academic Philosophy?


If you’re considering leaving academic philosophy, you may find a recent post by Greg Stoutenberg at Philosophers’ Cocoon useful.

Stoutenberg recently left his non-tenure-track position for a position in the technology industry.

He writes:

It’s not that you can do the job. It’s that you have already been doing the job for years, you just haven’t held the title. You don’t need someone to give you a chance: you are making a lateral move. Repeat until confident belief is achieved. 

Looking back, the interviews that I think I botched in recent years were ones where I felt like I was asking for the favor of getting me out of academia. That’s a mistake. You have to constantly remember that the other person is doing something risky in hiring anyone at all, as a bad hire can cost the company a lot. So, you have to demonstrate that you have already been doing the job, and make the case that hiring you is a bet with low risk and a high probability of reward.

Looking at a job for an inventory control analyst position, he notes one of the qualifications listed:

“Strong interpersonal, communication, facilitation skills to effectively interact with all teams, all areas and all levels of business.”

You’re a philosophy teacher, so of course you have “strong communication and interpersonal skills”. You can get freshmen to read Theaetetus! You can do this job!

But you have to find the right way to communicate that. Switching seats and taking the recruiter’s position, which of the following two resume lines sounds like it is from the person who satisfies that qualification?

    1. Taught introductory philosophy courses to a diverse student body
    2. Captured attention and persuaded clients (students, administrators) with dynamic, client-focused presentations

You can see that it is definitely person B. Those examples were taken from my old resume (A) and my current one (B). Both describe the same type of work experience: talking about ideas with students (A) or students and administrators (B). What makes B far better as a descriptor of what the philosophy teacher does is that it speaks to the activity and skills involved without unduly limiting the skill to something that almost no one understands. That makes (B) sound applicable to the qualification in a way that (A) does not.

There’s quite a bit more advice in the post. Discussion welcome, especially from those with related experiences and those with questions about this kind of move.

The Point - A Magazine of the Examined Life

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Zac Cogley
3 months ago

Greg’s advice is excellent. I’ll just add a few things on finding jobs that it may make sense to pursue:

  • To identify job possibilities: search for jobs that include things like “exemplary written and verbal communications skills”
  • Don’t be deterred by not fully understanding job responsibilities on first glance — do a web search and see what you can understand in 15 minutes and whether that’s something you might find interesting.
  • Don’t be immediate turned off by job titles — if you think there’s a shot you might be able to do the job, find someone on LinkedIn who does it with a philosophy background (guarantee you’ll find someone)

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