Last year, I went to the American Academy of Religion (AAR) annual meeting, the first time I’ve attended in years (and the first time that I really didn’t care about what people thought of me).
I wasn’t on the academic job market. I have a job that I love, as editor of Women in Higher Education. My goal was to present on white supremacy and American religions, talk about how to become a public scholar, and yell at the AAR about #MeToo and the need for an anti-harassment policy.
What I wasn’t entirely prepared for—but should have been—was all the people that wanted to talk about my current career, how I accomplished it and my “successes.”
I have, what many people call, an alt-ac (alternative academic) job, a job adjacent to higher ed but not quite in it. And folks wanted to know how I transitioned into one of those jobs outside of the academy—what my mom calls “a job.” Advisors, departments, and institutions have finally (maybe?) decided to pay attention to how their students can get these jobs out in the world, especially considering the dire job market in the humanities.
When I go to conferences, like the AAR, I get asked about my career path, as if it was actually a clear path from my not-so-graceful exit to my current gig. The path was never clear or guaranteed, even it it appears, to some, now. (The future is never fixed; we just like to tell ourselves it is.)
These questions happen not only because I wrote so publicly about my transition for Chronicle Vitae but also because I have been deemed a “success” without really knowing it. (more…)