Today, the Guardian published an article detailing the levels of stress in academia with a estimated 40% of academics seeking to leave what has become a toxic working environment. As followers of this blog and my social media know – I too left academia this year.

I resigned in January, and finally worked my last day on 03 May 2019. In part this was due to chronic ill health and associated stress – as I’ve written here for the Mad and Sad Club blog, but it was also about becoming tired of working in ways that seem so diametrically opposed to what I thought the purpose of higher education was – and is. To learn. To contribute to society. To add value. To critique. At no point has the world needed progressive ideas and solutions more.

In this blog, I’m starting a series of posts about how I prepared for this career change and how I am navigating establishing myself as a freelance writer and small business owner.   

I’ve began this conversation over on Let’s Talk Academia in reflecting on what it takes to leave – there are certain privileges as well as precarities that might force exit. There will be a blog post on finances later in this series. 

Step 1 – from fantasy to making the plan B

The first thing I did in preparing for career change was moving from a ‘fantasy plan B’ – you know the ‘crofting on a remote island’; ‘setting up a commune’ – although if you do these things – you are awesome – to actually allowing myself to admit that I was not happy and I wanted to do something else. 

To admit that it was my job that was the cause of my dissatisfaction. And that it was ok to leave that job. 

Notice what I’ve done here; began to describe being an academic as a job. Academia is a workplace – within an ofter very large organisation. Not a privileged ivory tower. Not a ‘cushy number’. Not an Inspector Morse style idyll. Well, not for a ‘junior’, working class, mum – with a chronic illness. 

Later – it became – it’s ok to leave academia completely. This process took about 2 years. 

I began to write lists of what else I could do. As an academic with a 10 year career as a permanent and full time Lecturer in a Russell Group University, I had plenty of skills. Ironically, I felt de-skilled and stuck in academia. 

So, if you are feeling like I did – write that list. Not your CV for another academic job, but a list of all the things you know you are good at. Where else could your skills and talents and expertise be utilised? For what purposes?

Then I began to allow myself to think about what I wanted to do with my life. A job that makes my life good – not one that is my life. 

Another list- what is it that you want to do? 

I wanted to write. I am now writing more than ever. I wanted to write something other and more than ‘REF outputs’. 

I got there by seeking out what I needed to move myself in that direction. It began with writing retreats. Then courses. Then more.

In the next blog, I’ll be sharing the courses I took and what I got out of them. 

In the mean time – if you feel like I did – get a new notebook – and get scribbling. The first step is to make that fantasy a reality – even if it is writing it down. 

What do you need to do to move your career and life change from the realms of ‘fantasy’ to reality?

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave comments, or contact me via Twitter @VikTurbine or Instagram @vikturbine – this will help me with the materials for my new business – aimed at enabling women in mid-life make the changes they want.