The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond

Ep 23. Is it time to quit academia? ft. special guests Carlos & Omar

April 27, 2022 Carmela Season 2 Episode 23
The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond
Ep 23. Is it time to quit academia? ft. special guests Carlos & Omar
Show Notes Transcript

Here it goes, the age old question...or the brand new question on everyone's mind: Is it time to quit academia?

Whether you think the Great Resignation is more of a reshuffling or a revolution, academia is experiencing a major shift, with tons of academics at all levels reconsidering their options. Dr. Carlos Camacho and Dr. Omar Ramadan-Santiago come on to talk through the complicated conversations around saying goodbye to the often toxic, gaslighting-rich environments of academia.

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Speaker 1 (00:09):

Welcome to the millennial PhD, a podcast about creative survival and beyond. My name is Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani, and I'm a sociologist, dancer and creative consultant from New York. In these episodes, you'll find inspiration, ideas, and actionable tips for building new pathways forward in work and life. You'll hear from artists, activists, creative entrepreneurs, PhDs, and professional pivoters. We talk about radical humanity and practical steps to follow your dreams, even in the context of challenging social conditions. Before we jump into today's episode, a quick reminder to follow the millennial PhD on Instagram and to please take a minute to rate and a review the millennial PhD on Apple podcasts. Your rating really helps the show reach as many listeners as possible. You can learn more about me and get access to free creative resources on the millennial PhD Instagram page, I hope you enjoyed the episode. 

Welcome back to the millennial PhD where we talk about art, creativity, and radical humanity in motion. So here we are, we're at the end of the semester if we're on the academic year, like, like I am, and like so many of us in academia are and have this special episode topic planned, which is this question of is it time to quit? Um, and so for everybody listening this episode, it's sort of gonna be geared toward academia, which is going through a great wave of folks quitting right now. But I think it's also really applicable to folks in different kind of professional environments who are going through this process right now about what does it mean to start to think about moving on. So typically this is meant to be a, an episode with just me. It's in between the interview episodes. I often just have these solo episodes. I'm me, your host, but I have two special guests here to talk through this topic with me. My two favorite guests, which is Carlos and Omar, who are also my co-hosts over at Play Hype Dialogue podcast. So Carlos and Omar, you wanna introduce yourselves real quick? 

Speaker 2 (02:27):

We're Carlos and Omar 

Speaker 1 (02:29):

<laugh>. We are one <laugh>. 

Speaker 2 (02:33):

It is true. You can hear my voice coming out of the other one's mouth, blah, blah, blah, <laugh>. 

Speaker 1 (02:39):

Okay. So Carlos and Omar are my two play hype dialogue comrades and also academia comrades. Um, and we will leave in the episode notes, their contact info and everything so that you can connect with them elsewhere. But they're here to talk through this topic of is it time to quit, um, again here at the end of the semester, kind of a challenging time. And I wanna say, I guess before we get into talking about it too much that it's okay to step back and to be confused about this question because I think for sure each of us who are in this, in this podcast chat right now are, and I think a lot of people are going through this process that it's like, is it grieving? Is it fear? Is it time to move on? Or are there things within the environment that can be fixed? And I think a lot of us are working through those issues and before we start jumping in and trying to give solutions to it, I just wanna say that I think it's okay for all of us to be on the edge a little bit about this and to be going back and forth in that process. For sure. 

Speaker 3 (03:42):


Speaker 1 (03:44):

Um, so let's talk a little bit about this, this thing that's going on. They're calling it the great resignation. And then some people are saying, there is no great resignation. It's the great reshuffling, or people are just looking for better conditions. If I wanna put a positive spin on it, I feel like I could think about it as like a, a different kind of labor movement, right? If I wanna be real optimistic here. And for us, So for each of us, we're each recent PhD graduates at kind of different stages of grappling with the fact that academia, for those who don't know, promises these potential kind of very secure paths forward in this tenure track professional trajectory of being an instructor, being a professor at a university, and then is often not able to follow through with that promise because the jobs are not there. 

And even when they are there, the environments are really toxic in many cases. So for anyone from academia listening, that's a familiar story to you, but just for anybody else who's popping in on this story, uh, so me, Carlos, and Omar are at different stages in that we're kind of wrapped up in it. And one of the things I wanted to talk about with you guys is the process of thinking about how do you know when to move on? Like, what is that process like? Um, so for me it's been a back and forth navigation trying to think about is it time to throw up your hands and quit? Is it time to straddle the difference or is it time to, you know, hunker down and push harder for academia? For me, one of the big ways that I've dealt with it throughout the whole PhD process, which I've talked about here, is straddling academia and the arts a little bit. Um, and kind of having my foot in a few places and working on building skills that I knew could translate outside of academia and that were not just about peer reviewed academic journal articles. So what do you all think, um, what is this process like for you at this moment? What do you feel comfortable sharing? 

Speaker 3 (05:49):

Should we like real quick, kind of go over where we are at since we are all at different positions? Like for example, like me, I have a postdoc fellowship writing fellowship, so that's a year long thing. 

Speaker 1 (06:02):

Yeah, Yeah. Talk us through that. So tell talk about where you're at right now and then we'll loop through and come back to me after Carlos. 

Speaker 3 (06:08):

Yeah. So I mean, that, that's what I have. So that's, that's my year. And then I've been on the academic job market and also, uh, the non-academic job market. And you know, it's, it's interesting because, uh, my fellowship ends in a few months and so I then have to kind of see where I'm gonna go from there. Like, you know, and, and I, I don't want to go into details about like, the different options, but I mean, really there is this big whole debate of like, is it gonna be academia or not? And I think one of the things is like, it's, it's almost weird because I'm not quitting a particular job, but if I were to leave academia, it's almost like quitting a field in a way. Um, so, you know, that's sort of what I'm going through now. And, you know, I'm also, um, straddling the fence of like, you know, but like different options like academia, but also my consulting and also like art stuff and just kind of seeing what, I don't know what what, uh, what fish bites the hook. I, that's not a phrase. I feel like there's, 

Speaker 1 (07:15):

I'm making up phrases left and right, so you might as well get in on those things. <laugh>. No, but it, 

Speaker 3 (07:20):

It's supposed to be a phrase that I just messed up. Anyway, 

Speaker 1 (07:24):

It's close. It's right there. <laugh>, right? Someone will let us know in the comments. <laugh> right? 

Speaker 3 (07:30):

The tip of the fishing hook. It's like 

Speaker 1 (07:32):

<laugh>. Um, but yeah, Omar, and it's like a lot of what makes us feel that way is the idea and the reality. It's not, this is not just like a narrative, but the idea that with academia, they have it set up that if you step away, it's sort of like, oh, well if you stop, if you have a gap, that's it. You're out. Yeah. 

Speaker 3 (07:52):


Speaker 1 (07:52):

Part of this like cult like obsession that academia 

Speaker 3 (07:55):

Has? Yeah. It's freak. It's like, it's like you're breaking up with someone and they're like, Don't you ever come back? I never, I never let an ex back into my life. Like that's what it feels like. Academia, is that just sort of like one shot or, and that's it. And it's, it's strange. And you know, I, I thought like maybe it was just me, but no, so many people, um, you hear that they're all like just terrified of even just taking a little bit of time to try something else cuz it's like there's no way to go back. And they said like, there is options, but it is like very, um, rare, which is kind of meant you think about it, you're like, why is it like, oh, I feel like so many other fields, they kind of like let you come back in. But I don't know what it is about academia that it's like so insecure that like, if you leave us, don't ever come back. You know? Right. 

Speaker 1 (08:48):

Very, very toxic relationship. <laugh>. 

Speaker 3 (08:50):

Yeah. It feels like it. 

Speaker 1 (08:53):

Um, and Omar, you're someone who I admired and I do admire because I do feel like you have set your boundaries at certain points in your, in your academia trajectory so far where you, you kind of, you said, I can't rush these certain parts of my life to make it squeeze into like the shape that academia needs it to be in. So I thought that you did take your time at certain moments or you did draw these boundaries. And then just for the audience listening, like you have, you have quite a prestigious fellowship right now, and I just mentioned that not to be like, Oh, like, what up <laugh>, But I mean, that's great, but I think a lot of people go through that experience as well, which is you can get a very coveted position, whether it's a post with no teaching or a prestigious postdoc at a, at an Ivy league or whatever, 1, 2, 3 year, even a va, um, whatever. You get these positions that you have to fight pretty hard to get in the first place. And they're, they're, again, they're prestigious, like they're competitive mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but at the end of that process, you're still left going on the market again. Basically. 

Speaker 3 (10:04):

Yeah. That was, it was like a weird decision for me because I, I, I don't want this to come off as like me, like putting all my stuff out there and like bragging or anything, but, but I actually had to decide between the fellowship that I have now and another fellowship and the other fellowship, it's 

Speaker 1 (10:24):

Not bragging, it's just, it's just a 

Speaker 3 (10:25):

Fact. <laugh>, it's just, but um, no, but the other fellowship was two years. The one I have is one year, but it was heavy, heavy teaching. 

Speaker 1 (10:35):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, 

Speaker 3 (10:37):

The one that I decided to accept was writing and remote so I could do it from, you know, home. And I, and I just thought that it, and I remember I was talking to a mentor of mine, he was like, it's kind of funny because I feel like other people would jump at the two year one. But I realized for me and I, and coming out of the end of this year, I know I made the right decision for me because it did give me some time to one, you know, kind of figure some stuff out, you know, cast wider net, see what was going on. But, you know, I also did want more time to work on my, on my, uh, my personal projects and instead of doing so much heavy teaching. And so, um, that's also, and it was also in a way for me to, because I felt like the other fellowship, it would've been me jumping completely into academia because in a sense with such a heavy teaching load, it wouldn't have given me space to really explore like other stuff. 

And I think that was my biggest fear. And I remember another mentor told me, she was like, That teaching load is ridiculous. She's like, You're not gonna have time for anything else. And I was like, Dang. So it helped me decide of like, you know what, no, I'm gonna go for the other thing. But thankfully I did have the other thing, you know what I mean? Because I also know that sometimes what it is, is you only have one option and you just have to decide like, do I take this one option because it's the only one given to me? Or do I say no to that and really give myself sort of that space and time to explore something else that I won't have the time to do if I accept this one opportunity that I'm not that excited about, You know? 

Speaker 1 (12:12):

Right. And 

Speaker 3 (12:13):

I think that that's hard for people cuz you also wonder, you're like, what are, what are people gonna say that people are gonna think I'm crazy? People are gonna think like I'm making a, but then I I I kind of realize like I, I can't live for other people, you know? Right. Like, they can be crazy, but they're not the ones who's in my shoes. You know? 

Speaker 1 (12:31):

Especially because it feels like all this pressure, but it's like four people Yeah. <laugh>. Like, because the regular people don't, they don't know <laugh>. Um, Omar, so in a, I wanna hear from Carlos obviously, but just while we're talking Omar, I do wanna follow up and ask you how do you feel right now being on both the academic market and the non-academic market or what we sometimes call the tac or the non a market 

Speaker 3 (13:00):

Rest stress? Cause also this academic market was very long. Like, I thought it was gonna be kind of done in February at the latest. And I, there were still things that I could apply to up until April. 

Speaker 1 (13:16):

Yeah. Covid definitely shook up. 

Speaker 3 (13:18):

Yeah. I was kind of like, Dang. But no, it's, it's, uh, yeah, no, yeah, I'm not gonna sugar code. It, it is not amazing. It's very stressful, but it's also kind of like, it's better to have more options than less Vegas. 

Speaker 1 (13:33):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. One of the things, first of all, not to like jump over and say, I hear you, that it's, it's awful and it's stressful. And uh, the other day we were talking about some of the freedom and the fact that the non-academic market happens 12 months outta the year, whereas the academic market for those who might not know only kind of happens in one cycle. Typically it's gotten longer because of Covid. Um, but it's usually, it happens usually in the fall or the early winter and then that's it for the year. So it's very stressful. Like you don't get something at that time period. Whereas I, I do feel comforted by the kind of abundance that exists. Yeah. Regular job market. 

Speaker 3 (14:18):


Speaker 1 (14:20):

Okay. So Carlos, hey. Hi <laugh>. Um, let's talk, go back to the core question we were getting at, which is just thinking through how to know when to move on. And I know none of us has concrete answers about that, but I know something you've been thinking about the question of how long and hard do you fight to get into this one cult <laugh> and, and how, what is that process like for you right now? 

Speaker 2 (14:54):

Yeah, so for me as the, the sort of last one to finish <laugh>, um, it was a long road in part because I was trying to tackle this question before I even finish. Like, is this what I wanna do? Like, should I just quit and like cut my losses and go on for something else and just be a, b, d all but dissertation forever. Um, it's a thing people do. Lots of people do it. Like I still have the skills. I just don't have, um, those particular letters at the end of my name. Um, and so that's been something that I've been thinking about, um, for a while. And it's tough. Um, like you've talked about in several episodes of the podcast thus far, um, like Omar was just talking about, it's it's a really rough game to play and to get in and to stay in. 

Um, there's no promises, Like there's no promises in a lot of things. Um, but academia has this particular way of making promises it know it <laugh> it knows it can't keep. Um, and what we've seen with the last like 20, 20 to 40 years, um, with the sort of, um, anti-intellectualism and the shifting dynamics of higher education, um, now with covid, just so many things have radically shifted and where one of those generations is sort of smack d in the middle of it. Um, and so I think one of the, the first things is, is it worth it at the end of the day to continue to play in this game? The things that you wanna do, if you wanna write books, you wanna write articles, can you do that outside of academia? Maybe you wanna keep a foot in, you're still a member of your professional organizations. 

Like, uh, for us sociologists, um, it's American Sociological Association and then a bunch of others. Um, for Omar as an anthropologist, there's AAA and a bunch of other associations given our specialties in subfields. Um, what do you wanna do with your life? Which <laugh> is a terrible question. I exactly, I dunno, I dunno either. But I know that being fully in academia is not it. Um, just given its shifting dynamics and how things are moving and the expectations to, at a certain type of school, like a research one institution, perform all this research in addition to your teaching and be expected to just do, do do do, do all the time. Versus like a teaching school where you're expected to teach, to teach. And if you wanna do research, that's not exactly the priority. Um, so really figuring out where you wanna put your eggs. 

Like they can't be all in one basket. Um, that era for academics is over. Um, the good thing is, like you've talked about, um, on the show this whole season, um, like Omar was alluding to that we do have skills. It's about how we market them, um, to the outside world. But deciding to make that commitment, even now, you hear me? I'm like, oh, keeping a foot in, keeping a toe in that continue, right? Yes. <laugh>, I'm not fully saying and haven't yet be like, I'm done. It's over. I'm out. Even if sometimes that's where my mind is because it is a very difficult pursuit and I could start somewhere else in a non-academic job and make as much if not more money and have weekends off. And it's just a different sort of lifestyle that, um, it's tough. It's a tough conversation. I'm not there yet. We're not there yet, but it is one that we have to consider, especially as millennials who now have PhDs. What are we gonna do now? 

Speaker 3 (18:53):

Yeah, It's hard to know. It's scary cuz you're like, this has been so many years of my life. And I think because we're all still, uh, technically young scholars, you know, we're all like recent PhDs. So it's almost like, like, I don't know, I I, I like, you kind of hear from people like 15 years in the game, they're, they like, you know what, I'm done. I'm, I'm over it. I'm ready to go. And, and it's almost weird to be like, Me too. And they're like, Why You barely even started, You know what I mean? So it's, 

Speaker 1 (19:24):

You know what though? Yeah. First of all, I wanna echo what everybody's saying and it's just interesting hearing all of us talk because the paradigm is so powerful that we're still in about the like, oh, the, the like certain version of research that we're just, it's drilled into us that this needs to be like deified, like this needs to be the top most valuable thing and it's drilled into this us that way because if we were not taught to see it that way, No, no, it would, no one would logically put the time and effort into it to do it because it's the, the returns are really limited unless you're playing in the tenure track game mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? 

Speaker 3 (20:06):

Track game. Like you gotta be, I've, I've, I see people who are killing the academic game, but it's because they're genuinely outstanding scholar. Like their books are praise. Like, but it's also like how many of us are gonna get to that point? You know what I mean? You know, So I, I don't know. And then yeah, you get this, you, I don't know, we were talking about this the other day that you almost fed this lie that like, yeah, you just get in, then you get tenure and then you're good for life and then, you know, and then there's like a sabbatical so you can like go constantly take off a year. And I remember I was like just telling them, I was like, I heard, um, I heard that like for example, sabbatical is not as common as I think we all initially thought mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Oh yeah. Just something you get every few years and then it's like apparently quite rare and you're like, wait, wait, wait, that's not what I was told. Also, like summer's off winter breaks off sabbaticals, like Right. Teacher do your research. Like, you know what I mean? Like, so 

Speaker 1 (21:15):

Yeah, for sure. And I'll say, um, so my, because I didn't say before, I'll say that I'm in a permanent but non-tenured track position, so I have a long term but non-tenured direct job and our sabbatical policy is, I think you're eligible for the first time after seven or eight years and you can apply, but it's like definitely not guaranteed. Like it's basically at the whim of whether or not your department needs you, which spoiler alert when there is five faculty members in each department, like they need you <laugh>. Um, but, and it's also unpaid <laugh> at my school, um, which is something else. They're like, you can get yourself funding if you can, but <laugh>, other than that I heard 

Speaker 3 (22:00):

About where you buy out your classes where you basically choose go the field, you have to like pay the school money so that you don't have to teach. And I was, but you still have to like maybe do service still. I'm like, what the hell is this? 

Speaker 1 (22:14):

Yeah. A lot of times you're still expected to do admins. So just to say like a lot of the, a lot of the things that they're part of the pact that a lot of people make, it's like here specializing something really obscure a lot of times, spend lots and lots of years on it, do original research on it, become an expert in something that may or may not be applicable and useful and in return this is, this is the job security and this is the type of conditions that might be waiting for you. Um, and there's just so many cracks in that now that it's almost, it's almost obsolete. And I wanted to say, this is a little off topic now, but I just remembered that Omar saying, Oh, people have, who are like 15 years into, I guess the full-time part of this profession as opposed to us as early career scholars. 

That being said, like we're each each sunk 10 years I think, into this training. And one of the things that I have been trying to say to PhD candidates or even young people I've, or not young people, people I've talked to who are thinking about the PhD or who are going into it, is to say that like you are, you are a sociologist. As soon as you start that training and delve really deeply into it, and it's not to be anti-intellectual, it's just to combat this idea that we get ha that gets hammered into us, which is like, you don't count, you don't, don't count, you don't count until this arbitrary committee of four or five people at the end says, Okay, now you count, welcome through the gates. Now you can be part of this, but it's like, I'm a sociologist and I was a sociologist three years into my PhD program as well. Like we were doing the research, we were doing the writing, we were doing the training, we were doing the teaching <laugh> at, you know, Carlos, I know you jumped into teach an undergrad classroom your first semester in the PhD program. I started by my second year, Omar, I think you probably were the same as me or maybe a little bit later, but either way we 

Speaker 3 (24:22):

Would third year. Yeah. But I had a mentorship fellowship, so Yeah, it says weird. 

Speaker 1 (24:27):

Yeah. So it's like you're doing the research, you're doing all of the stuff, but you're not allowed to step into your expertise and step into your power with that until somebody, until a a council of people check that off the list for you. And again, I understand it's important to get qualifications for things, but I'm just trying to combat how powerful the narrative is that you don't count at all for 8, 5, 7, 8 years, 10 years of your life while you're doing this. And I just don't think that's accurate because we're part of the, the academia conversation even at that stage. And now advice I would give to anybody at any stage, and especially if you're a PhD student or a PhD candidate, is what Carlos and I, and I'm sure Omar as well have said a couple times, which is like, build your, build your skills for the world, not for this academia bubble. That's gotta be like the, the technique takeaway if no one's asking me for advice. But 

Speaker 3 (25:30):

No, it's solid. 

Speaker 1 (25:31):

Sometimes people are and when they are, that's, that's the thing that I have to say is just like, there's so much we can add to the world, not just, not just cuz we not cuz of PhDs just as people with passion, whatever they are and interests. Um, so built for that because this, this tower is crumbling <laugh>, it's on his way down. 

Speaker 3 (25:53):


Speaker 1 (25:54):

Please don't fire me. <laugh>. 

Speaker 3 (25:58):

Speaking of crumbling, so is my resolve because, uh, your boy is about to finish fasting, so, uh, I gotta run. Woohoo. Love you both. Um, yeah. 

Speaker 1 (26:12):

Oh my. Thanks so much for, for your commentary. Do you have any parting thoughts, pieces of advice? 

Speaker 3 (26:19):

How dare and a drink all day and now you're asking me for more. Get out. I'm gone. 

Speaker 1 (26:28):

You're just like academia extracting 

Speaker 3 (26:30):

Just like academia. 

Speaker 1 (26:32):

<laugh>. All right, Omar, go break your past. Thanks so much. So, all right Carlos, then there were two. Um, so let's just, let's round this, this episode out with a little bit of reflection maybe Carlos, first of all, if there's anything you've been wanting to jump in and add, feel free. And also I guess I would like to talk through for folks listening, are there any kind of coping strategies that you feel like you've been developing as you go through this process of thinking about transition? 

Speaker 2 (27:05):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So like you, so like you said earlier, um, I have been teaching since the very beginning <laugh>, uh, which is something that some of the superstars that Omar, um, was alluding to didn't necessarily have to do. They came in with fellowships, they had, uh, big monies from their department were invested in from the beginning. Um, and so I think one thing to think about is wherever you go, however you're moving through, um, academia, are you being invested in, are people, um, valuing you? Um, because if they're not at the beginning, they're certainly not gonna do it after you commit all this time and labor to your department or to your school. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, I do wanna say that one of the things that helped me get through, um, the, the PhD process was having my student, um, teaching at cuny. Having, um, the student body that CUNY has was really powerful to be in front of the room, um, with students that look like, um, me and my family and, um, had all these varied experiences, was really nice to see and being able to be real and honest with them about academia and about the, uh, position of being an adjunct and sort of the struggles of that. 

Um, but that only worked for so long because it is so grading and it is so draining. Um, which is why I understand these folks who have been doing it for 10, 15 years on the other side. Um, it's a lot. It's a lot. Um, so my students were definitely AAL and a solve, um, and have been, um, when I think about the part of academia I would want to be in, um, is more on the teaching side to be able to, um, continue to talk and engage with students. Um, outside of the, the student piece. One of the things that's really helped me navigate this process as well as other things in my life is my spirituality and my religion. Um, I'm not gonna get on my soapbox and proselytize to anybody here. Um, but, 

But I think it's important to have something to do for yourself, some sort of self care. Um, for me, my religion has a lot of facets that help me to move my body and engage my mind and, um, tune out when I need to and tune in when I need to. So having that helps me to keep it together while I'm figuring all of this out and asking these big existential questions and these career questions is we figure out what comes next and how I want to move forward into that. Um, because what I do know is that doing it the way I've been told I should do it is not going to work. It's not tenable, it's not gonna happen. So I have to do something different. Um, what that looks like, I'm still figuring out 

Speaker 1 (30:18):

<laugh>. So I'm gonna extrapolate from what you said and because a lot of it resonated for me, even though I don't have a religious practice, um, I have my creative practices mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I think a lot of us, you know, have our different things. And what I'm hearing from you though that resonates for me and I imagine for other people is find your support systems and your healing systems. That's that first, you know? Um, and but, and I know that that's not, it's not always ready made for everybody. So if you're struggling with it, first of all, if you're reach out to me and Carlos if you talk about it, um, or our contact info is in the episode notes and we'll say it at the end of the episode. Um, but build that community and build that support system in whatever way you can and put your healing up front. 

Because what we learn in academia is that can wait, that part can wait, that part can wait. And it's always for something, right? It's always, it's always that part can wait until the dissertation's done or that part can wait until you finish this fellowship application or until the proposal's done or until the article comes out or until you get those edits back in or until the grades are in. Like, and it is just a six cycle of pushing and pushing and pushing. So that's another thing that I feel like for, as we're going through these processes of thinking about is it healthy and right for you to stay here? It's like if for, cause you know, staying is prob is probably right for some people, right? Oh, 

Speaker 2 (31:56):

For sure. 

Speaker 1 (31:57):

Um, so if you're gonna stay, it's like those, those community networks and healing networks need to be built and if you're gonna leave, they need to be built. But we're always denying that and we're always putting that on the back burner. 

Speaker 2 (32:10):

Yeah. One of the things that the PhD programs tend to do is really push this independence solo because the dissertation, unlike most of the academic work you can do, is a solo project. Like it's supposed to be just you, it's a sole author, um, publication. You can have a community of scholars and you can work together and you can balance your workloads, doing a book, doing uh, articles. Like there's ways to have your academic community, ways to have your creative community, your spiritual community. Like me, Omar and I, with our podcast, we've deepened our relationships and have built a community where we're having this conversation together now. Um, we also engage creatively with each other. Um, there's so many benefits to having this and if there could be overlap between your academic and your non-academic, uh, circles all the better cuz you have someone with perspective. Um, because for some of us, our people don't get it. Um, they don't get the PhD process. They don't get academia because it's presented in the mainstream and through Hollywood in a particular set of ways that are often hugely inaccurate. 

Speaker 1 (33:30):

<laugh>. Um, Carlos, let me ask you a question and you can definitely decline to answer this if you want. You mentioned the other day something that I hadn't heard from you before, which was that you felt that there would be some disappointment in your life from, um, some community members if you did not go into a traditional academic role mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, do you feel that that's the case and would you be willing to talk about it a little bit? 

Speaker 2 (34:00):

Um, definitely there's definitely that feeling and like Omar said earlier, like, I can't live for other people, but that pressure is there, right? I spent a decade of my life doing a PhD program. I got a terminal degree in a field and I'm just gonna walk away. <laugh> 

Speaker 1 (34:19):

No, everyone's like, so 

Speaker 2 (34:22):

Like, what was the point? But at the same time, had I quit during the PhD process before I was a b d that would've looked a certain way and that would've caused all sorts of interpersonal conflict. It's like, oh, after everything we've done for you, after everything you've been through, you're just gonna quit. You're gonna give up. And I'm like, this was <laugh>. I'm not gonna like go too into it. But it's, it's a process. And if you're not one of those superstars, you're not one of those fully funded people, it's even more difficult having to teach the whole time, made it more difficult to finish and to get out. We have colleagues who were funded and were done. We were still trudging through trying to get on the other side. So now that I'm done, it's like, Oh, so what are you gonna do now? How's the job market? How are things going? And I'm like, I'm figuring it out applied to a bunch of stuff. Cuz like you said, the the cycle isn't like every other job market, uh, in sort of the mainstream of us society. It's like, so you're, you're, you're gonna quit. Well 

Speaker 1 (35:32):

Also, like just economically as a PhD student, you give up all those year, however many years it takes you, you give up those years of like earning potential, Right? Which is something that just like in strictly economic terms is it's not great <laugh>, you know, it has long term repercussions for sure. Sorry to be a bummer about that. 

Speaker 2 (35:54):

The student loan crisis. I'm sorry. 

Speaker 1 (35:56):

Yeah, No, no. Um, I, I'll just say, I was gonna say, I think both you and I, we were in the program together mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, in the same years and more or less, and we both flirted with leaving much earlier on at different times, multiple times throughout the program. Yes. <laugh> be nervous that we, we made it through that. Hey, um, would you go back and leave earlier if you could? 

Speaker 2 (36:40):

It's a tough question. I mean, it, I feel like it's kind of one of those things that with any sort of like I'm beginning to sci-fi, any sort of adjustment of the timeline has consequences You can't fathom. So like had I left early, would I have invested in my creative process the way I have? Um, but I have started this podcast with, uh, or started our podcast together. Would I have, um, grown spiritually the way I have, um, these last like seven years? Um, I don't know. I know that there would definitely be lots of benefits that I could see, um, like just economic to start. Like I could have gotten a job doing any number of things and made more money than I made <laugh> the last decade of my life and had less student loan debt, uh, or paid off my student loans. Um, yeah, I don't know if I can fully say yes than I would. Um, but 

Speaker 1 (37:49):

Maybe yeah, for sure. It's a hard question. 

Speaker 2 (37:51):

Yeah. But maybe I would've advised myself to not put so much pressure on myself to not be so precious about certain parts of the process and know that it is possible to walk away at any time, even though it's something that I'm still struggling with, um, right now that we're struggling. That's the point of this episode to, um, navigate those feelings and come to terms with them and figure out how to proceed. 

Speaker 1 (38:23):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think for me ultimately, even though that's not, it's not the type of question you can really answer. I think ultimately for me, I, I desperately wanted to leave multiple times and didn't, and ultimately I do feel like I wouldn't go back and, and change that. Like, I, I wouldn't go back and leave earlier. But the reasons why are not, oh, because I made it to the full-time job because it's clear to me in this full-time job that this is not sustainable mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Even though it's an, it's an okay position, but it's clear, it's clearly still precarious and it's clear that it's got some deep-seated cracks and issues just systemically. But the reason I'm happy, I would say I can't go back and say, Oh, I would do it differently, is basically because it allowed me to dance in a way that I'm not sure I would have allowed myself to otherwise, I think in early years I would have, if I had left, I would've left and gotten a different job 

Speaker 2 (39:34):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative> 

Speaker 1 (39:36):

And I'm not sure I would've been able to go through the creative trajectory that I did and develop those skills that I built through that. Um, so when I think about it, I do feel like the personal development that I went through in this time, I guess it's the same thing that you're basically saying, which is like, I can't say I'm happy with my personal development and I can't say what it would've been if things were different. So ultimately, I'm, I'm happy I am where I am, but I do think there's many paths available for everyone. And I think for anyone who's a student and is in the PhD program right now, if you're thinking about it, if it's worth it or not, it's definitely, it makes sense to sit down and go through the process of thinking about what am I, what am I, what do I want, and what am I getting out of this? 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I also think a lot of people who are stepping away from academia right now are not so early career scholars mm-hmm. <affirmative> who are deeply familiar with the cracks. And ultimately the question is like, Kenton, can we continue to bear those cracks or is it time to step elsewhere? I think a lot of us were hoping to do something impactful, right? Or, or something where you could mentor students or be supportive. And the question is up in the air if academia can be that place, even for people who get that taken into it. 

Speaker 2 (41:06):

For sure. For sure. And I think, again, if you're at one of those moments where on the other side and wouldn't go back, but you have your whole future to look forward to, you have this crossroads and there's gonna be multiple crossroads. Maybe you take a semester off or you take a year off to go explore something, um, it'll be there. Um, it's not going to be super easy, but if, if you leave academia, academia will probably still be there. Um, it might not be easy to come back, but you can, you can try. If that's what you decide you want after leaving, um, you can always shift your direction. You can always pivot. Um, 

Speaker 1 (41:51):

Yeah, that's pivot. Um, so I'm gonna close us out with just some parting, um, just concrete steps forward. Um, cause I know sometimes that it can be like, okay, great, like I'm trying to figure out what to do and all I'm gonna say is isn't even, isn't even that fleshed out is if you're at this juncture of thinking about stepping away from academia, no matter where you're at in this trajectory, there are, I feel like an explosion of resources available right now. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I, I wanna say that I was very skeptical about the whole coaching thing, um, for a long time. I've said this in other episodes, so if you've listened before, you've heard me talk about this, but I'll say it again. If it's within your means to hire either a career coach, if you're trying to do a career pivot or like a personal coach or a creative coach or something like that, I do feel like I would recommend it because having that accompaniment and that accountability can be really powerful. 

And if that's not within your means right now, um, because I, it can be unreasonably pricey if it's not what the, your means right now. A lot of people have, there's free resources out there. So look for coaches, look for people who are, who are newly doing career coaching, maybe have a lot of free stuff, or people who are very established have these kind of free resources available or they, they do the first call free just so you can get to know each other. And there's absolutely no reason to not take advantage of those resources if you poke around the internet looking for them. Even looking for kind of guides and resource guides about skills translating mm-hmm. <affirmative> just something that people talk about a lot, but it just, it's so critical if you're gonna pivot, which is the ability to translate our skills over into the language of wherever we're trying to go. Um, and that can vary a little bit, but there's a lot of resource guides floating around the internet for that mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, so I would just say like, you're not in this process alone and to take advantage of whatever resources you can, I, I promised I would give our contact info so you can connect with me on Instagram at mela uio, M E L A M U Z I O and of course follow the podcast on Instagram at the millennial PhD on Instagram. And you can connect with Carlos 

Speaker 2 (44:20):

At Carlos creates 2018 on Instagram. Um, and that's sort of my main place right now. 

Speaker 1 (44:28):

You know, what people are using LinkedIn. LinkedIn is like having a moment these days as well. So 

Speaker 2 (44:34):

It is, I'll take your LinkedIn page folks. <laugh>, 

Speaker 1 (44:39):

Honestly, it's super important. But thank you so much Carlos for coming on for to you and Omar for being kind of last minute guests. I thought this conversation would be more interesting with the two of you as part of it, and it definitely was. Do you have any final, final words? 

Speaker 2 (44:54):

Yeah, just, um, adding on to what you were saying about coaching, um, and the, the cost given recent, um, events in the country and sort of different movements finally getting, um, getting platforms and money. There are some coaches, um, that have, uh, specials for people of color, for queer folks, for women. Um, so definitely in your browsing. Um, if you check any of those boxes, um, definitely look for, for those options. Um, reach out talk if you have, uh, community within your department, um, with your fellow students, with your peers, um, fellow instructors, that might be a nice place to start to, um, just begin to think about these things differently to get more perspectives than just, uh, the three of us today. 

Speaker 1 (45:44):

All right. Thanks so much with Steven the next episode. 

Speaker 2 (45:47):


Speaker 1 (45:52):

That's it for this week's episode of the Millennial PhD. You can find more content, resources and information on Instagram at the millennial PhD in this collective moment of reevaluating our relationships with work and exploitation. I look forward to connecting with you and building stronger bonds of community and collaboration. I would love to hear from you via email at the millennial PhD with any feedback, comments, questions, or concerns, or if you're interested in coming on the show as a guest. That's all for now. It's been real. See you next time.