Jo Van Every and Julie Clarenbach are post-academic career coaches. I’ve seen both of them crop up on Versatile PhD and in various post-academic google searches, and became curious about their services for those of us exiting academia. They offer a free “Myths & Mismatches” e-course at their website, and were kind enough to allow me to write a review of it. (I received no compensation, and I approached them for permission to write the review.)
Academic Coach Taylor needs to branch out into post-academic coaching!!
Myths and Mismatches is free, first of all. So that’s good, especially when you are a broke-ass ex grad student. And they don’t hook you in to a bunch of spammy crap when you sign up: bonus! You receive the “course” in 10 emails over the course of 10 days, alternating between the myths (lies about academic life) and mismatches (structural factors of academia that misalign with aspects of regular life or individual personality).
The myths are bracingly vulgar and completely accurate. In Myth #3, “Merit is everything,” they write:
One of academias very favorite myths is that everything within it is based on merit. Only the best students are accepted to the graduate program. The best students get fellowships and scholarships. The best students get the best jobs. The best work gets published. The best candidates get tenure. And then theres the flip side: If you didnt get in to the program of your choice, its because you werent good enough… Even when we choose to walk away, these stories of failure dog us. (In our own minds, if nowhere else.) Leave before tenure? Its because you couldnt hack it. Decided not to go on the job market because you didnt want to stay in academia? You wouldnt have gotten a job anyway. Decided not to finish graduate school because its making you hate the universe? You werent smart enough to finish.
Excuse our language, but this is all a fucking load of steaming crap.
Anyone who’s spent a few hours with grad students will find the myths resonant and refreshing.
The mismatches are a little harder to make sense of, just because I wasn’t ever really sure what “mismatch” means. Does it mean I’m a mismatch for grad school? Or grad school is a mismatch for the real world? The mismatches seem to come from nowhere and have no locus or agency. For example, in Mismatch #1, “Mismatch of Opportunity,” Jo and Julie write:
So much of academic success is really lucky timing — being in the right place at the right time with just the right set of skills and credentials and time and money and space. Some of this can be engineered — but some of it can’t. And because it can’t, many academics find themselves with a mismatch of opportunity… They aren’t failures any more than not being able to be President because you were born overseas is a failure. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s got nothing to do with you personally. A mismatch of opportunity is just that — a mismatch — and it’s more about timing and luck than it is a comment on your worth as a person or quality as an academic.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this (or some of the other mismatches): they seem to say, “It’s no one’s fault, that’s just how it is.” I appreciate the effort to alleviate guilt and negativity, but am not sure “mismatch” is the best way to describe these structural aspects of academia that make them horrible places for most people to make a life. At the same time, I’m not sure what else I would call them, and certainly don’t know if I could find another M word that would give them that nice alliteration in the titles!
If you’re looking to deprogram from the cult of academia, this is a great place to start, just to reorient yourself to reality and boost your confidence moving forward. But I think these would be even more powerful as preventative measures: if you’re a college kid thinking about graduate school, sign up for this e-course. If you’re smart and kicking ass in your coursework and wondering where to take your hotshot self next, take this e-course. Like forest fires, graduate school is best prevented. Read these essays and ask yourself if you are really the exception to the rule for every mismatch. Ask yourself if you have fallen for some of the myths they describe – I certainly had – and what changes when your eyes are open to these fantasies about academic life. Then please, do anything but go to grad school. Hire Jo and Julie, or post a comment here, or go camping: just say no to grad school.