I’m in my second year of a tenure-track position, but for multiple reasons would like to leave academia. Realistically, I may need to stick it out through the end of the spring semester, but my physical/emotional health has been greatly affected.
How much notice did you have to give? What kind of preparations did you take before giving notice? Do you have links to resources about others who have left t-t jobs?
You can, of course, quit your TT job mid-semester. But generally it is best to do it at the semester break, just as a professional courtesy. Bonus points for doing it at the year break and letting them know before the end of summer. If you don’t have a job lined up, I would recommend, know for yourself that you are quitting in May — but don’t tell them until April or May. (Or the latest you can get away with no longer lying. That was a personal thing for me [ed: raised Catholic], I didn’t want to lie directly to their faces and say I’d be back when I wouldn’t, but I had no trouble letting them assume that I would.) Don’t tell them right now, though, because the other faculty may treat you badly for the rest of the time you are there. Try to go out nicely and politely, and protect yourself.
Don’t be a dick and leave them in the lurch mid-semester if you can possibly help it. But sometimes you can’t help it. If you get the non-academic job of your dreams, then don’t feel guilty about leaving with two weeks’ notice if you can’t easily delay your start date to a semester. In the absence of a rare job opportunity, giving 2 weeks’ notice is not unheard-of, but would be kind of annoying. It’s legal though (Disclaimer: to the best of our knowledge… you may want to anonymously check with legal or with HR).
It’s perfectly ok to call in sick a lot for the rest of the year if you are actually sick (physically, emotionally, feeling awful, etc.). Try to minimize the impact on your students, but take the sick days to which you are entitled. See if you can put some classes online so you don’t have to go in as much, or give your students library time or whatever you can do to cut your losses and keep yourself sane. Calling in sick also works with boring committee meetings. Those are much easier to ditch than are students, and they probably will barely notice. Show up to the high-visibility stuff. Reduce the amount of time you spend commenting in detail on student work. [#2 would still show up to all classes, assuming nothing communicable]
Before quitting, read this book, it provides things to think about financially in terms of your escape route. Both #1 herself and #2’s DH took/have been taking a while to find new jobs. You want to be able to have some time to be picky about jobs if you can (assuming you don’t find employment before leaving), rather than having to take something minimum wage right away, and in the best case scenario, you won’t go into further debt while unemployed. It is important both to build up a savings buffer and to get your expenses down. (Most likely you will not be getting unemployment payments because it is difficult to engineer a layoff from the TT.) Just having an escape plan can often make the “now” seem more bearable. Plus you can stop caring about department drama and say no to things more often.
What kind of job you should be looking for is going to depend a lot on the supply and demand in your field. #2’s DH, for example, is working for a company doing exactly the work he was trained to do as a graduate student. He’s also writing (and getting) more grants and doing more publications than he had time for back when he was teaching a 3/3 load with undergrads and going to faculty meetings once a week. #1’s profession isn’t quite as marketable, but she’s still holding out for a research position related to her training and will likely be successful. Update: If you are in a tech field, check out Cloud’s book on the non-academic job search.
People in many humanities fields may have to get a job that doesn’t directly use skills from graduate school. They may have to settle for a day job that, while using analytical thinking, organizational, and writing skills doesn’t involve reading novels, doing archival research, etc. But, you know, also pays better. #2 knows a couple of historians who still publish (and publish well), and go to the occasional academic conference (especially when it’s nearby) but have unrelated day jobs in consulting and finance. One of them told her that even though he could now get an academic job at a university based on his publication record and had been invited to apply several places, he didn’t want to take the pay cut, so historical research remains a hobby. Academia really is just a job, but there are other jobs too. Research, like many things, can be either a job or a hobby.
Here are some other links:
Good luck with everything! Build that escape plan so that you can take a measured risk and remember that you are not trapped. You will get through this.
Any more advice for E, Grumpy Nation? Do any of you have links to resources about others who have left t-t jobs?