Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Separation Anxiety: The Symbolic Trauma of Sacrificing Your Academic Identity

If you read contemporary job search guides (or if you're just a commonsensical tuned-in person) you'll know that your social media presence is nearly as important to how you're regarded by potential employers as your resume.  For someone transitioning careers, this can be tricky.  In my case, there are still people who follow/know me as an academic, but if I leave my online profiles oriented towards that audience, I'll be putting up a big STOP sign for potential nonacademic employers.

So, I'm slowly making changes - like changing my twitter bio and the bio on this page to something that acknowledges my 'transitioning' status (I feel like I'm announcing a sex change . . . ).  I still haven't tackled my main website (davidzmorris.com), where for a little while longer you can read what I have to say about myself as an academic first and foremost.

These are all strictly practical moves in the game of life.  And for a lot of people, they would be simply practical decisions.  But for myself, and I'm sure for many others in similar situations, there's a kind of existential dread that accompanies changing social media profiles. It's really not at all different from the dread that accompanies turning a C.V. into a resume.  There's not much room in either of those genres, and boy, wouldn't it be tragic if people didn't know HOW AWESOME I AM?  Didn't know all the great articles I've published, all the awesome grants and fellowships I've earned?  There's the threat that one will remain too attached to those old achievements.

I'm trying to view it as a moment of freedom.  I have actually accomplished things outside of academia - but more importantly, I have GOALS outside of academia.  This is a chance not just to change how people see me online, but to rethink how I see myself.  Watch this space as I tweak, poke, and prod that self-presentation/self-perception.

P.S. There is another practical concern.  Even as I'm looking for real-world jobs, my plan is to continue applying for academic jobs for the upcoming cycle, pretty much in case I end up really loathing wherever I end up.  I will have to carefully calibrate my self-presentation so that academic hiring committees really understand where I'm coming from.

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