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How much should I let outside job prospects influence my research area?


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Hi there--I know things are pretty tenuous in higher ed right now, and as such I'm deeply considering my ability to pivot into a career outside the academy if academic posts aren't forthcoming upon the completion of a PhD, especially positions that might allow me to adjunct in order to keep my CV current. I have been pulled in three different research areas, all of which I have great interest and investment, and am wondering if you have any thoughts on which are more translateable to "real world" jobs, not to mention what kind of jobs those would be

  • pastoral care and theology
    • pros: past ministry experience, previous pastoral care classes, one master's thesis was very much in this area
    • cons: compassion fatigue--which I'm already feeling--and struggles with faith
  • late medieval religious culture and history
    • pros: passion area I've been nerdy about since childhood, have research interests in areas where more work is needed, found some faculty whose interests closely align with mine
    • cons: seems least practical outside of academia, previous schools didn't offer much in this specific area, not sure about language requirements
    • ?: interdisciplnary CV might make me stand out... not sure yet if it would be in a good or bad way
  • religion and literature
    • pros: interdisciplinary CV covers these two areas, strong writing sample in mind from class with recommender
    • cons: fear it would ruin my love of fiction, not yet sure about a specific research question except that I'm looking at twentieth century British literature

Thanks so much for your thoughts. I know every humanities PhD seems to have their own horror story of job hunting, but I also know that such struggles seem to produce a fair amount of wisdom, and I'm grateful for yours on the matter.

Edited by possibleapplicant
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If you went with medieval religious culture/history, would you be interested in a job at a religious secondary school? I'm no expert on that market, but it's an option that may be less competitive than academia while allowing you to pursue your interests.

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On 9/20/2020 at 10:03 PM, possibleapplicant said:

I have been pulled in three different research areas, all of which I have great interest and investment, and am wondering if you have any thoughts on which are more translateable to "real world" jobs, not to mention what kind of jobs those would be

As you make your calculations for a potential pivot, please keep in mind that AI and ASI will be used to fill ever more positions. So the quest is not just for transferable skills, but transferable skills that cannot be done for less by a robot.

Please also keep in mind that even in the face of increasing odds against getting an academic job, you may end up in a department with a lot of true believers. Right or wrong, they may not be pleased to find that you're thinking about alternatives. 

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