Chasing Unicorns?: Alternative Career Prospects and Life Outside Academia (Roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA18)
contact email: 

It is no secret that over the years, the number of PhD graduates and the number of available permanent academic jobs has been inversely disproportionate. Wendler et al.’s 2010 study revealed that a little under 50% of US PhD graduates found academic jobs, most of which are unlikely to be full-time positions, and majority of which go to graduates of more prestigious universities. Yet these numbers rise dramatically once one looks outside the hallowed walls of the North American university. In Canada for example, while it’s estimated that less than 25% of PhD students will end up in tenure-track positions (Charbonneau 2011; Tamburri 2010), general employment rates for PhD graduates are between 90-100% with a median pay of CAD$75,000 (2013 National Graduates Survey). Thus, translating high-level academic skills into careers that are transformative and profitable becomes increasingly pressing at a time when graduate students find themselves needing to diversify their skillset to find meaningful life prospects.

This roundtable seeks to bridge traditional notions of post-PhD careers with the material reality of the current, largely non-academic job market to open the possibility that academia and the fields outside it are not mutually exclusive but can be mutually beneficial. To this end, we invite participants from those in academia, as well as also those who transitioned to fields such as policy, social work, education, for-profit research, and non-profit organizations, among others. Possible talking points may include:

1) communication and cooperation;

2) leadership, administration, and management;

3) creativity and cultural production;

4) entrepreneurship, corporate responsibility, and social accountability

5) teaching and knowledge transfer;

6) ethics and responsible research;

7) applied humanities and social science;

8) personal narratives of shifting perspectives about academia

9) overcoming challenges of transitioning to different fields

Please submit proposals of 250-300 words, with a bio of around 100 words, on how you intend to address one or more of the talking points above. All proposals must be submitted through the NeMLA portal:

NeMLA 2018 will be held from April 12-15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA. Contact Info: 

Christian Ylagan (Western University)