The uncertainty of Academia

Academia is not known for its job security, even in times without a global pandemic. It is also not known for its linear career trajectory. We know this going in, but it doesn’t mean that the uncertainty is easy. I am at the start of my academic career and I genuinely don’t know where it will take me from here. I think that it is important to become comfortable with this feeling, perhaps even excited by it. 

So many academic roles are based on funding, on student numbers, on the structure of the university, on being at the right place and the right time. We are all individuals, and we’ll all approach our careers differently. But, these are some of the ways I am learning to live with the uncertainty.

  • Have a plan B, C, D, E……. I think it is naive to have one goal for our career. We can have dreams and plans, but we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. Have a plan B, C, D, E…..
  • Keep your options open- further from having multiple plans, some of these plans should be outside of academia. Keep an eye on LinkedIn and other job recruitment advertisements. What non-academic jobs are out there? What skills do they need? How can you keep yourself relevant in the industry space while succeeding in academia also?
  • ‘Rainy day funds’- I am sure that many of us have heard the advice to always have a ‘rainy day fund’. This is important- I ensure that my lifestyle is well within the means that my current salary affords. Therefore, if I was to be out of work, I have some security. I know that this isn’t always possible for everyone- but if you can save some of your income now for a ‘rainy day’ then it is important to do so.
  • Side hustles- Going back to my point of ‘not putting all your eggs in one basket’- can you have a side hustle? A blog, an etsy store, freelance copy editing, write a book? I am not pretending that my blog pays ANYwhere near close to a wage, but it gives me something, and again it means that if I am out of work in academia for a while I have something else to full back on
  • The bright side- The bright side to the uncertainty, and also the short term contracts are the opportunities. There are so many positions within academia. So many projects. So many courses. A short term contract ending could also be an opportunity to try something different.


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