What are you going to do with that?

It's job-hunting season in the academic world. But in some fields, teaching posts (especially on the tenure track) are harder to find than a parking space in a crowded neighborhood.

Even before graduate students get to the point of searching for a job, though, the career question looms: "So what are you going to do with that?" people often ask when they hear the subject of study. Especially parents or spouses who might be wondering whether they should keep subsidizing research on medieval writers or an obscure insect species.

Now there's a career guide bearing that very question as its title, written for graduate students and even faculty who want to envision a life outside the familiar scene of academia.

Authors Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius both earned PhDs in English from Princeton University and then found themselves carving out "postacademic" jobs. They prefer that word to "nonacademic," to emphasize that the skill sets and intellectual challenges people tend to value at universities can be found in a multitude of other places, too.

Their book is full of practical tips and anecdotes from people who - like those featured in today's lead story - have turned academic study into fulfilling careers in everything from marketing to community building. It shows how to take small steps to overcome mental barriers, like the feeling that anything other than a finished dissertation and professorship means failure.

The main theme is summed up in one of the book's exhortations, and it may ring true for anyone who is using this new-year time to set personal goals: "Move toward what you love, rather than shrinking from what you fear."

E-mail teichers@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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