There has been some talk online about Quit-lit: the broad body of work compiled by disgruntled academics leaving research. A recent example garnered mixed responses, including the criticism that “nobody cares that you quit your job“.
This can be disheartening to early-career researchers. Why bother, when those who have already achieved what you are aiming for are leaving?
For me, it comes down to this: academia suits some people, but not all. ‘Success’ in academia is also too-narrowly defined and involves at least some plain old luck. The effect is that lots of good research doesn’t get done, because it doesn’t hit the ‘devils trident’ of success metrics: papers, grants and graduations.
Quit-lit provides an important counter-point to the institutionalisation driven by the professorial pathway, which is, indeed, embedded and systemic. The fact that authors of quit-lit are attacked as whinging is merely symptomatic of this larger issue.
Quit-lit doesn’t necessarily solve anything for anybody – it’s merely driven by the disappointment of good researchers being told that they have failed, when they actually haven’t, and are ‘quitters’, when they are in fact stayers who have stayed too long.
So, what’s the moral of the story? In my opinion, the definition of academic ‘success’ needs to be expanded greatly. Until then, when there is so much you can’t control, why not take control of your communication to help build a career that people do care about?