I read through a post by a friend who has been struck by the changes between working at a start-up and now in academia. I, in turn, have been thinking a lot about whether I’ve been painting myself into a professional corner. Making myself irrelevant to the rest of the working world…
About 4 or 5 years ago, I applied for a job “in corporate” – aka a for-profit company. Here in Silicon Valley, and quite a prominent company. The job requirements were pretty straightforward. It was for product management, and they had both an entry-level and a lead position open. I needed to have 5 years experience managing projects from start to finish for the entry-level position, but at least 5 for the team lead job. To be honest, I was pushing it a bit on the lead job, but as far as my resume sounded, I met the requirements. When I finished my interview, I inquired about whether I could put my name in for the team lead job.
“Well, you don’t meet the job requirements for that position. You need to have at least 5 years experience.”
“I have been managing teams and projects for the last 5 years, as you can see from my resume.”
“Yes, but that’s in higher education. That would be more like 2-3 years if you were in corporate.”
This struck me as a bit odd, since I was not aware of some kind of fractional multiplier when converting from “higher education experience” and “corporate experience.” But at least at this company, there seemed to be something of the kind.
Ever since then, I have been wondering if, as I move along on my career path in academia, I’m boxing myself in, professionally. That I’ll reduce my chances of ever working in corporate with each passing year in some weird way.
It’s not that I’m trying to change careers. And it’s not that there aren’t any jobs out there for higher education professionals. Many companies (admittedly larger ones) have higher education vertical units, where entire groups focus on products being used in academia and/or strategic planning for the market. But it still lingers in the back of my mind that as I make progress one way, I may be making myself less and less relevant other ways.