Finding Meaning in Life After Academia - Lecture

One of the greatest challenges with leaving academia is trying to find a sense of meaning in life after years of believing that academic work is somehow more valuable than any other kind of work. This frustration can manifest itself in generally despondency about the void you can feel without academic work and second, unhappiness with how meaningless your everyday tasks are at your new job.

What can you do to prepare?

In this lecture, Dr. Elizebeth Segran will discuss

  • Deconstructing your time in academia. Academia is sold as a bundled package of tasks and responsibilities:  teaching, close reading, research, public speaking.  Take time to remember about what drew you to the academy in the first place and consider the daily tasks that you most enjoyed doing.
  • How to give yourself time in your new career (and to give yourself at least a year for things to get better).
  • How you can use your time outside the office to volunteer, do freelance projects or lecture.  Within academia, there are often no boundaries between work and life.  In the non-academic world, you do not need to depend on your day job to be your sole source of happiness.  While it is unlikely that you will find work that fulfils you in exactly the same way that academia did, you can piece together a life that includes all of the same elements, rearranged slightly differently.
  • How to recalibrate your expectations and think of ways of pursuing their passions and interests in diverse ways, rather than through a single career.


Elizabeth Segran is a writer, whose work has been published in a range of publications including Foreign Affairs, The Nation, The Atlantic and Salon. Her book, The River Speaks, was published in 2012 by Penguin Books.  She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in the field of South and Southeast Asian Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality.  She is an expert on India, having devoted a decade to studying its history, literature, culture and gender dynamics. She is a global nomad who grew up in Brussels, Paris, Singapore, Jakarta and London before moving to New York to attend Columbia University. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA with her books.