I am giving a graduation speech on Thursday for my undergraduate department and I'm a little nervous about the dinner afterward. The faculty who asked me to give the speech said I should talk about my experiences in undergrad, what I've done since graduating, where I'm at now and what I would like to do in the future. I have stuck to this request, except for the last part about what I would like to do in the future as I have recently had a change of heart... or at least have decided to look into various options.
I have been working towards a TT position for as long as I've known I wanted a PhD. All of my previous advisors know this and have encouraged me to do just that. They've written me letters of recommendation, talk about what a fantastic teacher I'll be and how much I'll love having a permanent position. I went to R1 (or Research Intensive as they're now called I think) schools for undergrad and graduate school so my training and the expectations that surround me all lead to a TT research intensive academic job... but I have recently started to look into non-academic positions.
Although I've been thinking about this for a while it's taken a while to convince myself that it was okay for me to look into non-academic positions. Because it took a while to convince myself I haven't really spoke to other people about this decision. I've started to talk about it and although everyone I've told so far (collaborators, my post doc mentor, my grad advisor, fellow graduate students in my old program) has been really supportive, they all have think it's a sudden departure from what I've always wanted. It really is not sudden at all, as I mentioned before I've been thinking about this for a long time, just wasn't ready to admit to myself that I may be happier in a non-academic setting.
I don't know why I'm so worried about what my undergraduate mentors will think when I tell them. I could avoid the question about what I'm doing about a job next year (they do know I only have a one year contract here, and about the difficulties of getting grant funding right now), but I want to talk about my options. I want to not be worried about these things. I want to be able to share my thought process and get their advice.
Instead I feel like I'm not living up to their expectations, that they'll be disappointed and that somehow even the thought of stepping out of academia may be seen as a failure.