Chasing Chickens

When Life after Higher Education Doesn't Go the Way You Planned

Rachel Neff

So, you have your PhD, the academic world’s your oyster, but teaching jobs, it turns out, are as rare as pearls. Take it from someone who’s been there: your disappointment, approached from a different angle, becomes opportunity. Marshaling hard-earned wisdom tempered with a gentle wit, Rachel Neff brings her own experiences to bear on the problems facing so many frustrated exiles from the groves of academe: how to turn “This wasnt the plan!” into “Why not?”

Fully expecting to be Doctor or Professor Neff someday, Neff instead found herself in the company of the 66 percent of doctoral graduates—more than 35,000 a year—who cannot find a full-time, tenure-track teaching job. In Chasing Chickens, she retraces the steps that took her from her moment of reckoning (aka “failure”) to a new way of seeing and grasping success. Each chapter in her pilgrim’s progress along an unlikely career path—whether revealing how she ended up chasing chickens on New Year’s Eve or explaining what happens when a PhD becomes an executive assistant (The Devil Wears Prada with a dash of Portland plaid? Yes, please!)—comes with the benefit of hindsight, lessons as practical as they are entertaining. How to face a fear of “No”; how to see the bigger picture; how to find your next career, ace an interview, and stick the landing: with every step, Neff takes the uncertainty and stress out of reinventing yourself, suggests fresh approaches along new directions, and provides the tools for finding, and making, your own way.

“Rachel Neff’s story of the best-laid plans of doctoral students reminds us all that life offers many paths to success. Her resilience teaches valuable lessons as she struggles with horrendous interviews, dauntingly intense academic documents, and an employers seemingly random expectation that she chase literal chickens on New Years Eve. Neff’s experience is atypical only in its specific details; many science trainees face obstacles, and Chasing Chickens provides an important reassurance that—though they may feel otherwise on a daily basis—they are competent, they are deserving, and they are not alone.”

—Adam Ruben, Science careers columnist and author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School

Finally, as if enlightenment, guidance, and the occasional moment of hilarity weren’t enough, her book offers every academic itinerant the chance to one day look back and say: “At least I didn’t have to chase chickens.”

About the Author

Rachel Neff, the owner of Exceptional Editorial in Portland, Oregon, has worked as a digital strategist, a copy editor, an adjunct instructor, and a tutor. She is the author of The Haywire Heart and Other Musings on Love and has published in numerous anthologies and magazines.

Additional Titles in the Rethinking Careers, Rethinking Academia Series