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Leaving the Ivory Tower: Managing the Emotional Side of Career Change


Dara Wilson-Grant, LCMHC, Director of Postdoctoral Career and Professional Development at UNC Chapel Hill

A large part of how we define ourselves and how others define us is based on what we do for a living – our professional identity. But what happens when we are no longer a [fill in the blank]? How do we deal with the loss of self, the loss of professional status, the loss of affiliation with an elite group that we’ve been aligned with as long as we can remember?

The overall loss of identity that we feel when we decide to leave academia is comparable to healing after the loss of a loved one or after the breakup of a long-term, and possibly dysfunctional, relationship. Letting go can be difficult, but we have to let go and give ourselves permission to grieve before reaching a point where we are ready to commit to making a career change.

In this informative session, participants will learn about the emotional obstacles that can keep us stuck in an academic career path that is no longer fulfilling. Participants will also learn how former postdocs and graduate students found the courage to follow a more rewarding career path.

Dara Wilson-Grant, Director of Postdoctoral Career and Professional Development, will discuss:

  • Strategies for letting go and moving on to form, and eventually embrace, a new professional identity.
  • Resources that can help you navigate through the transition phase and into a more rewarding career.
Dara Wilson-Grant

SpeakerDara Wilson-Grant is Director of Career and Professional Development at the UNC Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and a Licensed Professional Counselor. With over fifteen years of experience providing career education and counseling, Dara’s mission is to help individuals develop a framework for choosing a meaningful and rewarding career path, plus develop the skills necessary for a lifetime of career success.

This event is part of the Academic Job Search Series and the Careers Beyond Academia series, sponsored by The Graduate School and the Office of Postdoctoral Services.


Academic Job Search Series, Careers Beyond Academia, Professional Development, Self Awareness