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I spent last weekend with some extended family members. Cousins, uncles, aunts.

They are very smart.

They don’t work in academia.

These cousins and aunts and uncles work in television, advertising, marketing, and public relations.

It is weird hanging out with non-academics.

Here are some differences that I discovered between us and them:

Difference #1 - They Seem To Think They Can Pretty Easily Get Another Job Somewhere Else:

My non-academic creative extended family members don’t seem very worried about their jobs. They seem to be fully confident in their ability to move to another employer. They seem to believe that it is incumbent on their employers to retain them.

And it also sounds as if changing jobs for non-academic creative types is a frequent occurrence. Not that big a deal.

The overriding sense I got is that my aunts and uncles and cousins are talented. That they are the talent. And that as the talent, that their main career concerns are not keeping their jobs (or getting other jobs), but doing interesting and creative work.

Difference # 2- They Are Not Worried About Their Industries:

I’m so used to thinking about the wicked challenges facing higher education (demographics, cost disease, public disinvestment, etc. etc.) that I think that existential crises are normal. My extended non-academic creative family members did not seem to share the existential worry about their industries.

This is not to say that they reported that their jobs are perfect. Or their companies are invulnerable. Rather, it seems that their industries are changing, but that these changes are making the talent within these industries more valuable.

Perhaps if my non-academic extended family members were print journalists then we would have had more in common.

Difference # 3 - They Don't Want to Work in Higher Education:

I asked my creative extended family members, my aunts and uncles and cousins, if they would ever consider working in higher ed. They all looked at me like that was the strangest question imaginable.

All of my extended family members are products of higher education. They have lots of degrees from fancy places. But it did not seem as if going to work at a college or a university was a thought that ever crossed their mind.

I really can’t imagine wanting to work anywhere but in higher education. Sometimes, I assume that everyone must think that way. But that is wrong. At least if my aunts and uncles and cousins are representative of the wider world.

I’d like to learn more about this world of jobs in television and advertising and marketing and public relations.

These jobs seem to me to exist in a foreign country. Or maybe a different universe.

Over the years I’ve spent so much time as a student of higher education that it may be that I’m losing touch with everything outside of academia.

Do you have friends or family members who work outside of higher education?

What do they talk about when they talk about their jobs?

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