I failed at getting into grad school (long-term goal: become a professor), which caused me to rethink my medium-term (5 year) priorities, but I don't know how best to communicate this to interviewers without sounding like this is just a back-up plan.

It is true when I give my shpiel about why I came out of University, having studied Philosophy, and chose to pursue digital marketing (interviewing for my first job in digital marketing atm, in PPC/SEO junior exec sort of roles). And it's all nice and dandy.

But I feel like I'm not being fully honest, in a way that's hindering their trusting me. It was failing to get into grad school that set me down the path of re-evaluating just what I want to do in the medium term. It made me think about whether I want to go straight down that path, or maybe I should try working in the real world for a while and pursuing other interesting routes, and come back to the idea of grad school later.

But I can't just *say* that. For one thing, I think it's a bit improper to talk about my personal career goals in that - they don't care about my aspirations and hopes in some big picture way, they want to know why I'm committed to this job. But also, I think it sounds like I just failed at one thing and now this is a rebound. Which in a way it is: I wouldn't be interviewing for these roles if I'd gotten any offers for grad school. And honestly, 5 years down the road I plan to re-evaluate where I'm at, ask myself if this is still the right path or if I should consider grad school again.

I think it makes me sound quite smart and capable, when I show that I've thought sensibly about all this, but it also makes me sound unserious and uncommitted - so I just avoid the topic altogether, and don't mention that the reason I originally went to Uni was to begin down the path of becoming a professor of philosophy, that it guided my choice of subject, that it's where I thought and planned my life to go until earlier this year when I got my rejection letters.

bug_girl's picture

Speaking as someone who advises grad students--even if you had gotten into grad school, you might find yourself working in industry rather than as a professor. The success rate for landing faculty jobs is single digit, these days.

Why not just say you changed your mind? Lots of people major in one thing and then change their goals in college.  Employers don't need to know the minute details of why the change. 

You are far better off career wise having some experience on your resume other than just more school work, if you do go back. It will make you a better faculty advisor too!  You'll also have a better sense of what you want to study as your dissertation project, which is a huge commitment. It should be something you love.

techmgr's picture
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I agree with bug_girl. I did worse than not get into grad school - I got in, spent 6 years of my life there, and failed to get my PhD. Since I was 8 I knew I wanted to be a college professor, and changed my mind as an adult. I decided that I wanted to make a decent living, have some financial security, and not have to move every other year to places I have no interest in living in for a non-tenure track position with the burden of publish or perish hanging over my head. It's a turning point in my answer to the "tell me about yourself" question, and I'm not at all ashamed to admit that I didn't finish if they ask. But usually, the follow-up question from the interviewer is about how I did a 180 from liberals art to IT, not about why I failed to finish. And I have plenty of great things to say about starting a brand new career that make me sound serious, smart, positive, and someone they would want to hire.

Stay positive, do not focus on failure, and remember that not only do they not need to know about your personal failures, I don't really think they care that you didn't get into grad school. 

Hope this helps.