Why I Transitioned from Academia to SEO

I always loved school. I wanted to be a film studies professor, but I lost my love for the vocation after encountering the reality of the crushing academic job market, the exploitation of grad students and adjuncts, and my growing lack of self-esteem in a non-supportive institutional environment.

I’m currently an SEO Manager. 

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was not my first choice in a career, but it ended up being the best fit. This blog post is meant to detail my personal experience navigating my career journey from academia.

Me awkwardly about to teach a class at Indiana University

What Do I Do Next In My Career?

The biggest hurdle was making a damn decision. I’m very indecisive. The world is very wide and directionless and you need to ask yourself serious questions to find clarity. Clarity isn’t about making the right decision, but making the right decision at the time for you and understanding the risks and benefits.

In my pursuit of finding a new career path, I dabbled in the following areas for various periods of time. I learned a lot about what I enjoy, and what I didn’t enjoy. For example, I was interested in Data Science, but I’m not a math whiz.

  1. Content Creation
  2. Data Science
  3. User Experience Research
  4. Non-Profit Work
  5. App Development
  6. Service Industry (out of necessity)
  7. Digital Marketing
  8. Website Development
  9. PR
  10. Data Analytics

Why SEO?

I learned about SEO when I first made my personal website and for a brief time when I was working on content creation for a tech startup. SEO honestly sounded very “buzzwordy.” The more I talked to actual professionals in the industry, that began to change my worldview. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is about making content more visible to search engines. It’s not about gaming the system, but understanding how the system works and knowing the best practices to make your web properties succeed in organic search.

Informational Interviews And SEO

It’s a core belief of After Your PhD that informational interviews are career-changing. Asking questions and finding clarity is what informational interviews are all about. By talking to industry professionals, I could see that SEO was a career I should be pursuing. During my transition, I probably had about 10-15 separate SEO-centric informational interviews.

A recurring phrase I recall from my informational interviews was that “they fell into SEO.” SEO is a field where a degree is not a requirement. Right now, you can go buy a domain and start a website yourself and practice SEO techniques. Seeing people from all walks of life was very reassuring.

The Turning Point – Networking And An SEO Internship

The biggest turning pointing point was appearing for a LinkedIn video on 1000 Hires. It was a short video where I was interviewed about my career interests and they shared it with their network. I was introduced to someone from a digital marketing company and he refereed me to an SEO internship. Once I landed the SEO internship, things began to change. I was learning a lot from people at my internship and I got to talk to dozens of people and ask them questions. It also helped me land my current role. Being able to also put “SEO Intern” made a huge difference for recruiters searching for “SEO Analyst” on LinkedIn. I was actually getting interest from recruiters.

After going through a few interviews, I began my new role as an SEO analyst in September 2021.

Biggest Takeaways

I’m sure I’m missing something in my career journey, but if I had to leave you with 5 things, it would be the following.

  1. Ask a lot a questions.
  2. Network yesterday.
  3. Share your journey on social media.
  4. If you can get an industry internship, do it.
  5. Don’t have experience? Buy a domain and start making a website.

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