Victoria Goddard, Creative Writer, Cheesemonger, and Small-Business Owner

Victoria Goddard, Creative Writer, Cheesemonger, and Small-Business Owner

BY: as told by Victoria Goddard / as written by Catherine Nygren

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Victoria GoddardWhen I started my doctoral program in medieval studies, I knew I wasn’t going to pursue an academic career, but it was still difficult to resist the expectation that you should. I finished my dissertation on the poetics and philosophy of Dante and Boethius over the course of five years, plus a year I took off in the middle to process my sister’s death. Others in my cohort had family deaths, marriages, bed bugs—life doesn’t stop while you do your PhD.

My supervisors supported me, and pointed out that the steps that lead to an academic career will set you up well for any field. In my fourth year, I moved to Halifax and taught at King’s for three years. By that point, although it was an ideal job and I enjoyed teaching, I decided that there were elements from the academic career I didn’t want: I’m a creative writer, and I’m not interested in the publish-or-perish mentality, moving from place-to-place for adjunct jobs, or climbing the academic ladder.

I decided that if I was going to go for a job that didn’t pay much, I would do the thing I really wanted to do: work at being a creative writer. Since then, I’ve been cobbling together jobs: at a bookstore, as a gardener, as a sexton for a church, with no pay but free accommodation. Now, I’ve just started my own cheese business, and this entrepreneurial life is rewarding and satisfying!

The skills of managing time, working for yourself, being self-driven, having and fulfilling small- and long-term goals, etc.—all are exceptionally valuable. As students, we don’t always see that we’re learning skills that aren’t just academic, or that our personalities are a good fit for careers—especially non-traditional, non-corporate careers like self-employment—outside of academia.

It’s challenging to start at the bottom, but at the same time, we shouldn’t be arrogant and think that there isn’t anything to learn in academic jobs. I’m proud to say that I can talk about Dante and about cheese!

Victoria GoddardWhen I started my doctoral program in medieval studies, I knew I wasn’t going to pursue an academic career, but it was still difficult to resist the expectation that you should. I finished my dissertation on the poetics and philosophy of Dante and Boethius over the course of five years, plus a year I took off in the middle to process my sister’s death. Others in my cohort had family deaths, marriages, bed bugs—life doesn’t stop while you do your PhD.

My supervisors supported me, and pointed out that the steps that lead to an academic career will set you up well for any field. In my fourth year, I moved to Halifax and taught at King’s for three years. By that point, although it was an ideal job and I enjoyed teaching, I decided that there were elements from the academic career I didn’t want: I’m a creative writer, and I’m not interested in the publish-or-perish mentality, moving from place-to-place for adjunct jobs, or climbing the academic ladder.

I decided that if I was going to go for a job that didn’t pay much, I would do the thing I really wanted to do: work at being a creative writer. Since then, I’ve been cobbling together jobs: at a bookstore, as a gardener, as a sexton for a church, with no pay but free accommodation. Now, I’ve just started my own cheese business, and this entrepreneurial life is rewarding and satisfying!

The skills of managing time, working for yourself, being self-driven, having and fulfilling small- and long-term goals, etc.—all are exceptionally valuable. As students, we don’t always see that we’re learning skills that aren’t just academic, or that our personalities are a good fit for careers—especially non-traditional, non-corporate careers like self-employment—outside of academia.

It’s challenging to start at the bottom, but at the same time, we shouldn’t be arrogant and think that there isn’t anything to learn in academic jobs. I’m proud to say that I can talk about Dante and about cheese!

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