This blog post continues our series, Scholar at Large, written by an academic on five places to explore careers outside of the academy.
This blog series has, so far, taken a bird’s-eye view of the stakes and possibilities involved in exploring careers in the humanities more broadly. It’s been encouraging to hear from friends and colleagues who feel ready to move beyond a “damage-control” mentality of job-seeking and find other ways of approaching one’s career path (and from colleagues who want to better support their graduate students). At the same time, many still aren’t sure how, exactly, to proceed.
To get you started, here are five resources that can help you take tangible next steps in your broader humanities career search.
1. Imagine PhD
This is the most comprehensive, clear, and subscription/firewall-free resource I’ve found for career exploration and planning. Once you create an account, you have access to tools that will help you uncover opportunities by bridging the gaps between what your PhD does in academia and what it does in other career pathways (whether addressing those gaps requires building experience or simply shifting vocabulary). These tools include:
- Self-assessments related to skills, interests, and values
- “Job families” with descriptions, application avenues, and sample job materials
- A tool for creating an individual career development plan to help you set specific, achievable, and time-based goals for your career (whether academic or otherwise)
For folks in the humanities, this is an excellent place to start. Thanks to a Mellon Foundation grant, the MLA was able to develop a space for exploring diverse career opportunities for both job-seekers and for departments looking to improve their graduate training. The site includes blogs with perspectives on graduate training and job searching, short articles addressing advice for departments and job-seekers, and profiles of PhDs with careers that are “alternative” to the tenure track. They’ve also collated more pragmatic tools such as planning frameworks, tips for using LinkedIn, or resources for job-searching. One particularly helpful page is Beth Seltzer’s skills self-assessment, practice in job ad analysis, and next step guidance (@beth_seltzer on Twitter).
(Side note: Publics Lab at CUNY is now taking up a lot of this work and moving it forward.)
3. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook
This is, admittedly, a rather unexpected resource, but it’s actually quite informative! The site gives you ways to explore jobs within particular labor categories, and for some jobs, it also includes guidance on how to pursue that career path. The handbook also provides information on things like:
- Typical duties
- Work schedules and environments
- Median pay
- Projected employment prospects
- Data on local and regional opportunities
- Suggestions for similar occupations
- Places to look for more information on particular careers (and where to apply for jobs in that career)
4. Subscription-based online communities
There are a handful of growing online communities that provide built-in tools, networks, and guidance for career exploration. The two I’ve seen come up most often are Versatile PhD and Beyond the Professoriate. Some of their resources can only be accessed behind a subscription paywall, but even their free resources are quite helpful.
5. Use the networks you already have!
These include your secondary and tertiary contacts on LinkedIn, your college alumni networks, and the people you know outside of academia (like the cousins you only see at obligatory family gatherings, your friends from church or from Teach for America, etc.). Use these networks to set up informational interviews—which are, in fact, just conversations. When you make these connections, you are cultivating your own professional communities along with developing a sense of how you might fit in a particular field.
Academic Twitter is also a fantastic way of building networks, discovering opportunities, and finding (free!) resources. Folks like Jennifer Polk (@FromPhDtoLife on Twitter), co-founder of Beyond the Professoriate, actively tweet advice and resources and foster connections across PhD and professional communities.
Just taking some time to investigate these options will help you broaden your thinking about your work, give you a better picture of your own capacities and worth, and build a network of humanities practitioners. Enjoy the process!
Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.
Author bio: Dr. Molly Appel is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Penn State University. Her research explores how literature works a space of teaching and learning for human rights and social justice in the Americas. You can find her on Twitter @mollyappel.