While I was driving from LA to Irvine to start my summer internship at the UC Humanities Research Institute, I decided to catch up on a This American Life Podcast. In a slight departure from the standard format, Ira Glass explained that his intention with “The Radio Drama Episode” (#528) was to remain faithful to the journalistic goal of telling true stories, but to do so in novel and dramatized ways. “The fact is, there are so many ways you can tell a true story,” Ira explained to me as I hurdled down the 405. “There are so, so many ways.”
When I first decided to start my PhD program in 2010 my dream was to become a professor, but my goal was to finish my PhD I knew that the job market for Humanities professors wasn’t good (this was also around the time that seemingly every other op-ed piece condescendingly explained that only the independently wealthy or well-married contingent of society could responsibly decide to pursue a Humanities PhD) so I consciously decided to return to grad school without the final determination of success being tenure-track. I reasoned that self-discovery and the opportunity to contribute to the field were enough, and I don’t regret my choice (except in my darkest moments of dissertation-writing gloom, with which many of you can empathize). But as I’ve started to actively pursue jobs outside of academia I have had to wrestle my narrative away from the default:
That’s not me! I mean, it is me, but I don’t like that version of me. I much prefer:
Doesn’t the second version of me sound like someone who will get a job? But more importantly, doesn’t it sound like someone who will get a job that she wants?
UPDATE: Since writing this article, I have been offered a job at McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm that actively recruits PhDs. For a bit of perspective, out of my husband’s MBA class, not a single student got this position. That makes my PhD very, very valuable, and I can guarantee you will never hear me call it “useless.”