In response to the May 2017 Humanists@Work Workshop, this blog series explains the practice and value of building exploratory job searches, as discussed by Debra Behrens (PhD Counselor, UC Berkeley), into our habitual research routines. These suggestions encourage you to use Jared Reddick’s resume-writing technique, the Job Description Analysis (JDA), to initiate your search for a fulfilling career before you even start to write your resume. If you’d like to read a bit more about the resume building process in tandem, check out Shawn Warner-Garcia’s 2015 post.
This series walks you through the strategic process of using keywords and online job databases in order to identify and explore potential career paths. It also focuses on industry-specific searches and highlights a variety of opportunities that are available for humanities MAs and PhDs in tech fields. The strategies employed in this column translate across searches in any industry, especially if you are conducting your search with online tools like Indeed.com or LinkedIn. By examining roles and job functions that are relatively unknown, we will gain fluency in some of the languages that describe careers available to people with the advanced skill-sets and experiences inherent to graduate work in the humanities.
The goal of an exploratory job search is not to find a job. Rather, it is to routinely engage in an investigative process that translates your daily activities as a graduate student into a language that is informed by existing job descriptions.
For graduate students who are in the process of transitioning out of the university, the job search outside of academia can be overwhelming, ego crushing, and relatively unintelligible. Some nuances, however, that are particular to transitioning out of graduate school can either hinder or help us when we first open up that search bar for imagining a new future. As we know from qualifying exams, the practice of throwing oneself into a world of unknown buzzwords and jargon can be unsettling. But when approached from the point of view of a trained academic—rather than that of an unemployed academic—an exploratory job search is a research puzzle that any graduate student in the humanities has already mastered along the way to getting a PhD.
As with any type of research, the career search begins with the process setting up some clear parameters. You may not be sure of how to set these up, so take some of the pressure off and approach your initial searches as opportunities to experiment, play with language, and learn how to transform your investigative questions into targeted job search strategies. Once you’ve sifted through a few job sites, you will be able to identify and employ keywords that describe industry-specific teams, areas of specialization, and career paths that stem directly from interests and activities related to your experiences as a graduate student.
Ideally, the process of analyzing a manageable sampling of industry-specific job descriptions will give you a sense of relatable career paths and skillsets.
Here are some of the steps we will be taking throughout this series:
- Compile a list of words that describe your everyday graduate student activities.
- Identify an industry of interest.
- Choose one company that serves as a leader within that industry.
- Generate searches at that company based on the grad activities you’ve identified.
- Analyze the teams or fields that list these activities in job descriptions.
- Broaden your career search based on the cross-functional areas with which these teams frequently collaborate.
- Figure out areas or skill-sets upon which you can improve.
- Identify paid internships or free opportunities to fill gaps in your training.
- Add the parameters that are most important to you, like preferred location and industry.