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.
I’ve spent most of my procrastination time while in graduate school conducting any number of exploratory job searches like the one in this series. Regardless of the industry that I explore, I inevitably reach many of the same conclusions. As a PhD in the humanities I’m incredibly employable and yet, there are limitations built into my university’s institutional support system that severely affect my capacity to envision meaningful translation of my work and a smooth transition to a career outside of the university. Many many times I have reached this moment and stopped my search, frozen by the anxieties and frustrations that pop up when reading job descriptions that simultaneously describe me, deny me, and require additional training for the purpose of translating labor that the university has failed to articulate. From this stance, making a leap towards active career preparation isn’t easy, but the process of taking intentional steps towards this leap is actually the most important result of an exploratory job search (otherwise you—like me—are just procrastinating).
Once you’ve gathered and analyzed job listings that are interesting to you in a given industry, it’s important to step back and figure out how to identify available training opportunities and relevant work experiences. These are the local and accessible resources that will allow you to take action throughout the completion of your degree in order to make sure that you are employable. Recently Melissa Dalgleish published a short article on Inside Higher Ed about the value of treating one’s time in graduate school as time that is full of opportunities to train for the workplace. If you know a little bit about what experiences you’d like to acquire—say you’ve been conducting some exploratory job searches—it’s much easier to take her advice and navigate the myriad campus and online resources that are available to you. By researching your local landscape for additional courses, paid internships, and networking opportunities through the results of your exploratory job searches, you will be more strategic and efficient with your time.
For example, if we go back to the main categories of work in the Google roles we found, we see a few major fields:
- Program or Project Management
- Marketing & Communications
- Content Strategy
- User Experience Research
Depending on how you’d like to engage with these kinds of roles—or which audiences you wish to work with in the future—you will know which of these are most fitting. But once you’ve identified categories that interest you, navigating available resources becomes much easier. Most UC Campuses currently have purchased contracts with www.lynda.com so that staff, faculty, and students have free access to training resources available on the site. If your campus only allows staff access, see if you can advocate for your department to get access for graduate students based on their status as teaching staff for the university. What’s great about Lynda is that you can search for “learning paths” in certain areas of work in order to learn about required skills. If you have time to take a few courses on the site, you’ll get a pretty quick sense of whether or not you’re even interested in the work itself.
Examples of relatively short Learning Paths at Lynda are:
You might also find paths or courses on Lynda that will help you identify relevant coursework on your campus or through UC Extension. At UCLA Extension, for example, there is a certificate program in Design Communication Arts that trains students for career transitions and prepares them with working portfolios. However, this option costs $15,250 so it’s well worth it to analyze that coursework carefully and find comparable free resources on your campus or online. Bolstering your coursework experiences will also give you access to highly-paid internships. Companies like Huge offer competitive summer internships in Experience Design, while Facebook offers Content Strategy Fellowships & Summer work opportunities. Once you know what kind of work you’d like to explore, you may also conduct regional or local searches on www.indeed.com and www.LinkedIn.com and find networks of people nearby who are interested in speaking with you or even hiring you part-time.
All of these opportunities can be a bit overwhelming and possibly distracting from your studies. But the truth is that the process of familiarizing yourself with available resources based on a variety of exploratory career paths will allow you to navigate your time in graduate school more purposefully. Setting aside time to gain more skills, network, and explore your options doesn’t necessarily pull you off of the tenure track either. There are a number of Graduate Student Research positions across the UC that offer stipends and fee waivers for roles that consist of much more than teaching. These are great opportunities to build additional skills and actively engage with the university as a massive administrative entity. All in all, the process of engaging in exploratory job searches while in graduate school can lead us down some interesting paths, lend confidence to our thoughts on the future, and remind us that we are excellent researchers—even for ourselves.