As some of us enter the twilight of our tenure as graduate students here at UCSB, we also have to begin to prepare for our future career. Some of us have received career advice from different people, both inside and outside of academia. Some of it is good advice, other advice, not so good. Right? Many of us have also had to work our whole time as students (undergraduate and/or graduate), oftentimes holding more than one job at a time. However, have you ever thought about how these positions of employment could fit into your future career? If you haven't, then you should! You should remember that although you are not being paid a full-time salary, you are more than likely receiving top-notch professional development from your supervisor/s. Another way of seeing your employment is as a "contingency plan" for your future job or career hunt. Here's why: There are not enough academic positions available in today's job market, even for those with a Ph.D.
There was a recent article contributed to Inside Higher Education that addressed this very issue, although from a different perspective. The article is titled "Have a Contingency Plan." The author, Nate Kreuter, argues that advising would-be graduate students to apply to "only graduate or terminal degree programs if they can only envision themselves as professors" is bad advice. Kreuter suggests that if you can't picture yourself as only being a professor, then that's not a bad thing either. Although Kreuter is a professor, he also mentions that he could "envision himself doing many other things utilizing the skills and knowledge he acquired from graduate school." Kreuter also suggests that even when graduate students are certain they want to be career professors, they should still explore, and apply, for employment in non-academic fields related to their areas of study and/or interests. "I think that it is only prudent in these times of scarce academic employment for you to cultivate some viable alternatives prior to actually going into the academic job market."
Recently there has been a growing effort on campus to help promote non-academic career exploration and professional development opportunities. The Career Services department does a wonderful job of facilitating workshops on searching and preparing for non-academic careers. Molly Steen, the graduate advisor for Career Services, can assist you with your non-academic career exploration.The Career Services staff can assist with developing or revising your resume or CV; perform a search for non-academic employment (discipline-specific or not), as well as prepare for job talks or interviews. The Career Services department is definitely one of our best resources as graduate students for fine-tuning our job search efforts.
Given today's state of employment for recent graduate students, I agree with Nate Kreuter that it is in our best interest to also explore employment opportunities outside of professorial appointments. I also believe that there should be more flexibility for employment for those with advanced or professional degrees. For example, we can get involved with or create our own business; for-profit or non-profit organization; and utilize your network of graduate peers, advocates and mentors to help develop and sustain your company. Of course, there are plenty of other ideas for entrepreneurial work as an academic; you just have to be open enough to explore the possibilities.