- Begin by evaluating your relationship with your graduate adviser. Even if you have the best of advisers, she can’t help as much when it comes to alt-ac or compatible careers. Run your career search with the help of multiple advisers – an informal board of directors, if you will.
- Reject any discourse that figures your career using static metaphors. It’s not all or nothing. It’s not academe or bust. The idea of careers inside, outside, or even beyond higher education may not make sense when you’re in the middle of your career.
- Be aware of career choices made by osmosis. If you only hang with one group, you’re likely to absorb the norms of that group. So do a quick diagnosis: Whom do you associate with on a regular basis? Are they a diverse bunch with varying career goals?
- Learn to engage with people outside your field and the university setting. If you are going to strike out in new directions, you’ll need to get used to interacting with people who may never have thought of hiring or collaborating with a Ph.D. Familiarize yourself with organizations and people with whom you might like to work by regularly setting up informational interviews.
- Don’t only shift your attitude – act like an entrepreneur. Allow for more career possibilities by adjusting your habits, expanding your networks and diversifying what you make. Look up key characteristics of an entrepreneur and then cultivate a checklist of ideas that make sense for you and your discipline.
Entries in career (37)
Yardi Systems is having a Technology Job Fair at their office in Goleta on Monday, January 18, from 11:00 a.m.-6 p.m. They have full-time job opportunities for Masters students in computer science, computer engineering, economics, mathematics, statistics, and technology management. If you are a Ph.D. student, consider checking out the fair as well in order to gain valuable networking opportunities and a glimpse into industry positions that are available in the Santa Barbara community.
In my meetings with graduate students, I’ve noticed that a lot of the graduate students generally enjoy having clear expectations for what success looks like. There is a desire to clarify and re-clarify what the expectations are and how to successfully get there. (E.g., can’t you hear your students asking you how long a paper should be, even though you’ve said "it’s quality over quantity"?) Much of what exists for graduate students who are interested in careers in the academy is a clear path towards what it means to be successful and how to get there.
The problem is that clear expectations and a clear path to success is not what exists in the world outside academia.
Author Melanie Nelson wrote a book for graduate students on how to be successful outside of academia. One way she does that is by encouraging students to enhance their "soft skills" but was met with resistance. In her recent Vitae article, Owning Your Career, she says that it is sometimes hard for graduate students to hear they need to work on those aspects (versus just hard/technical skills) because they are also implicitly being told that the road to success is not direct. For those graduate students examining alternative-academic (alt-ac) careers, her main advice is that you need to figure out what success should look like for yourself.
I think her point is raw and important. Success isn’t defined by someone else. It’s up to you to take full ownership of your career.
Click here to read her full article. If you are interested in learning more about careers alongside and outside of academia or how to talk about your Ph.D. skills for non-academic employers, consider attending my workshop next week to clarify your definition of what success looks like for you.
Exploring Careers Alongside and Outside of Academia
Student Resource Building, Room 2154
The holidays are not always an easy time for graduate students, who often face incessant questions from family members asking some version of “So what are you going to do with your graduate degree?” This line of questioning can be especially difficult for grad students who may be struggling with whether to continue in their program, or realizing they don’t want to go into the academia, or not knowing where to look for information on industry or non-academic jobs.
In a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, Stephanie Eberle discusses the many different things graduate students can mean when they say they want to know what their "career options" are. This can often be code for such diverse things as "Should I get my Ph.D. or leave early?" or "I have decided I want to go into research academe, but I want to be sure I’m not missing something" or "I know academe is not for me, but I don’t know what is." No matter where you are in the career preparation process, there are no quick fixes because figuring out your career path requires self-exploration and complex considerations.
Consider taking a moment to read this article and think about how you can make next quarter meaningful for your career search.
If you want to know more about how I can help, come visit me in drop-in hours or schedule an appointment starting January 4.
Graduate Student Consultant
Drop-in hours in SRB 1216: Tuesdays 10 a.m.-noon, 2-3 p.m.; Wednesdays 9 a.m.-noon; Thursdays 1-4 p.m.
"At a karaoke party on the final night of a marine-sciences conference in 2011, graduate student David Shiffman signed up to sing a song that another attendee had also requested. The event director asked the two to do a duet, and they agreed. Shiffman has since forgotten the tune – 'Take on Me' by A-ha or 'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor, perhaps. But the two had a blast, and when they chatted afterwards, Shiffman learned that his singing partner was Chris Parsons, then-president of the marine section of the Society for Conservation Biology in Washington, DC."
In a recent Naturejobs article on conference networking, Emily Sohn describes how this experience led to many more professional doors being opened for Shiffman in his career as an ecologist. But even if the conferences you go to don't feature karaoke nights (relatedly, who can I talk to to make this a staple of every academic gathering?), it remains a fact that most people – and especially young scholars – put more thought into planning which sessions they will attend rather than planning which senior scholars they want to connect with in between those sessions. In her article, Sohn gives advice on how to be courageous yet courteous, how to not tweet like a twit, and overcoming senior scholar starstruck syndrome.
But conferences aren't the only place that crucial career contacts are forged. In another Naturejobs article, Julie Gould points out the many ways in which professional societies can hold the key to better networking and career advancement. By becoming an engaged member in a professional society, you gain access to prominent scholars, leadership opportunities, and insider knowledge on your field.
This age-old question could also be applied to the job market. As Josh Boldt writes in a recent article on Vitae, "Why are some people rewarded for sacrifice and others exploited for it? Why does one Ph.D. land a tenure-track position while another is relegated to a lifetime of adjunct pay?"
While Boldt eschews the idea that all success is entirely attributable to one's personal effort, he offers three pieces of advice that he learned through one failed job search cycle and a subsequent successful job search cycle.
- Know the power of a well crafted CV/resume and cover letter. The more interesting and tailored your CV/resume and cover letter are, the better. Use your application materials to show your personality and use targeted language pulled directly from the job ad you are applying to.
- Effectively manage the value of your labor. As Boldt puts it, "You don’t want to allow yourself to be exploited but you also don’t want to appear to be an inflexible and egotistical ass. You have to learn when it’s OK to give your labor freely (or cheaply) and when you must stand up for yourself and negotiate a better deal." However, even if do decide that give your labor away freely gives you a competitive advantage, don't completely give away your leverage. Negotiate the terms of your free/cheap labor by asking for something in return (such as a contract with clear terms or a promise of future paid work).
- Focus on building strategic relationships. Yup, this means networking. Even if you are introvert, make a point to go to events and meetups to make strategic connections with people in your field(s) of choice. Otherwise, when it comes time to go on the job market, you're the only one that can really vouch for yourself and your experience. It's a lot easier when that labor can be distributed among a network of people who know you and your work.
Read the full article on Vitae's website here.
There is a new face at the Graduate Student Resource Center these days. Lana Smith-Hale joins us as Career Services’ new Graduate Career Consultant. She will be dedicated to helping graduate students prepare for non-academic careers. From her office in the GSRC (located in the Student Resource Building Room 1215), Lana offers drop-in and appointment counseling exclusively for graduate students. She also helps develop targeted career programming and serves as a point-person and liaison for graduate career needs.
Lana has nine years of counseling experience and has spent the last year as Director of Compassionate Counseling at UCSB’s Hosford Clinic. Lana received her master's degree from the University of Southern California and her bachelor's degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
Lana said that she is excited about working with graduate students “because they are a driven, successful, and committed bunch of students. Graduate school offers twists and turns for many students and helping them navigate their evolution in the program and in career goals is exciting to me.” She went on to say, “I think most graduate students feel that making the decision to go to grad school was ‘the big career decision’ and that the career path from there is all downhill. But grad school doesn’t always set up a clear path and more often than not, there are more questions raised and bigger career decisions ahead once grad school gets underway.”
Lana is available to discuss anything career-related with graduate students, including career exploration, the job search process, CV/resume help, interviewing, and negotiation strategies. And since she is located in the GSRC, she said that she hopes the office can become a one-stop shop for graduate student support. Oh, and did we mention that she is a huge chocolate fanatic? So you know that she will likely always have an epic snack supply on hand.
How to get in touch with Lana:
By e-mail: Lana.Smith-Hale@sa.ucsb.edu
By phone: 805-893-4649
In person: SRB Room 1215
- Tuesdays 10 a.m.-noon, 2-3 p.m.
- Wednesdays 9 a.m.-noon
- Thursdays 1-4 p.m.
In an article last fall on the key considerations in getting hired, I discussed three criteria that are of utmost importance to employers in virtually any hiring decision:
- Ability to succeed: employers must gain a solid sense of one’s ability to succeed in the work and bring value to the organization, ideally within a relatively short period of time and with minimal “hand-holding.”
- Interest in the position: employers need to get a sense of one’s enthusiasm for and commitment to the work and organization.
- Organizational “fit”: employers want to feel that one will be a good potential fit for their team in regards to considerations including organizational culture, personality traits, attitude, and simply whether the person is liked.
In all phases of the hiring process – networking, job search correspondence, CV/resume and cover letter, etc. – it is important for candidates to focus on these criteria. But nowhere is it more vital than in the interview. In interviews, candidates are basically charged with successfully addressing these key requirements, usually in a very limited amount of time. And virtually every interview question is a form of the employer asking about these areas.
So what is the best way to go about this? To begin with, research is vital. Absorb as much information as you can on the position, employer, and industry. Educate yourself in terms of what the most valued qualifications are, including digging into the job description, studying the employer’s website, reviewing industry links and publications, and ideally talking to people in the field. Dig for as much information as you can in regards to the culture of the organization and, ideally, the specific unit/team you would potentially be working in.
Then start connecting what you’ve done and who you are with those items. Make a list of the educational, extracurricular, and work related experiences and accomplishments that are most pertinent to the position you are pursuing, as well as your related hard and soft skills. Then start forming and rehearsing answers to potential questions from employers in each area. For example:
Ability to Succeed:
- Describe your research
- How will you go about revising your dissertation for publication?
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- How would you teach?
- Take us through your resume
- What are your strengths?
- Why should we hire you?
- Tell us about a time when you: led a team, organized a project from start to finish, overcame a challenge, had a conflict with a coworker, failed at something, etc.
Interest in the Position:
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why are you interested in our school/organization?
- How does this position fit into your career goals?
- What led you to choose your field of study?
- What are the major issues in our industry currently?
- What is most important to you in an employer?
- What rewards are most important to you in your career?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What are your hobbies and interests?
- What style of supervision do you prefer?
- How did you get along with your former advisers/supervisors/coworkers?
There is of course no guaranteed formula for acing an interview, as it is usually a highly competitive process with several factors of limited to no control. But if you can zero in on what is most important to an employer, in the context of these three key aspects, you give yourself the best chance of being hired.
Find out more professional tips on the interviewing process at my workshop next Tuesday, August 18, from 11 a.m. to noon in Career Services Room 1109. In this session, we will discuss the key aspects that employers are probing for and how to be ready as well as delve into some popular interview questions.
John Coate is the Assistant Director and Coordinator of Graduate Student Services for UCSB's Career Services. He periodically writes posts on career and professional development issues for the UCSB GradPost.
Following the success of the inaugural Beyond Academia conference at UCSB on May 15, organizers have compiled an extensive and handy list of career resources for those interested in finding out more about non-academic careers. Whether you are just starting to explore options or you are on the job market and wanting to develop skills like networking and negotiating, this resource page is a valuable tool for graduate students and postdocs alike. You'll find information about campus programs, online communities, and blogs dedicated to helping Ph.D.s find work outside of academia.
Check out the resource page here!
- a Market Insight Manager at a health insurance company
- a Marketing Development Manager at Eastman Kodak
- a Data Scientist at a marketing agency
- an Associate Medical Director at a pharmaceutical marketing agency
- a Senior Manager at a global research company who has a great deal of marketing responsibility
You can interact with panelists throughout the week on the site, or follow the discussion via email. All questions welcome, from the most general to the very specific. As a UCSB graduate student, you have free access to the information and resources on the Versatile Ph.D. website. To learn more about accessing its premium content, such as the panel discussions, follow these simple instructions provided by the Graduate Division.