professional development

5 Fallacies About Leaving Academia

It’s now been almost two years to the day that I defended my dissertation, packed my bags, and moved to France to begin a totally new life. While I certainly had some reservations at the time about leaving the academy for good, I can honestly say that I don’t regret this decision in the slightest. Over the next few weeks, I am going to try to blog more regularly about my various #altac experiences, but I figured I would start by debunking a number of misconceptions that I had before leaving and that I expect others have too.

Changing careers — especially after 5-10 years as a sort of apprentice — will always be daunting, but it certainly does not need to be as jarring as it currently is. I will introduce each of these fallacies as a question I most definitely asked myself on more than one occasion towards the end of my graduate studies, and then explain an experience I have had that directly contradicts that fear. While obviously, this blog post only reflects my personal experiences and might not be true for everyone reading, I hope current graduate students or those considering such a career change can find solace in these reflections.

1. Will non-academic work be intellectually fulfilling?

I chose to pursue a Ph.D. because I was passionate about learning. Being paid to read, write, and learn languages sounded like a dream. Since I got to choose my own research topic, I was able to pursue knowledge that I was passionate about, finding intersections between disparate fields and presenting, publishing and teaching everything I learned. One of my biggest fears about leaving was that I would no longer be doing what I loved, or worse — that I would no longer be a lifelong learner.

Perhaps my experience is unique, but I believe I have learned more in the past two years than I learned throughout the entirety of my formal education. Working in a school that has programs dedicated to creative and technical fields such as audio production, filmmaking, and video game creation has allowed me to turn things that used to be hobbies — listening to music, watching movies, and playing video games — into professional development. Now, I get to approach these cultural objects from a new perspective, learn how they are made, and help train the creative media professionals of tomorrow. I have not only learned a great amount about these topics, but I have learned about managing a team, managing budgets, and managing relationships with our university and professional partners. Every day is new and different and I no longer experience that peculiar intellectual burnout that comes with prolonged attention to a single topic.

2. Without conferences and summer breaks, will I be able to travel?

This one is likely specific to working in an international company, but my first week on the job, I was sent to our regional headquarters in Barcelona for training. In my first year alone, I got to attend the Cannes Film Festival (where I actually saw Catherine Deneuve and Sylvester Stallone in person!) as well as a special graduation ceremony for our students at Middlesex University in London. Additionally, now that I live in Europe, I can literally take a weekend in another country, as I did last April when I went to Florence to visit some friends. I even attended a conference last summer in the Netherlands, where I got to discuss my research in a new and exciting location.

3. Without an academic affiliation, will I ever be able to publish my research that I worked so hard on?

Since completing my dissertation, I have been able to get an article accepted for publication in Modern Language Notes (should be out very shortly!), an essay in a collected volume (the editors are currently looking for an outlet), and a third article in a special edition of Études littéraires (also forthcoming, but likely delayed due to the current pandemic). On top of that, I was invited to a journée d’études at the École Normale Supérieure to present my research on the Oulipo as well as to the annual History of Science Society conference to present my research on Bourbaki where I was even contacted by an editor who wanted to learn if I had any book projects on the horizon! While I was pretty satisfied with all of that, I was even selected as a winner of the Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in French Studies, an honor that came with a book contract. I am now diligently working on revising my dissertation into the book manuscript I always dreamed it would be (another blog post to follow on this!). Surely not everyone who leaves academia wants to continue publishing, but for me, it felt important to find an audience for all of that work I did that was a bit wider than my dissertation committee. So if anyone else feels the same way, I can promise you that publishing is still very much possible without an academic affiliation.

4. With my extremely specific training, will I even be able to do a non-academic job?

This was one of my biggest concerns. In France, every job has a 3-4 month trial period, during which both you and the company are able to call it quits with no repercussions. At the beginning, I was pretty nervous that I was going to fail that trial period, especially considering the fact that upon arrival, I was informed that my job was in fact a management position. Not only that, but that I was essentially the #2 at the school. It was almost summer vacation, much of the staff had already left for weeks of vacation. I had to spend the majority of my trial period figuring things out by myself, understanding the challenges the school was facing, and putting in place processes and procedures. After a few weeks of getting the lay of the land, I realized that my graduate training was indeed enough to manage this situation. I was good at looking at complex situations, analyzing data, and isolating problems; I had extensive experience managing large projects longterm from my Digital Humanities work and my dissertation; and most importantly, I was good at communicating to people at different levels and helping everyone understand what was at stake in our work. So it turns out those fears were unfounded — a Ph.D. is training for a specific profession, yes, but it is also legitimate work experience. Once you can prove that to an employer and get a contract, there is no doubt that you can excel in whatever job you land!

5. What if I regret leaving?

This was perhaps my biggest fear, especially considering the fact that it seems unlikely to secure a tenure-track position from outside of the academy. While it’s true that I’m still teaching and publishing, I do indeed suspect that hiring committees would prefer a candidate with a more traditional academic trajectory than mine. This may just be yet another misconception, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Indeed, I’ve barely glanced at the academic job ads (which were already limited in my field) and even if there were a dream job, I’m not even sure that I would be interested in applying. Now that I’m managing not just an academic department, but all the academics at a school, why on earth would I want to take a serious title cut and become an Assistant Professor? Why would I want to give up the freedom of living where I want to live in order to be on a track, where my future will be far more limited than it is now? Long story short, I don’t regret this decision at all.

While it is impossible to know if I would be happy elsewhere, I feel confident that this decision was right for me. In fact, in the middle of this global crisis, all I can think of is what would have happened if I had taken one of the two postdoctoral fellowships that I was offered back in 2018. If so, then I would be at the end of one of those two-year positions, counting down the days until both my income and health care expired and most likely without another academic appointment in hand. Instead, I am living in Paris with my wonderful husband, working a job I love with fantastic colleagues, and still getting the chance to engage in the teaching and research that first brought me to higher education.

As it turns out, even my biggest fear about leaving academia was totally unfounded. Since we are once again at the end of what was bound to be a grueling cycle of academic hiring, I hope this post can help those who might be facing a difficult decision in the midst of uncertain times. Best of luck to all!

My Plan for TEL Practice Improvement

The following is a blog post that I completed for the Navitas Module: Reflecting on Technology-Enhanced Learning Practices. In it, I reflect on how we can enhance learning practices with the use of technology in a school like SAE Institute Paris, which exclusively aims to train students to become future professionals in the creative media industry, necessitating technology at every step of the way.

At SAE Institute Paris, we are lucky that the disciplines we specialize in already demand technology-enhanced learning practices. Clearly, it is impossible to teach a student to become an audio engineer, filmmaker, or video game creator without covering certain fundamental software and equipment. Therefore, despite typical resistance to more active learning practices, our courses are by nature interactive, project-based, and technology-enhanced.

That said, there is always room for improvement. As the Academic Coordinator, I’ve often found it ironic that our teaching staff of industry professionals, while technologically proficient, has been particularly resistant to making better use of our LMS (Canvas). Indeed, it was one of my first goals to implement this at a very basic level, by making sure students had an essential repository of information including pedagogical materials related to their coursework and their summative assessment guidelines. Now that this has been implemented, I intend to move beyond such basic measures and develop and implement a real LMS strategy for the school.

Based on Bennett’s Digital Practitioner Framework pyramid, our campus is somewhere between “Skills” and “Practices” in that we apply technology to learning, but not consistently and teachers are not currently making informed choices about how to use technologies. They use the technologies as necessary, but need to develop strategies to properly incorporate them into classes so that our students see the value in these pedagogical methods.

Through insights gained from participating in this course and from my interactions with fellow participants (which were unfortunately not as prolonged as I would have liked, given my delay in accessing the Moodle), I have seen that there is no “one size fits all” model for TEL practice improvement. Indeed, since the situation at SAE Institute is quite different from more traditional academic settings, I will need to be equally innovative in the TEL practices I try to promote. Given my own relatively “traditional” background, I’m hoping that by developing and implementing a proper LMS strategy for SAE Paris, I will be able to learn which types of TEL practices are most successful in various academic context and thereby be better prepared in my own teaching, curriculum design, and EdTech work outside of SAE.

Twitter take 2: Navigating the MLA Convention

As someone on the academic job market who is also passionate about graduate student opportunities for professional development and making themselves marketable both within and outside the academy, I did not know what to expect from the MLA Convention. Of course I knew I had to attend and expected to have interviews, but I was nervous about juggling interview prep with academic panels and networking with scholars in my academic field. Furthermore, as an MLA Connected Academics Proseminar Fellow, I was excited to attend a number of seminars sponsored by the Connected Academics program on a range of topics from careers outside of the academy to advising and mentorship in the academy. Basically, I had a full schedule! As this was my first time attending the MLA, I was unsure of what to expect. Below are some of my main takeaways.

Academic Interviews

My first surprise was that I had no MLA interviews. It turns out that my academic interviews had been on Skype well in advance of the conference. I even had a Skype interview during the conference! Most of my colleagues at Princeton and at other universities had similar experiences — they were invited for Skype interviews in December and learned the results of those interviews before the Convention.

When I was invited for my first Skype interview, I was initially disappointed. I thought that an in-person interview would be better-suited to getting a job as a professor and I was worried that I would not be able to perform as well on a screen. However, when I saw the room at the MLA that had been designated for interviews — a gigantic hotel ballroom filled with tables and chairs for simultaneous interview — I realized that perhaps there were some advantages to a Skype interview. Being able to choose the space in which I interviewed alleviated some of the stress of the exercise. Furthermore, interviewing in early December allowed me to learn that I had a campus visit before the MLA, which made me feel less concerned about my job prospects during the holiday season. And of course, the Skype interview cost me nothing, whereas traveling to a conference can be an unwelcome financial burden on graduate students and contingent faculty who, let’s face it, are not necessarily well supported by their institutions.

Professional Development

One of the aspects of the MLA that pleasantly surprised me was the focus on professional development. I appreciated that there were jobs posted (and not just tenure-track academic jobs, but jobs at the CIA for instance), that interview coaching was provided, that students and faculty alike could get free professional head shots, that there was ample information about careers both inside and outside of the academy, and most importantly, that a variety of social events allowed people to meet one another. At the Connected Academics events in particular, I was able to meet a wide range of people who gave me advice on everything from the academic job market to engaging in humanitarian work. I met with a former professor of the institution where I had a campus visit; I met an assistant professor who had previously worked in a digital humanities/libraries context, and was happy to give me her perspectives on both academic and non-academic career options; I spoke with a Princeton PhD now working for the Huffington Post and a career services professional who specializes in working with graduate students.

While the people I met were certainly fascinating, the range of events that brought them together were even more exciting. Given that everything I had previously been told about the MLA painted the Convention as a means to an end — namely, getting an academic job — it was refreshing to see a number of panels devoted to alternative academic careers. Furthermore, those panels (contrary to traditional academic panels) had a clear purpose, optimistic feel, and concrete and useful advice. I left feeling energized at the various career prospects that I will have as a recipient of a PhD, whether or not I choose to pursue a traditional academic route.

Twitter as a Connection-Making Tool

I’ll admit it: I’ve been somewhat skeptical about Twitter in terms of its usefulness for professional development, academic or otherwise. To me, sending 140 characters out into the black hole of the internet, to be seen by a few people and then disappear, seemed the opposite of “professional.” Clearly, I understood the perks: there is something rhetorical about the short nature of the tweet; a tweet allows one to reach his or her constituents immediately, without the need for an intermediary; the chemical reaction in the brain provoked by seeing a simple number of likes or retweets is addictive, making you yearn for more; finally, twitter allows one to see the larger trends of our time, what is making the rounds in our intellectual circles, and to participate (however frivolously) in that dialogue. Concerning academics, however, the nature of Twitter always seemed in contradiction with our aims and goals. While brevity is the soul of wit, a 140-character tweet seems insufficient to broach real issues. And even though the peer-review process for academic publishing is long and flawed, one would think that academics would not hold tweets in very high esteem.

However, I had never considered immediate practical uses of Twitter. At the MLA Convention, it was a useful tool for me to bridge the academic and alternative academic, the personal and professional, the esoteric and the communal. The most basic use I found was as a note-taking tool. Having my computer out, I could simultaneously record the most interesting comments from the panels and get instantaneous confirmation of what was interesting by others who were following the same hashtags. Furthermore, when I could not be in two panels at once, the panel hashtag allowed me to see what had happened where I could not attend. That said, this depends upon the conference attendees. If few are on Twitter, this strategy would not work. Even at this particularly large convention, the panels that seemed to garner the most tweets were those dealing with professional development or digital humanities. Lucky for me, those are two of my main interests!

Most importantly, Twitter allowed this unfathomably large conference where it would have been impossible to forge meaningful connections for a lonely graduate student to feel much smaller. While I was lucky to have a group of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances there to help me get my bearings, many graduate students attend large conferences, present their papers, and then leave without having interacted with other scholars or networked. Twitter allowed me to find events that I might have otherwise missed, see which type of panels had a lively discussion, and get to know names and faces of those who were participating in the Twitter subset of MLA attendees. At the last panel I attended, I noticed that the woman next to me had been interacting with me on Twitter for days, and we were delighted to be able to meet in person.

In the end, while I am still skeptical of Twitter and feel it is far too hyped, I will continue to use it at conferences. While some might be better suited for this particular tool than others, using it costs me nothing and has the potential to lead me to people and resources I might not have otherwise known. And most importantly, it has the potential to be a crucial entryway into the inner circles of conferences, allowing graduate students to network more efficiently than ever before.

Twitter as a Tool for Academic Networking? #NoThanks

This year, I have been honored to be a fellow in the second cohort of the MLA Connected Academics Proseminar, a fascinating group of current and recent Ph.D. candidates who meet once a month in New York City to discuss alternatives to the “traditional” academic career. As part of this process, we have been discussing how to maintain a professional presence online, which has been one of the major reasons that I have been working so hard updating my website recently. Recently in the Proseminar, the topic of Twitter came up as a potential solution to the impersonal feel of large, professional conferences and would help younger students network and spread their research despite the professional hierarchy that exists in professional settings. So, this month I decided to try it out. I had plans to attend the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts national meeting in Atlanta, and thought that Twitter might help me navigate the three interrelated conferences going on at once.

I went online, found the SLSA hashtag (#slsa2016), and immediately tweeted:

To be honest, it felt disingenuous. I was thrilled to be there, but to write something vague to an unknown number of scholars did not seem the best way to communicate it. Maybe if I tweeted about something more specific, I thought. I attended my first panel and really enjoyed the final talk on the Two-Culture debate and waited until the end of the Q&A to tweet:

After the Q&A, I approached the presenters, asking questions and exchanging email addresses. I then checked Twitter and noticed that someone had liked my first tweet, and two people had liked the second! I immediately followed both, assuming that this would help fill my newsfeed with more appropriate, SLSA-related posts.

At another panel, someone gave a talk about Pokémon. Since that reminded me of my childhood, I snapped a picture of his PowerPoint and tweeted to the SLSA-specific twitterverse:

This also garnered two likes, though the same as before. Once again, I interacted with the speaker after the panel, exchanging email addresses and engaging in thought-provoking conversations about glitches and research. Noticing that one of the speakers had posted earlier with the SLSA hashtag about this particular panel, I responded to his tweet, thanking him for the panel. He immediately followed me, indicating to me that I was doing something right.

As the day went on, I texted my external examiner, an Associate Professor who is a big name at this conference and who had encouraged me to attend. We met down in the lobby and she introduced me to dozens of scholars. For the rest of the conference, she took me by the hand, recommending certain talks and panels, presenting me to other scholars, and helping me engage in more direct, in-person conversations. While I continued to check my Twitter feed, I began to notice that there were only a few scholars on it, and they did not seem to be engaging in conversation with each other.

The following day, Katherine Hayles gave what would go on to be known as the most influential talk of the conference, and I made sure to tweet some highlights. However, I then noticed that one attendee had tweeted the same quote with TWO hashtags: #slsa2016 and #slsa16. Uh oh, I thought. I’ve been doing it all wrong! There were more than just a few people tweeting with the other hashtag — there must have been about 30! I had been communicating my (admittedly superficial) tweets to such a restricted audience! In another panel, I began using both, still receiving a similar number of likes.

On the final day of the conference, I attended a morning panel and sat near Katherine Hayles. In the Q&A, as always, I continued to ask questions and noticed that Hayles was vigorously nodding along with my comments. She ran out at the end of the panel to get to another talk, but at the lunch later that day, made a point of telling me that she appreciated my questions and politely asked about my work. In the meantime, my Twitter feed was surprisingly quiet.

Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about using Twitter at conferences. While several people in panels (especially the digital humanities panel) seemed to be using it constantly and consistently (even during talks), those participants did not seem to be interacting as much in person. I must admit, of all the people I tweeted, retweeted, followed, and liked, I did not meet a single one in person. We just never crossed paths. I also found that watching people with their phones out during presentations appeared unprofessional.

On the other hand, being actively engaged in the Q&As really did help me to network, and I left the conference with business cards and email addresses, along with a bunch of new ideas and insights! Seeing retweeted blurbs about panels I did not attend was uninformative, and seemed a missed opportunity in a conference where several panels happened at once. That said, nothing helped more than having a tenured professor take me under her wing. Indeed, this removed the inevitable awkwardness of approaching senior scholars as a graduate student.

Rather than tweeting and retweeting a mere thirty scholars on Twitter at a conference with over 600 participants, we should strive to make connections through actual interactions. Perhaps this should be made more explicit in our training as graduate students: that we should attend conferences with our advisors and mentors; that we should do research on the professors who will be attending and know enough about their research to pose useful questions following their talks; that we should not risk appearing unprofessional in any way by having our phones out during talks. While Twitter may be a nice way to make a big conference seem smaller, we cannot let this technology distract us from the real use of conferences — human interactions through critical, academic dialogue.

Dissertation Productivity

Princeton has recently given its graduate students free membership to the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. This online community offers support for academics in many forms, and I have just participated in one of their 14-day writing challenges. The goal was to incite us to write for at least 30 minutes a day, so that we could see that even a minimal amount of work could lead to large accomplishments after two weeks. However, I had already developed these habits much earlier.

Beginning with my research year in Paris, when my days were no longer structured by seminars and I had satisfied all departmental requirements before the dissertation defense, I honed specific strategies to define goals and accomplish them:

  1. Collaboration: While writing a dissertation is individual work, writing with others makes a huge difference. I try to schedule regular writing sessions with fellow scholars no matter where I happen to be. Working on individual projects together is not only good for mental health, but also allows us all to be more productive.
  2. Clear goals: The best part of the challenge was that it asked us to define specific writing goals at the beginning of each week. I took a very specific approach, breaking up larger projects into smaller chunks that I knew I could accomplish on specific days. In fact, I was able to finish this entire website in those two weeks, as well as almost completing my chapter 2 chapter draft! For defining goals, I have found that the “pomotodo” app on my phone is a comprehensive to-do list combined with a timer. I found that dividing my work into different tasks and measuring how much time I spent on each helped me understand my overall process.
  3. Habit forming: Although I already wrote for far more than 30 minutes a day before this challenge, habit forming is key to real productivity. One of the best ways I found to build the habit was the mental jump from evaluating my productivity in terms of actual production. Once I began to count reading books, spending time in archives, going to museum exhibitions, watching documentaries — essentially anything remotely related to my work — as my work itself, I was already on my way to being more productive. I also began to understand my own process more, what times I write the most effectively and what times I would be better off reading and taking notes. I can always be getting some sort of work done, but that work is better if I prioritize well.

McGraw Teaching Seminar: Connecting Online and Classroom Environments / Writing Teaching Statements

For introducing us to the subtle art of writing teaching statements, the McGraw staff “flipped” the classroom, giving us an extremely structured online lesson to introduce us to the expectations that lie behind this essential pedagogical document. While I found the experience to be productive, the concept of the flipped lecture as it was presented to us raised a series of questions to me that were unrelated to the teaching statement.

  1. While the online lecture they provided was professionally recorded and expertly designed, I failed to see exactly how this “flipped” lecture was actually flipped. This was not ordinarily a lecture-based class, but had always functioned as some form of individual readings or homework as well as outside group activities in order to prepare us for an extremely interactive discussion-based class. While the “flipped” lecture here did not assign us mandatory readings as usual, how was the video lecture fundamentally different from assigning readings? We watched the video, carried out the mini assignments along the way, and came to class with drafts and ideas to further discussion.
  2. This question had a simple answer that only raised more questions: the difference between this video lecture and the readings we had formerly been assigned was that this video was extremely structured. We watched a certain segment of the lecture, and then had a focused activity that helped us to put into action what we had just absorbed passively.
  3. I began to wonder, are humanities classes already flipped? This teaching seminar was not a “humanities” class in the strict sense, but it seemed to be already flipped. The only major difference between the flipped lecture and a traditional one is that the video provided immediate and structured activities for us to do.
  4. What if, rather than focusing on flipping classes in the sense that students watch a video at home, we could instead focus on structuring the work they do at home as well as structuring what is done in the classroom. In my experience teaching French language classes, I focused far less on what I assigned students outside of the classroom than what I hoped to accomplish in the classroom, as those 50 minutes represented their only real chance at an immersion experience. When I assign a film to watch, I focus on preparing them in the classroom before they watch it, arming them with the cultural background and specific vocabulary that will allow them to make the most of the 2-3 hours as well as bring back a productive conversation in the classroom.
  5. I thought back to my study abroad experience. The French university system, I had been told, encourages autonomy. Very little was done in the classroom, but very little was assigned. Students were implicitly aware that they either needed to structure their work on their own, or they would just squeeze by in the classroom. The American system is quite different. Everything is explicitly stated, and students as a result do not structure their own work.
  6. When designing my syllabus for the seminar, I attempted (and am still refining) how to best structure the work outside of the classroom to encourage students who are just making the jump from French language coursework to more advanced classes conducted entirely in French to structure their own work productively. I am hoping to continue to nuance this idea, enriching my pedagogy by structuring work both in and out of the classroom.

McGraw Teaching Seminar: A Deeper Look into the Classroom

Course Observation

For this session, we needed to observe at least one class at Princeton taught by one of our colleagues in the seminar and one online course. I observed a molecular biology course, since I was curious what techniques are used to teach large lectures. Although the class was large, the instructors consistently broke the large group of students into smaller groups that still interacted with the overall class. Tables were given individual assignments and had to discuss smaller aspects of larger problems, which were then combined in a discussion with all the groups. While similar to techniques I have to use in French language classes, seeing it implemented on a larger scale and with more complex problems was useful. The final stage in each activity was particularly impressive — a representative from every group had to explain that group’s reasoning, and the instructors would then tie it all together.

My first year of college, I had taken physics 101, which was a large lecture class that required absolutely no engagement and just expected students to absorb lectures passively. The content of these lectures was often divorced from the homework and exam problems that served as our primary means of assessment. My classmates and I realized that if we wanted to succeed, we needed to do the majority of the “teaching” on our own, and viewed the lecture as an inconvenience. The professor began grading us on our “participation” in lecture given our clicker responses, but only gave us points if we answered questions, indicating that we were merely present.


The Princeton biology course restored my faith in science classes, and reminded me how important pedagogy is in the reception of the material for students. Whereas I had assumed I would love physics, the actual physics class gave me a drastically different impression of the discipline: I did not want to waste a huge part of my college years in anonymous lecture halls not learning, and then be forced to teach myself everything on my own; I did not want to take tests that were designed to be impossible, with average grades between 30 and 50%; finally, I definitely did not want to feel like I was in competition with my classmates, aiming to beat out my neighbors for those those rare A grades. The Princeton class, however, was collaborative. As an outsider, I felt as though I had a real understanding of what microbiology research might be like, what collaborations would look and sound like, and what the bigger picture was.

These issues are analogous to those found in online classes. How do you elicit active learning from students whom you will never meet? How do you encourage collaboration between classmates who have different schedules, different levels of engagement, and possibly live on different continents? Finally, how do you harmonize what is learned and set reasonable learning goals knowing that the majority of the students will not actually pursue the course to the end?

I do not know the answer to these questions, but attending classes from the perspective of an educator made me reconsider my own experiences as a student, which I believe is valuable. It also forced me to consider new strategies to implement in my own humanities classes. While reading is often considered a solitary activity, how do you make the classroom experience productive, collaborative, and structured?

University Administrative Fellowship with Career Services

Last semester, I was named a University Administrative Fellow (UAF) for the Center for Career Development, a new program at Princeton meant to introduce graduate students to university administration. Along with a fellow graduate student from the Chemistry department, I was in charge of alumni outreach in the organization and planning of the first graduate student-oriented career “meet-up.” The whole process was a great learning experience and allowed me to see a small slice of university administration and take an active role in alternative academic planning for graduate students. Here are just a few things I took away from the experience:

  1. Your university career center is NOT ONLY for the non-academic job search. I don’t know where I picked up this idea, but I had always thought that Career Services was either for undergraduate students or graduate students who want to leave the academy. This is far from the truth! Career Services can help grad students across disciplines plan out their academic studies, job searches, and better understand their professional lives and expectations.
  2. A career meet-up can be just as important for students at the end of their graduate study as at the beginning. While we termed our event a “meet-up” rather than a “career fair” to highlight its more casual nature, the basic tenet was the same. Preparation was key, especially for graduate students nearing the end of their studies. When they did their research and came with specific companies in mind, some were even offered interviews. In fact, one student received a job offer at the event! Since preparation was essential, we insisted on offering “warm-up” events, one of which was offered by a recruiter. Even students early in their graduate careers benefited. Specifically in the humanities, knowing what sorts of options were available was an encouraging way to broach the topic of alternative academic careers.
  3. Companies DO want to hire humanities PhD students. The issue, however, is that those companies may not have the time or the resources to attend such an event to meet with potential candidates. Through alumni recruitment and brainstorming of companies to invite to the event, I was initially overwhelmed by the lack of response from humanities alumni and from the difficulty of tracking where humanities PhD students ended up. I began to understand that companies do not hire humanities PhD students on a large scale as some industries would hire science PhDs. The solution was to invite local businesses who have hired Princeton humanities PhDs, whether they were currently hiring or not such as Educational Testing Services (ETS) or Princeton University Press, introducing students to industries they might not have considered.
  4. Size is key. The greatest asset of this event was the small size, which created an intimate environment for students to talk both formally and informally with recruiters. Recruiters and students alike appreciated the attention they received. Hopefully it will continue to become an annual tradition — I know I will certainly attend as a highly-prepared graduate student in my final years!