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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!