resources and opportunities on career diversity for History Ph.D.'s

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 2)

VSFS (remote) Internship Opportunity for all stages

I want to get in touch with some details about an (unpaid) internship opportunity through the State Department for those who are interested in getting some experience working with government agencies. This internship is open to students at all stages of their graduate or undergraduate career.

The program is called the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS). In short, it’s a 10-hour per week, flexible, remote opportunity to both apply and develop research skills working on project of some importance to the government institution with which you are paired. Read more about VSFS and the institutions you might work with here. Applications to work on a VSFS project open July 1 and close July 31. More details about that timeline can be found here.

Our very own Kirsten Cooper is just finishing up an internship on a VSFS project. She was kind enough to answer some questions about the application process, what she has learned, and how she thinks Ph.D. skills helped her as well as how she built on these skills. I’m including the bulk of her write-up below, so please read on to learn more about the internship.

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Name: Kirsten Cooper

Field & brief dissertation description: Early Modern Europe; Propaganda, political rhetoric and ideas of nation in France & the Holy Roman Empire during the Wars of Louis XIV

Current status: ABD, 7th Year

Where you found out about internship?: An announcement was sent out on a government job search listserv for Boren Fellowship alumni

What is the internship and what have you been doing?: The general internship program is intended to match students with various government agencies who are sponsoring projects that can be completed remotely/digitally. All projects run from September-May and expect approximately 10 hours of work/week. The website does say that some interns are able to receive course credit for their work through their universities.

The projects and the types of work they need vary widely. As they explain: “VSFS projects may be research based, contributing to reports on issues such as human rights, economics or the environment. They may also be more technology oriented, such as working on web pages, or helping produce electronic journals.” Many of the projects are looking for people with language skills – which many of us historians have! The program seems to have been designed with undergraduates in mind, but there are no restrictions against graduate students applying. And, in my experience, project leaders seemed thrilled to get the chance to have the skills of an advanced graduate student for free!

The project I ended up on was working for the Department of State, specifically with the US Embassy in Bern, Switzerland to analyze Swiss media for evidence of Russian mis- and disinformation. Over the last year my team has been monitoring Swiss news media, known Russian sources of disinformation, and social media to assess the quality of Swiss news coverage and the extent to which it is influenced – or not – by known Russian talking points and disinformation stories. As part of this we have also researched the background of Russian disinformation strategies, its influence in countries worldwide, the state and quality of Swiss news media, its political climate, and what vulnerabilities Switzerland does and does not share with other well-known targets of Russian information manipulation. We were required to submit 3 broader quarterly reports to the embassy over the course of the year, and elected to submit 3 additional interim reports detailing findings and summarizing analyses of more specific components of the project.

What was the application process like and how did you get matched to the specific project?: VSFS posts a list of all of the programs looking for interns for that year, and you submit one central application on which you list up to 3 projects that you are qualified for and interested in. After you submit, supervisors of the projects you indicated interest in will review your application and may contact you for a virtual interview, or to have you provide examples of your expertise and work. By September all applicants will be informed if they have been offered a position and applicants who have been offered one or more positions can accept or reject the offers. You can be offered more than one position, but can only accept to work on one project for the year.

I applied to 3 projects, never heard back from one, got an almost immediate offer from another, and went through an interview process for a third that included a Skype interview and submission of a sample written analysis. This also ended up in an offer, which was the one I accepted.

What relevant Ph.D. skills have you used in the course of the internship?: One reason I was most excited about the project I ended up working on was that it was essentially the same research skills I use for my dissertation research, just applied to contemporary problems. My research analyzes published news media to extract underlying narratives, understand them in their political, social and cultural contexts, and uncover the political motivations behind them. These are all skills that I could apply to the analysis of Russian information manipulation and its impact in Switzerland.

More broadly, however, all of those basic, core, skills of a PhD and a historian – research, analysis, being able to find relevant background information, to assess sources’ quality, biases and relevance to the research questions at hand, to understand and draw connections with broader contextual factors and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to then communicate all of that information in a clear, written report – were what my project supervisor valued the most. Yes, I was able to draw more specific connections with my own research, but it was these fundamental skills that really made my contributions to this project most valuable.

The language skills I’ve acquired over the course of my PhD were also immensely important, as my specific project required analysis of German-language media, and my ability to do the same in French was an added bonus.

Finally, I was also able to apply some of my teaching skills as I helped coach my teammate through the writing of some of our reports. Just as being a good writer is a skill almost universally applicable, so apparently is teaching good writing!

What skills have you learned or honed in the course of the internship?: Working as part of a team! So much of PhD research is completely solitary – you decide the research questions, parameters, and direction and then execute all of the research and analysis. In this project, however, I was working as a part of a team. For my particular project, I was designated “team leader” essentially, working with an advanced undergraduate intern as my team member and then our project supervisor at the embassy. Our supervisor had set up the parameters of the project, the main questions the embassy wanted answers to if possible, and served as the ultimate decision maker regarding new approaches, directions, or topics of inquiry. My team member and I had separate areas of focus that had been designated at the outset of the project, which I was in charge of managing and accounting for. It was a very valuable experience learning how to best function within this team structure – leveraging our different areas of expertise and focus to achieve the best outcome, instead of simply dong it all by myself.

One other aspect that differed greatly from PhD research was the act of creating specific products for somebody else. First, our supervisor would sometimes task us with writing a report on a certain topic of interest to the embassy, regardless of whether it seemed most relevant or important to us. Or she would tell us not to look into a topic, because it was something they were already tracking, even if we still had unanswered questions. Second, with a dissertation you are expected to change your questions, focus, sources, methodology, etc. as many times as needed to get to the bottom of whatever issue(s) you are interested in. With this project, we had specific questions that they wanted answers to, and in some cases that was it. For example, the main question for our project was whether or not there was evidence of Russian mis- and disinformation in mainstream Swiss news media. We found that on the whole Swiss news media was of very high quality and was quite immune to Russian information manipulation. Question answered. We did do some work to try to understand why this was the case and where vulnerabilities might exist for Russian information manipulation elsewhere in Switzerland, but this information was largely a bonus to the main focus of the project. We also realized that we, as interns, didn’t have the resources to actually answer a lot of those tangential questions, and that was fine. Unlike with a dissertation, there wasn’t the expectation that we would go acquire those skills and resources to get to the bottom of the issue at whatever cost. The complete independence and autonomy one has while doing dissertation research was constrained, but it also relieved a lot of the pressure that goes along with that!

Potential career outcomes that the internship prepares you for?: As a past recipient of a Boren Fellowship, I do have a one-year service requirement to work for the federal government. This internship was great experience that I can use in finding such a job – and I think can be applied towards partial fulfillment of that service requirement. But more broadly, for many PhDs trying to move beyond academia, I think one of the biggest hurdles is having people look at your resume and saying yes, you have this impressive degree in this obscure corner of knowledge, but what does that mean you can do for us in our industry? In addition to being a great, easily recognizable line of work experience on my resume, this internship gives me a concrete example of what my PhD background can provide. What I can do with it and how all of those skills can be applied beyond that obscure corner of knowledge to something clearly relevant and important to contemporary society. I am considering the State Department as a future career path – for which I now have my project supervisor as a resource and mentor in that sector. But more broadly, I also now have a letter of recommendation from somebody outside academia who can vouch for the applicability of my skills to “real life” work situations. I’ll have to get back to you in a few years to let you know where exactly I end up, but this internship has also proven to me how transferable all of my PhD skills are and given me more confidence to be able to convince others of that fact.

Details on where and how and when to apply: The central application process usually runs from July 1-31. You have to apply through the US Government Job Board, USAJobs.com, which then takes you to the State Department website for a supplemental application portion. Both of these websites can be difficult, but the VSFS program website provides good instructions (https://www.state.gov/vsfs/ c59083.htm) and the application itself was relatively simple.

For more information on the program, available projects for the upcoming year (should be announced by July 1), and how to apply check out their website: https://www.state. gov/vsfs/

Interview with Jon Powell, UNC Ph.D. and Continuing Education Specialist at the UNC Cancer Network with UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Name and email address:

Jon Powell

jondcpowell@gmail.com or powelljd@email.unc.edu

Year you earned your Ph.D.:

2016

Field of study/brief dissertation description:

Medieval European History — I studied the use of History and Memory in the intra-organizational fighting with the Franciscan Order from the time of Francis of Assissi’s death to the publication of Jordan of Giano’s Chronica.

What were your career goals when you entered graduate school?

While I liked teaching, what I really enjoyed about history was the research and the writing. As a result, I planned to land a position at a university so that I could teach, do historical research, and publish.

What were your career goals as you completed your Ph.D.?

As I completed the PhD, my plans hadn’t changed much. However, I confronted an extremely tight job market in which there were only 2–3 openings each year, and most of those were at community colleges, which meant having such a large class load that research would be either minimal or nonexistent. Also, the kids didn’t want to leave their schools and friends. Based on these two factors, my family and I recalibrated future goals, and we decided to stay in the Chapel Hill area, where I would have to find something other than teach.

What was your first job post-Ph.D. and how did you get it?

Another UNC Medievalist student, Mike Bazemore, was teaching as an Adjunct Instructor at Peace University, but he landed a full-time position at another institution. He recommended me to fill his shoes at Peace. I greatly enjoyed it, but it soon became apparent that it would be years before a full-time position opened up there, and I needed something soon, so I took an online adjunct teaching position at Campbell University to cut out the commute and to be able to devote more time to a full-time job search.

What is your current job (if different from your first post-Ph.D. job)?

I am the Continuing Education Specialist at the UNC Cancer Network with UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

What does your current job entail, and which Ph.D.-related skills do you use on a daily and weekly basis?

Primarily, I schedule oncology professionals to do bi-monthly lectures so that they can teach each other the latest in oncology and earn continuing education credits. As part of these lectures, I use web conferencing software to permit people throughout the state to participate in the lectures without the need to travel. I then take the recording of these lectures, create an assessment, and put it in a learning portal where oncologists can earn continuing education credits at any time that is convenient for them.

Much of what I do utilizes skill sets that I acquired before pursuing the PhD: skills in computers, web design, and advertising/marketing. What PhD skills I use are in researching information about the program and creating reports in which I analyze that information. I also listen to each lecture and create assessments based on the oncologist’s delivery.

What are the favorite parts of your job? Is there anything you would change about it?

The best part is that I work with great people, and I have pretty much full autonomy over what I do and when. The actual work is not taxing, there are opportunities for job growth, I only work a 40-hour week, and I can schedule my time as I see fit. My evenings and weekends are free to spend with the family. Because it is so far afield from my PhD work, there isn’t anything that I could change to make it more intellectually satisfying.

What did you do during graduate school (if anything) to prepare for a job outside of traditional academia?

While in graduate school, everything that I did was geared toward a career in teaching and research on the university level.

Did you have any relevant skills outside of your Ph.D. training that helped you secure your current job?

Between undergraduate and graduate studies, I worked in the computer prepress and then the advertising/marketing fields. It is these skills—in computers, web design, and advertising/marketing—that are the non-PhD skill sets that helped me land this position.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students still in coursework?

Enjoy what you’re doing and try to acquire a diverse range of skill sets. One never knows what the future will bring, and being able to handle a variety of tasks greatly improves one’s chances of landing a position, whether in academia or outside of it. Sometimes, it’s the odd skill that one picks up that puts one ahead of other applicants who otherwise have very similar skill sets.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students or recent Ph.D.’s considering transitioning to a career outside of academia now?

It’s all about acquiring skill sets. While there were a few people who wouldn’t consider me either because of my advanced degree or because of my knowledge base (History), these people are short-sighted, and it wouldn’t have worked with them anyway. Where I received traction was with people who looked past the degree and the knowledge base and instead were attracted by the skills—what I can do as opposed to what I know—and thought about how my skills would benefit them. Look for these people and network among them.

I had the hardest time networking to get into the university itself. If anyone wants to work within a university in the Research Triangle in a non-faculty position, the best way of getting into the system is by applying with University Temporary Services, a joint enterprise between UNC and NCSU. The reason for this is that it is very hard for the university to terminate anyone’s employment. As a result, offices prefer to hire a temporary employee and see whether or not she/he can do the work and gets along with the rest of the people in the office. If it works out, they will hire the person full-time. Once in the system, as a temporary or permanent employee, it’s easier to network and find a position that works.

Interview with Kim Kutz Elliott, UNC Ph.D. and Senior Content Creator in Humanities at Khan Academy

Name and email address:

Kim Kutz Elliott – kim@khanacademy.org

Year you earned your Ph.D.:

2013

Field of study/brief dissertation description:

US Cultural History – My dissertation focused on representations of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost in popular culture as a form of Civil War memory.

What were your career goals when you entered graduate school?

I wanted to be a tenure-track professor of US history, or work at a museum or cultural institution.

What were your career goals as you completed your Ph.D.?

Not too far off from where I started, but during graduate school I discovered that I really loved teaching, so that became more important to me in a potential job. The life of a solitary researcher was less appealing than it was when I started the program.

What was your first job post-Ph.D. and how did you get it?

I had a visiting position teaching American Studies at the University of Mary Washington. I taught two sections of the US survey and two courses focused on memory and museum studies. It was a perfect fit for me. I believe the head of their department had emailed the UNC department looking for a candidate for a visiting position. I sent in a cover letter and CV and did a Skype interview.  

What is your current job (if different from your first post-Ph.D. job)?

I am the Senior Content Creator in Humanities at Khan Academy, a nonprofit website that provides free, interactive K-14 educational materials.

What does your current job entail, and which Ph.D.-related skills do you use on a daily and weekly basis?

I create lessons on US history and US government and politics aimed at a high school audience. I research curriculum guidelines, write and film video lectures, write articles and test questions, and edit the materials produced by others on my team to ensure accuracy and style. Ph.D.-related skills I use on a regular basis include: domain knowledge (understanding of US history and how to quickly find out what I don’t know), qualitative research (into pedagogical best practices, through reading and interviews with teachers and students), fast and concise writing, and public speaking.

What are the favorite parts of your job? Is there anything you would change about it?

I work with amazing people who care deeply about learners, especially under-resourced students, and want them to succeed. I love writing and speaking about history for a living and trying to make it accessible and fun for a non-specialist audience. What I don’t get to do in my current job is work directly with students, except on a volunteer basis. Aside from comments on my videos and anonymous data about student outcomes, I rarely get to see the impact that my work has on real learners.

What did you do during graduate school (if anything) to prepare for a job outside of traditional academia?

I interned at the Ackland Art Museum for one year in order to prepare for a possible museum career. It was a bit of a “learn your way around the museum” year, where I took on projects in different areas of research, curation, acquisition, and teaching. I curated a show on women and minority artists whose work had been dismissed as “craft” rather than art, researched and wrote a gallery guide for their collection of ancient Chinese ceramics, and taught visiting classes from many different disciplines. I wasn’t an expert in any of those subjects, but I learned that I could pick up what I needed to know in order to be successful with some reading and some advice.

Did you have any relevant skills outside of your Ph.D. training that helped you secure your current job?

I had some training in video editing that helped me stand out from the crowd in my application for my current job, which asked for either a writing sample or a sample video. I submitted a video, which I later discovered was quite rare for applicants. Since then, I’ve used professional development funds to take courses in video editing, which has continued to be a valuable skill in my career.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students still in coursework?

First, play to your strengths. Concentrate on what’s important to you and what makes you stand out, not what you think you “should” be doing or studying. Your uniqueness, not your similarity to others, is what will make you an interesting candidate.

Second, see the forest for the trees. In grad school, we’re obsessed with minutiae: shades of difference between one theoretical approach and another, or how to squeeze an article out of an argument that’s ever-so-slightly different from that of the last major monograph in the field. Although thrashing around in the weeds is the essence of graduate school, outside the academy, I’ve found that deconstruction is far less important than construction–being able to see the big picture, make connections, and distill a broad range of ideas into a workable solution. Grad school teaches you how to tear things apart, but don’t lose sight of the fact that most careers require problem solving, not just problem finding.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students or recent Ph.D.’s considering transitioning to a career outside of academia now?

You are more qualified than you think. Most people leave school at 22 and learn what they need to know on the job, and you will too. You don’t need another degree; you don’t need to go to law school or library school or business school. Your Ph.D. will command respect, and I don’t believe anyone has ever accused me of being “overqualified,” which I’ve heard cited as an obstacle many times.

Don’t take a job that isn’t right for you because you think you have to. I’m aware that being able to turn down a job is a privilege that not everyone enjoys, but I can say that I have never regretted turning down a job that didn’t pay enough for me to survive, wasn’t in the right location, or didn’t comport with my values. Although I experienced some uncertainty in the meantime, a much better opportunity always arose. Graduate school can devalue you and make you feel desperate because resources are so scarce, but one of the best parts about leaving academia is regaining the power to set the parameters for your own career. You get to judge, not simply be judged. Work on finding the confidence that you are an equal player in the relationship between employer and employee, and enter into the job hunt and negotiations with a firm sense of what you need to be happy in a job.

Interview with John Robertson, UNC Ph.D. and Business Development Manager for The Princeton Review

Name and email address:

John Robertson, coruscifer@gmail.com

Year you earned your Ph.D.:

2014

Field of study/brief dissertation description:

East-Central Europe; I did a case study centered on the Austro-Hungarian industrial district of Ostravsko as a way of understanding the experience of the First World War and its impacts on personal and political identity formation before, during, and after the war.

What were your career goals when you entered graduate school?

I imagined I would become a history professor in a fuzzy sort of way. When I started grad school, I didn’t have a clear sense of what that entailed, really.

What were your career goals as you completed your Ph.D.?

Find a job that offered health insurance and paid enough to eventually cover my student loans.

What was your first job post-Ph.D. and how did you get it?

Immediately after I defended, I was adjuncting several courses and working as an assistant at the Digital Humanities Center. The courses I ended up with since my advisor was going on research leave, and I applied for the assistantship through their regular application process. Around the middle of that semester I saw an advertisement for GRE instructors and applied for that, which brought me eventually to my current position. I was also doing some editing and writing work on the side at the time, which I kept up for several years.

What is your current job (if different from your first post-Ph.D. job)?

I currently have one major and one minor job. My day job is Business Development Manager for The Princeton Review, which is a marketing and outreach position to support our high school and graduate offerings in North Carolina, South Carolina, and southern Virginia. The minor position is as a premier tutor, working one on one with selected students working to succeed on the ACT, SAT, MCAT, GRE, or GMAT.

What does your current job entail, and which Ph.D.-related skills do you use on a daily and weekly basis?

The below list is a general overview of my major responsibilities as Business Development manager – my main deliverable is to increase enrollments in our courses.

  • Build and maintain relationships with advisors, college counselors, career services, and other relevant decision-makers
  • Build and maintain relationships with student groups and organizations focused on college and graduate education
  • Plan, organize, advertise, and hold marketing events to drive revenue, including strategy sessions and practice tests as appropriate
  • Provide information and follow-up to students participating in free events
  • Respond to and resolve outside inquiries and complaints
  • Recruit, hire, and manage campus representatives as appropriate
  • Organize and manage a TPR presence at relevant and education fairs and events as appropriate
  • Support other departments as needed; coordinate with operations and course planning
  • Manage, track, and order marketing collateral and flyers as needed
  • Locate, organize, and present relevant internal data as needed
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of company offerings and services
  • Hire and supervise Marketing Coordinators

Ph.D. skills are not irrelevant, but what I use are the background skills – being able to process complex information, write effectively and concisely, and present well to large groups.

What are the favorite parts of your job? Is there anything you would change about it?

For me the least pleasant aspects are the sales-adjacent tasks I am occasionally called on to do, which I think is mostly a personality thing. The parts I like the most are speaking to and teaching students, which I still do on a fairly regular basis. Given free reign, I would do more of the teaching-adjacent tasks and fewer sales-adjacent tasks.

What did you do during graduate school (if anything) to prepare for a job outside of traditional academia?

I really didn’t do much, which definitely made it harder. One key thing I would have done differently would have been to get a part-time job outside of academia early on. Hiring managers by and large neither understand nor value academic achievements. The best way to demonstrate that you can add value as an employee is pointing to a track record of success in similar environments/undertakings, and unless you’re going for a position as an academic or a grant-writer fellowships and publications aren’t relevant.

Did you have any relevant skills outside of your Ph.D. training that helped you secure your current job?

I did, but largely developed after graduate school. After I started working as a GRE instructor I continued to volunteer for everything that came my way and ended up building a reputation as a reliable, high-quality instructor. After taking on some supplemental office work, I was hired on as a part-time office manager in addition to my teaching. Doing an excellent job at that and becoming the go-to person for understanding the systems positioned me very well for when the graduate outreach manager position opened up two years ago. It’s been very much a process of climbing the ladder by demonstrating value in increasingly-responsible positions which led to hiring managers being invested in my success.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students still in coursework?

I would strongly recommend looking for part-time internships or jobs doing something non-academic. Operations, marketing, administration, or customer service are broadly-relevant skills across a range of careers. Somewhat less than half of our department’s doctorates get TT positions, and it’s entirely possible that you won’t be one of them. It’s also possible that, by that point, you won’t even want to be one of them. Take that possibility seriously and start preparing now so you’re not stuck in adjunct hell.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students or recent Ph.D.’s considering transitioning to a career outside of academia now?

Alt-Ac evangelists are very fond of saying that doctoral training gives us lots of transferable skills. They aren’t wrong, but you have to remember that there are also applicants for the positions you’re looking at spent their twenties building a track record of succeeding directly at the tasks you’re claiming to be able to learn. It’s not so much that you’re wrong, but as a person who’s made hiring decisions it is far more persuasive to hear ‘I have a proven track record of success doing what you need done’ than it is to hear ‘I’m good at learning how to do things.’ Think about ways to get your foot in the door – you’re unlikely to be competitive for non-entry-level positions outside of very specific contexts just because of a lack of relevant experience. Once you have that foot in the door, that’s when your skill base can really help you.

Interview with Trevor Erlacher, UNC Ph.D. and Academic Advisor for CREEES and Program Coordinator for ASEES at the University of Pittsburgh

Name and email address:

Trevor Erlacher, tfe3@pitt.edu

Year you earned your Ph.D.:

2017

Field of study/brief dissertation description:

Modern Russia and Eastern Europe. Cultural and intellectual history of Ukrainian nationalism.

What were your career goals when you entered graduate school?

Like most, I wanted to become a professor.

What were your career goals as you completed your Ph.D.?

I still wanted to find a tenure-track faculty position, but I widened my job search to include other opportunities, mostly in higher education, but also in non-profits, think tanks, and a few government positions. I sought positions that would allow me to use the skills and foreign language and area studies knowledge that I had acquired while a graduate student.

What was your first job post-Ph.D. and how did you get it?

Teaching Assistant Professor at UNC. My connections to the History Department made this possible. After that I did a one-semester teaching and research postdoc at the University of Basel.

What is your current job (if different from your first post-Ph.D. job)?

I am the academic advisor of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (CREEES) at the University of Pittsburgh, and the program coordinator and newsletter editor of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES, also based on Pitt’s campus).

What does your current job entail, and which Ph.D.-related skills do you use on a daily and weekly basis?

The job entails advising undergraduate and graduate students on foreign language study, study abroad programs, academic planning, and scholarships; coordinating said programs; serving on and managing various grant committees; managing student records; event planning (career networking trips, film festivals, student conferences, etc.); hiring and supervising language tutors and student ambassadors; promoting our Center at various events; giving guest lectures (and eventually teaching courses) in my field; building and maintaining new partnerships across campus and with external institutions; participating in assessments of teaching and learning; managing various databases; administering scholarships and tuition remission funds; and editing NewsNet (ASEEES). I use many Ph.D.-related skills in this position, including teaching, grant writing, public speaking, regional expertise, overseas experiences, foreign languages, research, communication, editing, and project and time management skills.

What are the favorite parts of your job? Is there anything you would change about it?

I love working with students who are excited about learning and working in my field. The position affords me a lot of autonomy to decide how best to serve the missions of CREEES, ASEEES, and Pitt. It is a stimulating yet low-stress work environment with a great mix of talented coworkers representing students, staff, and faculty. It is interesting to see the other side of how a major university functions (e.g. now I’m the one dispensing the cash rather than applying for it). There are a plenty of opportunities for professional development here. The stability and benefits of a full-time permanent position are a welcome change from the typical short-term, low-pay contracts that many early- (and not-so-early-) career academics are forced to negotiate.

What did you do during graduate school (if anything) to prepare for a job outside of traditional academia?

I was a Program Assistant for UNC’s Center for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, where I worked on event planning and a major Title VI grant. This made a huge difference when I was asked to demonstrate administrative, collaborative, and communications skills by potential employers.

Did you have any relevant skills outside of your Ph.D. training that helped you secure your current job?

The sort of general office, interpersonal, and technical skills that I developed as a program assistant were, again, enormously helpful.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students still in coursework?

Internships, volunteering, and part-time work in fields that interest you can make a world of difference. Though it may feel like you don’t have time for this kind of thing when you are facing the pressure of research and writing deadlines, this is an investment of time and energy that can really pay off down the road, even if you do manage to land a tenure-track professorship at an R1.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students or recent Ph.D.’s considering transitioning to a career outside of academia now?

Make a list of your skills and areas of expertise, then focus on their transferability to whatever the position is. Don’t be shy or modest; talk to people, ask for their advice, and promote yourself as shamelessly as you can bear. Be prepared to have your personality (“fit”) be at least as closely scrutinized as your academic record or work history. Use all of your high-level research skills to identify and learn about new opportunities. Practice with a friend before any interview that you care about. You will probably face times of stress and despair (I certainly did!) but everything will work out if you just keep at it. Remember: no matter what people might say, your Ph.D. represents an incredible achievement and proof of your exceptional abilities and drive. All you have to do is present what you have accomplished in graduate school in a way that is compelling to people who followed a different path in life.

More upcoming deadlines, events, and workshops

I hope everyone is enjoying some sorely needed sunlight today.  What follows is another slew of upcoming deadlines, events, and workshops relevant to diverse career and professional development opportunities. As always, if you have questions or ideas/desires for an event, please be in touch with me!

On this Wednesday evening, February 27th, the Center for European Studies is hosting a Global Career Night at 5:30pm in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium of the Global FedEx Center. This is an opportunity to hear from a range of UNC alumni about their diverse and globally focused career trajectories.

A final reminder to get your applications in for the James REACH Fellowship, for either the summer or academic year, in order to get experience working with grant reporting and management, outreach, etc. Read more and apply here. Applications are due this week, February 28th.

For those interested, the second Research Beyond the Book Panel is this week (February 28, 2019 | 2:30 – 3:30 PM| Toy Lounge). According to the email they circulated, “the February 28th panel includes a discussion from Drs. Michele T. Berger, Patricia Parker, & Mark Katz about “Doing Collaborative, Engaged, & Community-Based Research”. This program was developed for UNC graduate students through a grant from the LDSP Program in The Graduate School. Please note, the information in this program will also be useful for any humanities researchers interested starting to do sponsored research so, interested postdocs and faculty are also welcome!”

If you’re looking for an alternate to TAing in the department for next year, you might considering applying for a Teaching Assistantship in the Writing Center. Here is a link to the application and more info about the requirements and details of the assistantship. Applications are due by March 1st.

If you’re interested in getting some hands-on, concrete experience working in career advising, consider applying to be a “Career Peer” at University Career Services. Applications are due March 7th. If you’d like more information, you can find it on the UCS website, or you can email me at stiglich@live.unc.edu and I’ll pass on the information I have.

Applications for the Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals (GCBF) are now open. I’ve written about this opportunity before, but in short, it a certificate program offered for graduate students in all fields to develop transferrable professional skills that employers in a range of fields seek. Read more about the program here and you can direct any questions to Dr. Leah Townsend at ltownsend@unc.edu. Applications are due via this portal at March 8th by 11:59pm.

A reminder about an upcoming workshop: There is a half-day event in the atrium at the Gillings School of Public Health on March 20th from 12:00pm to 4:00pm on building your professional brand with LinkedIn. They will have employment professionals there to look over your LinkedIn page and even to take professional headshots. You can stop by at your leisure, but make sure to register beforehand on Handshake. For more info about what’s offered, read here.

Applications for the Humanities Professional Pathway Award are now open! This award offers grad students at any stage of MA or PhD completion in the humanities and social sciences the chance to develop project-based research within existing cultural institutions. The Mellon-funded Humanities for the Public Good initiative will fund up to 10 $5,000 awards for this summer. You can also read more about the awards at their website. Completed applications are due by midnight at on April 1st. If you’re interested in learning more about the opportunity, our own Isabell Moore had one this past summer. You can also get in touch with Dr. Robyn Schroeder, who is the director of the HPG Initiative, at her email rschroeder@unc.edu.

Deadline Season!

‘Tis the deadline season, so bear with me as a I do a long round-up of all the upcoming application due dates for extra funding and professional development opportunities for this summer and the upcoming academic year. Some of these deadlines are right around the corner, which might seems like a deterrent to get an application together, but it might be worth the effort to get some free money and develop additional transferrable skills.

There is an information session about the Humanities Professional Pathway award next Monday, February 11th, from 12:00pm to 1:00pm in the Graduate Student Center. Snacks and drinks will be provided, and you can sign up to attend here. This award offers grad students at any stage of MA or PhD completion in the humanities and social sciences the chance to develop project-based research within existing cultural institutions. The Mellon-funded Humanities for the Public Good initiative will fund up to 10 $5,000 awards for this summer. You can also read more about the awards at their website. Completed applications are due by midnight at on April 1st.

The deadline to apply for a position as a Community Engagement Fellow has been extended until Monday, February 11th. This program awards up to eight fellowships of $2,000 each for graduate students to “develop engaged scholarship projects that employ innovative, sustainable approaches to address complex social needs” with an academic connection. You can find more information about the awards here and apply via this application portal.

The Jackson Center is offering up to four graduate and undergraduate student Summer Fellowship positions (late May to mid-August) 2019. These are paid, semi-full time positions for students interested in working at a local grassroots non-profit organization located at the gateway to the historic Northside Neighborhood, one of the historically Black neighborhoods of Chapel Hill. You can find the full application at this link. Applications are due February 15th. For questions email George Barrett at george@jacksoncenter.info.

Remember your applications for the department’s Graduate Summer Internship Award are due to Sarah Shields by February 20th. For more details on this, see her email from January 19th.

Here’s another plug for applying to the REACH Fellowship, for either the summer or academic year, in order to get experience working with grant reporting and management, outreach, etc. Read more and apply here. Applications are due February 28th.

If you’re looking for an alternate to TAing in the department for next year, you might considering applying for a Teaching Assistantship in the Writing Center. Here is a link to the application and more info about the requirements and details of the assistantship. Applications are due by March 1st.

Applications for the Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals (GCBF) are now open. I’ve written about this opportunity before, but in short, it a certificate program offered for graduate students in all fields to develop transferrable professional skills that employers in a range of fields seek. Read more about the program here and you can direct any questions to Dr. Leah Townsend at ltownsend@unc.edu. Applications are due via this portal at March 8th by 11:59pm.

And finally, a couple of workshops. First, there is a half-day event in the atrium at the Gillings School of Public Health on March 20th from 12:00pm to 4:00pm on building your professional brand with LinkedIn. They will have employment professionals there to look over your LinkedIn page and even to take professional headshots. You can stop by at your leisure, but make sure to register beforehand on Handshake. For more info about what’s offered, read here. Second, for international students, there the first part of a two part on Friday, February 22nd, in the Graduate Center from 1:00pm to 2:30pm. This first event focuses on support for international grad/professional students particularly about interview practices and conventions. Make sure to register here by February 15th if you’re interested in attending.

Thanks all for bearing with me on this long one. Please be in touch with any questions or suggestions regarding what you’d like to hear more about.

Careers in Academic Publishing Info Session

Last Thursday afternoon, Lucas Church and Andrew Winters, Editor and Acquisitions Assistant at UNC Press, respectively, were kind enough to join us for an introduction to careers in academic publishing. Since I know many folks weren’t able to make it because of teaching or seminar conflicts, I wanted to give a brief overview of the information we covered, as well as some resources as to how you can get more information.

First, Lucas and Andrew gave a brief overview of the various branches of academic publishing. Both Lucas and Andrew work in Acquisitions, which is the department responsible for identifying books the Press wants to publish and managing the review process. If you’re interested in turning your dissertation into a book manuscript, for example, this would be the department to which you submit your book proposal. Once a book has gone through the peer review process, it is then sent over to Manuscript/Editorial, which is responsible for copy editing the manuscripts and implementing house style. At UNC Press, trade books are copy edited in-house, and freelance copy editors are used for academic books. After the manuscript has been sent back to the author for approval, the book then moves into Production, which is the department that designs the interior of a book. After the page proofs have been returned to and approved by the author, the book can go to printing. At this point, the Marketing department’s process of identifying the appropriate audience and market for each book, reaching out to libraries, universities, bookstores, conferences, etc., is in full swing. Once the advance copies of the book have made their way back to the author, Publicity will begin organizing events at the aforementioned locations in order to increase awareness of the book and boost sales.

If you’re interested in getting into the field of academic publishing, here are some tips from Lucas and Andrew:
1) Do your best to sit down with someone in the field and have a chat or do an informational interview. Take advantage of the proximity of UNC Press and Duke Press! Lucas and Andrew, and most all of the folks at UNC Press, would be more than happy to talk with people.
2) Get some experience working in academic publishing! It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but any direct experience on your resume will help you in the interview process. You might get an internship at UNC or Duke Press. Shoot for a summer internship with financial support from the History Department or Grad School, or consider a volunteer basis for shorter periods. Duke Press also has periodic hourly employment opportunities for graduate students to get some hands-on experience, which I will endeavor to get more information about. Lucas suggested that experience working with Traces might also be a boon. If you have geographic flexibility for the summer, you might also consider apply to Yale Press’s paid summer internship program (applications due February 18, 2019).
3) Think about where you would want to work in a press. Lucas suggested that jobs in Acquisitions and Marketing are the ones with the most direct connection to the books’ content and material.
4) Peruse university press job postings on the Association of University Press’s (AUP) job website.

Finally, Andrew, who recently completed his MA in History at NCCU, underscored how transferrable historians’ skills are to a career in academic publishing. As an Acquisitions Assistant, Andrew is routinely called on to identify main arguments of book proposals, to synthesize the main intervention of a book already in the publication process for promotional material, to serve as a liaison between authors and editors, and to facilitate the review process, to name a few. Having interned at UNC Press myself, I can also attest to the breadth of editors’ knowledge about their respective lists. Their ability to see lacunae in an academic field and acquire the books that are going to make a significant intervention is what makes a good editor.

If you have any questions about this information session, or would be interested in me scheduling an additional info session for March, please let me know! If you’re interested in contacting Lucas Church, his email is lucas_church@unc.edu. His assistant, Andrew Winters, can be reached at winters5@email.unc.edu.

Round-up of Career Diversity Professional Development Opportunities for the New Year

I’m writing with my first career diversity round-up post of the semester to let you know about some opportunities coming up in January, and a sprinkling of February dates as well.

I want to draw your attention to two upcoming funding deadlines for some alt-ac internship opportunities. First is the Richard Bland Fellowship Professional Pathways Program, which supports doctoral students who are interested in exploring non-faculty career paths through the creation of a summer internship. Read more about the fellowship at the page I linked above. Applications are due January 31, so if you’re interested now would be a good time to start contacting potential organizations and designing your proposed internship.

Second, the James Peacock Reach Fellowship offers summer and year-long internship opportunities to develop professional experience in alt-ac careers by working with the Center for Global Initiatives (CGI) on numerous projects. Summer interns, who must be in their first or second year of studies at the time of application, will focus on several different projects throughout the course of the summer. Academic year interns, who must be ABD at UNC, will work on professional tasks such as grant writing, assessment, award management, and student advising. Please see the website linked above for more details about the application process and requirements. Applications are due February 28.

There is also a Communication Styles and Conflict Resolution workshop that will be held at the Graduate Center on Thursday, January 31, from 2:00-4:00pm. You can register for this event here.

Finally, on Thursday, January 17th at 3:30pm in Hamilton 569, we will be joined by Lucas Church and Andrew Winters from UNC Press. Lucas is an Editor with his MFA from NC State and Andrew is an Acquisitions Assistant who recently completed his MA in History at NCCU. Lucas and Andrew will share some broad information about what it is like to work in academic publishing, particularly on the acquisitions side of things, including the life cycle of a book and what the interview process might look like, among other topics. And Andrew will speak particularly to the transferrable skills that historians possess in this profession. Please also come prepared with your own questions about academic publishing!

That’s all I have for this first round up, but I will of course be in touch in the next couple weeks as more opportunities develop. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions about the type of programming you’d like to see more of.

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities and Resources

Here are a couple of professional development opportunities and support resources for diverse careers coming up in the next weeks, as well as a couple to mark on the calendar for early January. I’ll also be in touch soon with info on an information session on careers in academic publishing that will take place in early January.

If you’re interested in learning more about a career in the State Department or Foreign Service, then consider attending the information session hosted by the Curriculum in Peace, War, and Defense on Monday, December 3, at 12:00pm in Hamilton 569. They have invited UNC alumnus and Foreign Service Officer, Yaniv Barzilai, to discuss career opportunities in the State Department.

For those of your teaching your own course for the first time this Spring or Summer, you might consider attending the Graduate School sponsored event “Course Development Institute for Graduate Students.” This workshop will help instructors “develop a syllabus, a course plan, model lesson planning, create learning objectives, ideas for student centered engagement, and evaluate students’ learning outcomes.” If interested in attending, you can register here. The workshop will take place from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the Graduate Student Center (211A West Cameron Ave). Coffee, snacks, and lunch are provided.

On January 29, from 12:00pm to 2:00pm in the Graduate Student Center there is a workshop on Resiliency and the Imposter Syndrome, which is clearly useful to learn to navigate no matter your career. You can register here. Lunch is provided!

Hope everyone is hanging tough these last few weeks of the semester. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

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