So, you majored in the Humanities and are about to graduate.
Or maybe you’ve already graduated from undergrad and are about to get you much earned MA or PhD. I bet you’re asking yourself, “what now?”
For those of you who don’t want to go to grad school for the humanities, and for those of you who have already finished grad school but don’t want to spend the rest of your lives—if you’re so lucky—in the ivy tower, I know perfectly well the feeling that haunts you every night. In fact, I am feeling this way right now! Here are 5 things you can start doing to help get you onto the “professional” path.
1.Start networking as soon as possible—
The cliché that academics aren’t social needs to be erased from your memory. After all, it’s not always what you know, but who you know. Join graduate interest groups in other departments and fields altogether. Use the resources your university offers for professionalization. Even if you are the only person in the room that is older than 30, go to these events. The more people you know, the more you’ll hear about opportunities, and see how everyone else is feeling. Don’t forget to exchange email addresses, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.
2.Enhance your social media presence—
There’s no escaping it! If you want to even be considered for certain positions, you’ll need to have a LinkedIn account. There are lots of resources out there to help make the best profile possible, but here’s one I found incredibly helpful! In addition to your LinkedIn page, start making a blog.
However, whatever you do, don’t make it an academic blog! There are thousands of those types of blogs out there already. What’s more, you’re trying to leave academia, so why write like that?
Instead, try to use this blog to find your own “everyday” voice. Even if you want to write about more literary topics, there is definitely a non-academic way to do this. Additionally, you can use your blog to practice on content management, SEO optimization, and other skills you will definitely want to have when entering the job market with a degree in the humanities.
3.Find a part-time job or internship—
The biggest complaint I hear from graduate students is not enough time. (Well not enough time, and not enough money!). However, if you are certain that you don’t want to continue your graduate research after the year, semester, or whenever, I would definitely try and get a part time job. This is a great way to meet other people, make connections, learn new skills, and really improve your resume.
Instead of spending every waking moment in the library on research you have no interest in, try and see if you can take a clerical position in another department or do temp work for grant writing. There are many temp agencies out there, but here is one I’ve heard very good things about! (you can also try Craigslist, but I am always nervous about the quality and legitimacy of positions on there).
Lets say you’ve applied to hundreds of part time jobs, and none of them will hire you. Don’t worry, this is normal! You will read several emails saying something like, “you area qualified candidate, but we decided in another direction.” Again, this is normal, so don’t be discouraged.
In fact, this happened to me on a continuous basis. However, I didn’t let that drag me down and discourage me from the whole process. Rather, I decided to apply to unpaid internships and volunteer positions. I should warn you though: if you don’t have the funds for it don’t do it. However, if you are getting financial aid through the university or other avenues, I definitely recommend this path. You will be able to make connections, develop skills, and work on stuff you might never have done otherwise.
4.Treat your resume and cover letter like your diss—
Yes, your dissertation has been your baby up until now. But if you want to really make the leap from academia to “reality,” you need to put the diss into a drawer, and start working on your resume and cover letter. It is here where you get to show what skills you have acquired while being a graduate. Likewise, however, this is probably one of the most stressful parts of making the transition out of academia. Until now, writing essays, researching the most arcane authors, and TA’ing has been fundamental to how you sell yourself. But how do you rebrand yourself for a world that doesn’t care too much about Foucault?
For your resume, look and see what words the job description itself uses, and USE those words in your resume! Definitely use your university’s career center for this.
Write about quantitative results YOU produced. For example, say you wrote an essay for a seminar. Well, think about what it takes to write an essay: research, close reading, attention to detail, time management (after all, you are doing a whole bunch of other things all at once), and, of course, writing effectively for a specific audience. These are all skills that must be learned. Moreover, they produce something at the end: a grade.
- Excellent written skills
- Effectively conducted highly specialized research
- Developed strong analytic skills, with an attention to detail
- Time management
The cover letter is very similar to the resume. However, in the cover letter, you need to really emphasize the quantitative results your produced. Because most of the positions you will be applying for will have something to do with writing, you need to show how you’re an experienced writer (this is why starting a blog is quite helpful). Use the STAR approach to help write your essays.
Action you took
Results you achieved
Follow this acronym when writing your cover letter because a lot of interviewers will use this system when interviewing you. So let’s break it down.
Let’s say your just a humble grad student that has only written seminar papers for the past 2 years. Let’s even say you haven’t even taught (we’ll talk about how to sell teaching in another post). Well your Situation would be that you needed to write an essay by a certain deadline. The Situation and Task are quite similar.
Next tell what Actions you took. You conducted research, analyzed a text (attention to detail), and eventually wrote the paper under a certain deadline (ability to create content efficiently).
Lastly, tell what Results you achieved. Did you get published, present it at a conference, get a good grade, etc? Whatever the case is, let everyone know what you did, and use your great results as a way to show what you can do for the company.
5. Take the plunge—
It’s scary leaving the safe halls of school. But at a certain point you just gotta jump in!