Now What: How to Get Help Getting Helped

So you’ve finally reached the promise land of ABD or maybe you just started you PhD program, and you ask yourself, “do I really want to do this anymore?”

Maybe you’ve been thinking this for a while, but silenced the thought and continued working on your chapter, only for it to creep back up. Jennifer Polk’s “It’s OK to quit your PhD” does an excellent job at telling you that everything will be ok. Indeed, she talks about how you should never forget that a PhD isn’t about your committee, the MLA, your parents, but about you.

 Now that we’ve got that tidbit out of the way (now that you’re officially an Ex-Grad student) let’s talk about 3 great ways to help transition from the world of Academia into the “real” world.Although this is targeted more towards Ex-grads in the Humanities, it is nonetheless applicable to everyone out there that is trying to live a life after grad school.


1.Ask, Ask, Ask:

The old adage, “the worst they can say is no” it definitely true here. Talk to friends, colleagues, old professors, parents, siblings, relatives about your adventure. However, don’t immediately ask them for a job! Instead, think of it like a date—so play it cool.

  • Ask them for a coffee or something casual

  • Tell them you are re-careering and want to get their advice on what type of approach you should take

  • Get their opinion on what they think you would be good at

  • Ask them if they know anybody that was in a similar position as you

Once the “date” is over, don’t forget to thank them for their time and insight. Furthermore, just like a date you want to give them either a call or email thanking them again. Remember, this is a way for you to subtly demonstrate that you believe he or she can help you, that they are important.

Thankfully for you, most people love feeling important, and they will most likely help you.

2.Informational Interview:

Ok, so you know what kind of job you want to have. Awesome! Now the question is: how do I get said job. Well, supposing your parent isn’t the CEO of the company or you don’t know anybody in any company (yet), you’ll have to do it the hard way.

First things first, get the contact info of someone in a similar position at the company you are looking at. And, if you don’t have a specific company simply type in the position you are looking for into Google and add LinkedIn afterwards. Over at The Muse, they talk about a great way to get an informational interview.

If this sounds a little intimidating or awkward, think of it like you did when you were applying to graduate school. All those years ago you probably did something similar to me: randomly search for the best programs on Google, find the professors at said universities with whom you wanted to work, read some of their material, and then contact them expressing your interest in what they study. Furthermore, you probably expressed your interest in working in that field, and more specifically with them.

Do the same when reaching out to someone for an informational interview. Once you’ve secured that interview, come prepared and be enthusiastic. There’s nothing worse than meeting with someone who doesn’t have a clue what they want to talk about. Remember, time is money, and you’re selling yourself to a potential colleague.

And just like our date metaphor from earlier, follow up. Write them an email thanking them for their help. If they gave you advice and you wind up implementing that advice, let them know. Remember, everybody loves feeling important and helping others out.

3.Get out!:

Unlike your previous life as a grad student, you can’t be cooped up inside all day. Even if you’re perusing the blog-o-sphere and making virtual connections (which is awesome!), you still need to get out. There are several meet ups opportunities available to you where you can talk with other Ex-Grads and learn from their experience.

  1. Go to conferences that are similar to the field you want to enter

  2. Volunteer at museums, galleries, non-profits, etc. They will often offer internships that will teach you great skills like book-keeping, data entry, grant-writing

  3. Go to the dreaded networking groups!

In addition to meeting new people through getting out there, it’s important to remember to keep your sanity. Leaving the safety of the ivory tower is pretty scary. Just going outside and having a bit of fun can sometimes be the little thing you need to keep everything in perspective.

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