When Careers Go….Sideways

Sometimes I have a client who is stuck. Stuck in a rut, stuck in a dead-end job, or stuck at the top of a ladder by themselves, with (literally) no backup supporting the ladder.

Today I met with a woman who has what on paper is a highly successful career in her industry. She has been with a company she loves for a long time, and she has had many promotions over time and climbed higher and higher within the organization.

Sometimes, that sounds like what we all want, but my point is that it’s not always what *everyone* wants. She doesn’t want the level of responsibility and pressure she finds herself at now.

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3 Types of Career Plans to Try

I do a lot of career planning with my clients, and these are the top 3 options that I return to over and over again. I’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each, and how to put each one into practice.

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Mentoring Approaches: A Study in Contrasts

I used to work in museums. And there were generally two ways to break into the field. The first was to work an entry-level job and eventually move your way up. You would spend your first couple of years being an assistant to someone, answering phones, stuffing envelopes, and staffing fundraisers, with the idea being that you would already have your foot in the door when a better job came open. The second was to take on a position of high responsibilities in a tiny, understaffed (because underfunded) organization. That’s the route I took.

I worked on a staff of 4, which became a staff of 3, and then 2, and so I was in way over my head. And with nobody to mentor me because again: understaffed and underfunded.

Hopefully times are different now, because even then, in 2006, when I reached out to the larger well-established museum in town practically BEGGING someone to mentor me, I got no reply. At all.

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Make Career Planning the First Set of Required Courses in Grad School

Yesterday I wrote a brain dump about grad school reform. I think that grad school in the 21st century needs to strike a balance. Right now it’s too immersive. It gives grad students the unrealistic luxury of focusing solely on their craft. It immerses students in a world where the only thing they do is their discipline.

When it comes to working, though, your job may have nothing to do with your craft. And even if it does, often the day-to-day tasks have little to do with your disciplinary expertise.

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Another Thing to Think about for Grad School Reform

I think a lot about what needs to change when it comes to graduate school. I thought a lot about it before I read Leonard Cassuto’s The Graduate School Mess (which is excellent and highly recommended), but I especially have been thinking more and more about it after having read that. Cassuto makes excellent points about what’s broken, how it got to that point, and who is thinking about good ways to fix it. You don’t have to convince me that grad school needs to be reformed. It needed reform back in the day when I did it!

One of the most important points he makes is that graduate schools need to overhaul the curriculum to incorporate professional development writ large. If students are to succeed in any career path, they will need to be taught how. How to find jobs appropriate to their training, how to market their transferable skills, how to interview and succeed on the job.

That’s all true. Grad school reform is long overdue.

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