Additional resources about academic careers. Whether you’re looking for sites, books, articles, or information about careers or the job market, you’ll find it here.

The Importance of Mentoring Others

I can’t say enough great things about how important mentors have been for my career. My sanity, my well-being. They have helped me discover breakthroughs, believe in myself, gain confidence, put myself out there, talk myself down from ledges, shed fear, navigate tricky situations, get out of trouble, the list is endless. Their wisdom their encouragement, their believing in me is a big part of why I started Academics at Work in the first place. A way for me to pay it forward, I guess.

It’s so important that you seek out and have a range of mentors for yourself, and I’ve written about that before. What I want to do today is talk about how important it is that you – yes, YOU – put yourself out there as a mentor to others.

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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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Research Professional Development Support

When you’re in the process of researching a potential employer, one of the key things you need to look for is their level of support for professional development.

As an academic, you are really into learning. You will need to keep learning throughout your career to stay engaged. You need a career that will challenge and grow with you. And so you need to get to the bottom of how the organization or team handles professional development.

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Johns Hopkins Investing in PhD Career Planning

I’m always glad to hear about a win when it comes to career planning and training for grad students. Here is a big one. Johns Hopkins has announced a $1.5 M investment in PhD professional development initiatives. Woohoo! This goes a long way towards acknowledging the importance of alt-ac careers.

Hopkins will start collecting & tracking more data about where their students end up working. This will help facilitate networking connections, and more importantly, help students see the enormous range of possibilities ahead where there were “none” before. That’s huge! Imagine if your department were transparent about where its students landed, and you could see that not only are most of these people not failures in any sense of the word, but are actually thriving at a wide range of careers, and doing great work!

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Who to turn to for Career Advice

Even though I don’t work directly in teaching or with students anymore, and my husband has left adjuncting for greener alt-ac pastures, I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking of my life in terms of semesters. So as this fall semester comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my time in grad school at Northern Arizona University. I was pursuing a Ph.D. in history there until 2006, when I made a deliberate decision to leave academia behind.

Actually, that’s not exactly true. Even while I was in the Ph.D. program, I had already made a decision not to pursue academia. I wanted to go into either academic publishing or museums – something *other* than academia. I was all about the alt-ac before that was even a thing!

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