Many, if not most, grad students and academics have at least some type of Career Plan. I’m sure you had to make one in your personal statement for admissions, even if you kind of made it up. Remember that part where you said you wanted to pursue a graduate degree so that you could…? That’s what I’m talking about.
Many of you had Plan A mapped out. I’m going to be a professor! Even if that is your Plan A, you still need a Plan B. If nothing else, as a safety net if Plan A doesn’t work out. (Though my own journey points out there are lots of other reasons you need a Plan B).
But here’s the thing. You ALSO need Plan C. A third option.
If you’re considering going alt-ac, or already are alt-ac but looking for a creative outlet for your truly academic self, I highly encourage a blog. Okay, that dates me (GenX here!) but a scholarly website. With or without a blog. Either way a spot to share your knowledge, your research and scholarly work, your skills in communications, and your dedication.
Gives YOU Control
So much of our careers is beyond our control. We have no idea how long our jobs will last, our functions will be around before they get outsourced to AI or algorithms, or even how much longer our employers will be around! But your online space is ALL YOURS.
Having a professional site gives you a chance to show off your thinking, your reasoning, your research, your data, your writing. Let’s dive into all the reasons I consider your own website to be a must-have for all alt-acs.
Back in the dark ages when social media first came around it was clear that it was NOT for work. Are you kidding? Why would we use it for actual work stuff when we needed it for much more important things, like cyberstalking exes, saving and tagging our favorite sites on de.licio.us, and poking people on Facebook? Nobody was using it for work then. We were using it to procrastinate instead of work!
Now it’s a totally different ballgame. Obviously anyone reading this is online and chances are you’re also on social media.
But it’s also not just a procrastination space separate from work. And it’s not just the blurring of the social networks themselves (where LinkedIn = work stuff and Twitter is where anything goes). Now people use all social media sites for work. In all kinds of ways. For finding studies, gathering data (across continents, even!), improving predictive models, recruiting study participants, analysis, promotion, turning conversations into formal projects, connecting, teaching larger audiences…It’s literally endless.
It’s become not just acceptable for people to be using social media professionally in their work, but for many academics, it’s also essential.
So when I came across Inside HigherEd’s “Twitter’s Gender Imbalance” article yesterday, I read it with interest. Knowing what I do about gender dynamics in the workplace for women, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the findings, I still was.
Oh well now this is interesting food for thought for grad schools. Forbes published “Don’t Just Flip the Classroom, Flip the School Day” by Michael Horn. The article talks about rearranging the school day so that high schoolers could go to a workplace for the mornings, gaining real-world exposure to, knowledge of, and experience in the workplace.
Now what if we applied that model to grad and professional schools? You know: having part of the daytime “program” being dedicated to the students getting real-world externships and cooperative work placements, gaining real world work experience, using the remaining day / evenings to do the traditional disciplinary core curriculum?
Cynics will say: but students will quickly realize that there’s no point in them going to grad school. That their specialized degree does not serve any advantage, and thus would drop out of the program. To which I say: that might happen, sure. But really: it’s a win-win (or, actually, as you’ll see a win on three fronts)!
I’ve been thinking alot about creativity and career planning this week. Not just in a general sense of thinking outside the box, but more in the sense that career planning requires you to flex and use your creativity. And fortunately, for academics, this is one area in which we all excel.
All Work Requires Creativity
This is easy to forget, especially in today’s society where creativity is associated so strongly with only art. Or more dangerously, that it is an innate characteristic or talent, as if it is limited only to a select, chosen few – brainchilds who work in certain professions. Or that it is limited to only certain industries.
Creativity is a skill. One that anyone can use, that you can strengthen, that all work requires to some degree, and that most academics have in spades.
Most importantly, it’s a skill that’s required for making an alt-ac career trajectory work.
But what I have experienced is that hearing that you need to be creative might scare you. First I’ll break down why, what to do about it, and what role it plays in career planning.
Are you changing careers? Or considering it? Before you start applying, you’re going to need to do some work on your resume. The point of a resume is to land you an interview, so how do you make that happen, when you’re an “outsider,” up against people who have already been working in or training for your new field? It’s hard, but not impossible.
Your resume is going to have to convince others that you can play the part. So stop thinking about your resume in terms of a historical record of your achievements, and instead approach it as a document that supports your new objectives. Let me show you some key strategies.