4 Professional Skills You Can Gain By Blogging

Check out my own blog if you're into that kind of thing, http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

Check out my own blog if you’re into that kind of thing, http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

When you tell someone you have a blog, the conversation can go down a lot of different paths:

“Oh, so you spill your guts on the Internet and I should run far away from you?” Nope.

“Oh, so you get a bunch of free stuff?” Not really. I mean, sometimes. But usually not.

“Oh… that’s nice.”

Opinions on blogging run the gamut, but over the past few years, blogging has established itself as an effective tool for engaging in public conversations. People in every industry use it to communicate ideas, and young professionals can establish valuable career skills by taking on some WordPress time.

Establishing (And Keeping) A Strong Network: As a blogger, some of your greatest collaborators are other bloggers. Having these connections can be mutually beneficial for support, advice, and everyday inspiration. Keeping up with a network can be a challenge, so this skill will serve you well in the professional world.

Hint: Keep a contacts spreadsheet of other professionals in your space. Make sure you have their name, email address, blog URL, twitter handle, (and a few notes about them if you tend to forget things) so you can send out some support or an article they might find interesting.

Supporting Peers: In the professional world, you rarely go it alone. There are always people along the way to support you, and you can foster those relationships by supporting. The blogging world is no different, and bloggers are involved in that on a micro level by sharing content from other bloggers. It benefits your readers by providing them with interesting content, and it allows you to provide some love to other bloggers.

Hint: Every day or every other day, share content written by other professionals in your industry on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Marketing: Even if you have the best stories in the world, or the most creative DIY projects known to man, it’s not going to make an impact if no one can see it. Learning to market effectively and appropriately is crucial for bloggers. Bloggers can use Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+ like champs without breaking a sweat, a useful skill for establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Hint: Hootsuite – it’s a big deal. Using the free version, you can post to all of your social media channels at once, schedule future posts, and save yourself lots of time.

Listening & Reacting: Being hooked up to the Internet makes you realize that people stop caring about things quickly. Really quickly. No one wants to talk about Pharrell’s hat at the Grammy’s anymore (even though we should never stop talking about that). As a blogger it’s important to listen to the Internet – what’s trending on Twitter, what people are sharing on Facebook. Being receptive to new trends is a great skill for the workplace, ensuring that your ideas are always timely and innovative.

Hint: Set up a Google Alert for your niche. If you are a travel blogger focused on luxury trips with a low price tag, set up a Google Alert for “cheap travel” or “traveling on a budget.”  If you are a marketing professional focused on fashion brands, set up a Google Alert for “social media fashion brands.” At the end of every week (or every day, depending on your preference), Google will send you an up-to-date list of what influencers in your niche are talking about. This keeps your content relevant and helps you avoid stale topics.

Blogging allows you to create a network of people who can challenge you creatively and intellectually by sharing ideas online. This exchange can keep you sharp and in-tune with current events, and can boost your skills in the workplace.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

Finding an Internship Without Prior Experience

source: collegefashion.net

source: collegefashion.net

This guest post was written by Sam Carkin, a sophomore studying Marketing and Interactive Media.

The “real world” can be intimidating; especially when you’re just starting out. Sure, that first job as a house painter or bus boy is great for earning some money and learning to work with others, but I am assuming if you came to Northeastern you are looking to do something within your major. Northeastern is special in the sense that co-op allows you to work within your major prior to graduation, but what if you want some experience for your résumé before applying to that first co-op job? A summer internship right after your freshman year is an awesome way to go, and something I had the opportunity to do last summer with integrated marketing firm GY&K. Below, is some strategies I used for landing that internship where I gained experience in the marketing and advertising field before my first co-op (which will begin in July).

1. Network, network, network:  I visited a family friend who worked at a huge marketing agency called Arnold Worldwide. He had been in the industry a while and agreed to introduce me to an employee at GY&K, the person who ultimately offered me the internship. Ask your parents, ask your friends, find SOMEONE that works in your industry of choice and ask them if they know anyone that you might be able to talk to or work for.

2. Informational Interviews are kEY: OK, so I had been introduced to this person from GY&K, but what now? An informational interview is a perfect way to demonstrate professionalism and interest, while also learning a great deal from someone who knows the industry well. If it goes well, you have a better chance of possibly working for the person you speak with.

3. Have confidence: Going in to speak with an industry professional can be extremely intimidating; however, setting up informational interviews shows that you are genuinely interested in what that person does and see them as a successful individual in their field. They will be just as excited to tell you what they know as you are to learn, and it should be treated as a casual conversation during which you can make a great first impression.

4. Do not be afraid to ask: If your interview went well, at the end feel free to ask if that professional’s company has any opportunities for you to gain experience, or if they know of any other companies that might have these opportunities. It will allow you to possibly find that internship position, or continue to grow your network.

Sam Carkin is currently in his sophomore year at Northeastern University. He is a dual major of Business Administration-Marketing and Interactive Media and will be going on his first co-op in July. Feel free to contact him at carkin.s@husky.neu.edu with any questions related to the blog post or his experiences.

Personal Website: What It Is And Why You Need One

source: memegenerator.net

source: memegenerator.net

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

Once upon just a few years ago, recruiters and employers relied on resumes, cover letters, and interviews alone to judge potential hires. Now, Internet presence is a huge part of the hiring process. According to Workfolio, 56% of hiring managers are most impressed by a candidate’s website, but only 7% of candidates have personal websites. In other words, it’s probably time for you to get on board (if you aren’t already).

So, what is a personal website?

The concept is pretty self-explanatory, but there are some gray areas in terms of what goes into a personal website. The best personal websites include the following:

About Me – Just a quick introduction to you. Keep it simple – your work should do most of the talking.

My Portfolio/Resume – Some skills or industries lend themselves well to a personal portfolio. If your skills lie in design, writing, or anything that can be showcased on your website, this is the place to show them off. If your portfolio is limited, feel free to include your resume so recruiters can see the other amazing skills you already have.

Blog – Only if you’re into it. A blog can be an incredible professional tool for establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry. A blog can also show potential employers or clients your dedication, attention to detail, and crazy writing skills. If you aren’t excited about writing a blog, though, you don’t have to! Your personal website is all about you and your professional brand.

Hire Me – Adding a “Hire Me” page greatly increases your chances of finding job opportunities because your resume and skills are visible to the world, even when you aren’t actively interviewing. If you’re looking to transition from the office to freelance work or just get extra experience on the side, this is a perfect addition to your personal website.

Why do you need one?

Showcase yourself and your work. If someone shows up to an interview with a seven-page resume, that person is probably awful. But during the hiring process, that’s exactly what an online portfolio is – it allows you a place to showcase all of the work you can’t fit on your resume. If you’re a writer, you now have somewhere to store your best pieces so an employer can easily sift through them and appreciate your awesome self. A professional website also gives employers a hint of your personality, which is usually lost on a resume.

Establish your online presence. Making yourself known online is an amazing asset to job searchers. It increases your visibility and makes you stand out strong in an interviewer’s mind. With a personal website, you are able to put your best and truest self out into the world for employers and clients to see. And that’s pretty amazing.

Show your skills. During interviews, showing is always better than telling. Strong computer skills are a huge asset in today’s job market, so show your potential employer your skills first-hand. Setting up a personal website illustrates you ability to learn and utilize important new professional skills. And that’s a pretty big deal.

How do I start?

Getting started won’t take long, and once you’re set up, your site will only require occasional updates (when you do something awesome that you need to add, of course!). WordPress is one of the most popular personal website platforms because it is customizable, easy to use, and free. Other platforms include Tumblr, Blogger, and Posterous.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

 

Life of a Honors Student

source: ontariojobspot.net

source: ontariojobspot.net

This guest post was written by Katie Braggins, a third year international affairs major.

Being an honors student will enhance any students’ Northeastern experience through cultural events and a plethora of free food.  However for me specifically, it helped me along my academic path to help narrow my focus within my major. The Honors Program offers a diverse range of classes by some of the best professors on campus. First Year Honors Inquiry courses are offered for freshmen, which can fulfill NU core requirements while exploring topics in depth outside of one’s concentration. In my first semester at Northeastern, I had the opportunity to take a class on the conflict in Northern Ireland with Professor Michael Patrick MacDonald, which first introduced me to analyzing the asymmetric relationship between state and non-state actors in conflict.  Spring of my freshman year, I expanded my knowledge of terrorism and violence in “Seeking Peace in Times of Terror.” These classes I took my freshman year helped me to hone in on violence and conflict as an area of study within my major, international affairs.

These classes led me to my first co-op at the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security. As a research associate, I was able to learn about emergency preparedness for natural and man-made disasters through analyzing governmental reports and evacuation plans. This past fall I had the opportunity to take a class on the espionage and covert operations during the Cold War with Professor Jeffery Burds. The interdisciplinary seminar was very interactive, which allowed students to explore topics within the larger theme based on their interest area. I was able to read a book and article to present on the emerging threat of cybersecurity, a topic that is increasingly relevant in today’s national security landscape.

I am currently on co-op for the second time at two NGOs in Buenos Aires addressing the effects of the Dirty War in Argentina. My work at one NGO, Cecreda, is to analyze the economic and developmental progress of the Argentina since the conflict in order to produce reports to be distributed. I will be writing briefs and analyzing the trials for the governmental actors responsible for carrying out and perpetuating the state violence for the other NGO, CODESEDH. I hope to apply for honors scholarships to conduct my own research on these topics in the future. The honors program has had a great affect on my academic career at Northeastern, and will continue to do so in the future.

Katie Braggins is a third year International Affairs major.  She is a guest blogger currently on co-op in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  She can be reached at braggins.k@husky.neu.edu.

Career Fair Tips from Angela (the bio major)

Career FairThis post was written by Angela Vallillo, senior biology major on the pre-medical track.

Hi all! My name is Angela and I am a senior graduating this year with a degree in biology! I’m graduating early, which is scary and exciting at the same time. It leads me to the issue of finding a job and figuring out what to do with my life in a pretty short amount of time. That being said, a great resource for everyone looking for a job or seeing what’s out there is the Spring Career Fair held by career services on Thursday, February 6th in Cabot Cage from 12PM-4PM. There will be over 150 employers looking for people like you and LinkedIn photo ops!

I hold a work-study job at Career Development (formally Career Services) and have helped organize and run the past two career fairs. That being said, I have a few tips for students planning on attending:

  1. The most important piece of information that I can give you is to research the company before the fair! I repeat: Do your research! Some companies are offering positions for people like you and you might not even know it. A company, such as Liberty Mutual has a stigma of being only for finance and insurance majors, however there are positions open that allow one to market for the company or to manage (I will mention this more later). Also, it essential that your resume stands out to employers. What will make you stand out to the employer representatives is that you know what position you are interested in and can tell them why you’re interested in the position. They receive so many resumes from your peers, that making yourself stand out is essential!
  2. If you’ve been to the career fair before, its no secret that the jobs that many of the employers are looking offering are for engineers, computer scientists, and businessmen/businesswomen. You may be saying to yourself that you don’t fit that criteria, myself included. However, there are a lot of employers that list that they are looking for all majors. As I mentioned before, some companies have a reputation for offering one type of job, however they are looking for other majors for their company. This brings me to my third piece of advice…
  3. What you choose to do for after graduation does not dictate what you will do for the rest of your career! This is a big piece of advice that sometimes I don’t even think about. I eventually want to attend medical school and if I do a job in a different industry that interests me, that will only strengthen my resume more to make me a well rounded individual.

I hope that you find my advice helpful! I also hope to see you at the career fair. Remember to wear your nice suits and ties!

Angela Vallillo is senior biology major on the pre-medical track. Follow her NU admissions blog to read more from Angela.

How I Became a Part-Time Soldier

Part-time Solder, full-time student Source: northeastern.edu

Part-time Solder, full-time student.
Source: northeastern.edu

The following article was written by a Northeastern student and Army ROTC cadet.

When I first entered college, I did not intend to become a cadet, an officer in training. I come from a family with no military background and did not have close friends in the military. During my first semester of college, my focus was adjusting to the new environment, so I did not take much time to explore opportunities.

Then, towards the end of my first semester, I realized that I was in the wrong major. This led me to talk to a variety of professors, advisors, students, and Career Development staff to get more career information. One student I ended up talking to was a classmate who is in ROTC. She told me to give it a try.

After a summer of introspection, and again meeting with more advisors, I started the semester not only in a new major, but also in a new program: Army ROTC.

Liberty Battalion Army ROTC, the program I now belong to, is hosted at Northeastern University. It takes students from 14 different area colleges including Boston College, the Colleges of the Fenway, Suffolk College, Berklee College of Music, New England Conservatory, and more.

Before starting ROTC, I met with the Liberty Battalion’s senior recruiter to get my questions answered. Although his title is recruiter, he does not earn commission for bringing in students, and his job is really to increase awareness of the program. My first question was whether doing ROTC meant I had to join the Army. To my surprise, he told me that when students first start, they can leave freely if they find out ROTC isn’t right for them. Only after accepting a scholarship or entering their third year do cadets have to commit to service in the Army.

After establishing that I did not have to join the Army right away, I asked about the time commitment involved. The ROTC staff told me that ROTC places academics first, so cadets can be excused from activities if needed. Otherwise, cadets attend three morning workout sessions, a two-hour lab, and a class worth 1 to 3 credits each week. They are not required to attend activities during co-op semesters.

I was also curious whether ROTC would impose restrictions on where I could study or co-op, since I am interested in co-oping abroad. I found out that they allow study and co-op abroad. Moreover, ROTC can make it easier to go abroad by offering Department of Defense-sponsored cultural exchange programs at no cost to students.

Finally, I learned that ROTC offers scholarships covering up to 4 years’ full-tuition, for cadets of all majors. After graduation, cadets can enter into a variety of fields such as aviation, civil affairs, engineering, finance, law, and healthcare. Cadets also have a choice in joining the Active Duty Army, Army National Guard, or Army Reserve. About 60% of cadets in Liberty Battalion choose to go active-duty, which requires serving in the Army full-time for four to seven years. Active-duty soldiers get many benefits such as a guaranteed job after graduation, free housing, top-notch health insurance, and opportunities for free travel to locations worldwide such as Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Hawaii.

Cadets who join the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which are collectively known as the reserve components of the Army, also receive benefits such as discounted healthcare and insurance. However, the primary benefit for most is the ability to hold a civilian job while drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, close to home.

So I decided to join ROTC, and my experience has been nothing but extraordinary. Since joining, I drastically improved my physical fitness, leadership capabilities, and confidence in myself. I also established close bonds with a variety of college students with whom I train, take classes, and attend lab. Finally, I developed leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills which employers value. Because of my terrific experience with ROTC, I ultimately committed to joining the Army National Guard in order to serve my community as a part-time soldier, while still being a full-time student.

So if you are even remotely interested in what ROTC has to offer, find out more. Talk to the students in uniform you may find around campus, or in Rebecca’s Café. Ask one of your friends or classmates about ROTC. Come to one of Northeastern ROTC’s open physical training sessions, or open labs. Drop into the ROTC office on Huntington Ave. Or do some exploring online at rotc.neu.edu and armyrotc.com .

ROTC is the only program that lets you experience the military without prior commitment. So take advantage of this opportunity to improve yourself and your career. See if you too want to become a part-time soldier.

How to Prepare For Your Last Semester In College

source: gifbay.com

source: gifbay.com

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works.

So it’s your last year of college. Nervous about being unemployed yet? Yeah, being unemployed in college means more time for fun stuff, but it’s not so cute a year after you graduate. Starting your job search early in your last year of school will put you a step ahead when graduation rolls around.

Make a company list. Make a list of your top 5 to 10 target companies. This allows you to focus your networking efforts on a specific crop of companies. First, check on their website for any openings. Then it’s time to start the leg work.

Check LinkedIn for people in your network who work at your target companies. If you have a contact there, go grab coffee and talk about the company. They can be a valuable resource for you, providing tips for your application and contact information of someone in the department you are looking at. If you talk to your contacts early in your last year, they will let you know if a position opens up in a few months.

Go to Career Development. Their job is to help you find a job. Take advantage of that service while it’s free and available to you. Stop by with an idea of what you want to do. College career advisors have network contacts in almost every industry, so don’t be afraid to come in just for a chat. Your advisor may have contacts in your companies of choice, so make sure you let your advisor know about your job interests.

Talk it up. If your professors don’t know your career goals, they can’t help you even if they want to. Be sure to talk to your professors, especially if you are in a small class or you have lots of contact with a professor. Find an excuse to stop by their office hours, and mention your job search. Professors are usually professionals in their field, so they have an extensive network of upper-level management and may be able to help you out.

Conferences & networking events. Networking events are an incredible resource for soon-to-be grads. Instead of strolling in with your resume and mindlessly walking around the tables in hopes of finding something interesting, check the attending companies ahead of time if they are posted. This will allow you to prepare for networking with specific companies. At Northeastern, the Senior Career Conference provides an opportunity for graduating seniors to meet with potential employers and create connections. The Senior Career Conference is being held tomorrow from 12-6PM and includes workshops, panels, and networking opportunities.

On average, it takes a college grad between 3 and 9 months to land a job. The best time to start is November of your senior year or earlier. This gives you plenty of time, and allows you to avoid the May unemployment freak-out.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here.

 

Living and Working in “The Emerald City”

City Spot Seattle

This guest post was written by NU student, Andrew Rota. He recently finished his co-op in Seattle working for the Northeastern Seattle graduate campus.

I had been living in the northeast for far too long. Originally from western Massachusetts, I always wanted to move out of state, but knew that Northeastern with its experiential education component was the smartest career choice I could make. While looking for other cities to live, Seattle stood out as a center for entrepreneurship and innovation. Knowing that I wanted to go into product development, Seattle seemed like a good option for a change.

I went through the same process as most. I applied for my position through myNEU COOL and then got an email requesting an interview—the difference being it was via Skype. I requested an office in the Sterns Center to borrow for the interview (which clearly went pretty well) and then was offered the position as Marketing/Social Media Manager for Northeastern’s Seattle Campus.

I’ll admit, I was nervous to move across the country. Finding housing was a bit stressful but ended up working out to be a good value with roommates who have become close friends. I am an avid biker, so I disassembled and packed up my bike and brought it with me on the plane. Once I was settled into my new apartment, I had my roommates in Boston send three pre-packed boxes, unfortunately I only received two. I did end up receiving the final box… three months later. Lesson #1: Do not let your roommates paste shipping labels on valuables, especially if they’ve never done that before. Lesson #2: Always put a very high declared value on your packages in case they do not make it the lofty 3,000 miles.

Working at the Seattle Graduate Campus is a unique experience that has provided me with great opportunities. While we are part of the large Northeastern structure, we also have our own entrepreneurial start-up environment. The combination of these two structures creates incredible oscillation in any given work day. In a single day, I might, for example, take pictures for an event we are hosting, write an article for our website, and later on attend a networking event at the Space Needle.

Since it is a relatively small team (only 10) compared to most of the University, there is an “all hands on deck” atmosphere. Many of the positions encompass what would be whole departments back in Boston and my role is no exception.  We frequently interact with our colleagues in Boston for support, though I have full accountability for my job responsibilities.

One of the benefits of my position would be the work culture.  In fact, it has been one of my favorite aspects of the position; it is extremely collaborative and exciting. All my coworkers are positive and actively include me on initiatives and projects they believe are of interest to me.

When I started in June, I was encouraged to sit down and write out my own professional development goals. I was then able to customize additional responsibilities to help me meet those goals by the end of my co-op. For example, one of my goals is to improve my writing ability. As a result, I now write various articles and news posts for the campus that get published in the Seattle Campus News weekly. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities to meet and interact with prominent leaders both within Northeastern and with outside executives. Some challenges include that fact that the job is always changing. Sometimes this is a benefit because it keeps the role fresh but in other circumstances, it can be difficult to adjust.

Seattle is a dynamic and one-of-a-kind city with so much to do. The city is surrounded by water with magnificent views of two separate mountain ranges. It has everything you could want including nightlife and cultural destinations while still being located close to plentiful nature opportunities (an important component for someone who grew up in the woods of Western Mass.). The city is changing rapidly and there is lots of transformation.

One thing Seattle lacks is the historic preservation tradition of an older city, something Boston is rich with. Although I love the changing and zestful atmosphere, there could still be room for 19th century Victorian homes, which once stood, and a more active sense of preservation. Though it is in the works, Seattle (unlike Boston) does not have a large subway system. There is a decent bus system but most people still drive.

Although my current position is not in the field of my dreams, I have learned many transferable skills. I am currently helping the Dean here on a national initiative to increase S.T.E.M. graduates and a special project to increase student involvement for a Senior Vice President in Boston. All in all, I’ve enjoyed my experience and would encourage any NU student to trek the 3,000 miles to check it out.

First Impressions: Make the Most of your First Week

Looking good? Check. source: blogs.fit.edu

Looking good? Check.
source: blogs.fit.edu

This article was written by Lindsey Sampson, a 3rd year international affairs student at NU as a regular student contributor for The Works. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson

The beginning of co-op is upon us, which means it’s time for new introductions. Your first week is going to be overwhelming; you will meet too many people, learn all about your new responsibilities, and you will feel like it can’t possibly only be 10am. Don’t worry – you got this. Here are a few tips to make the most of your first week.

Never eat alone: This is the time to introduce yourself. Get lunch with your department or go on a coffee run with the nice lady you just met from marketing—meet everyone you can. Your job will be much more enjoyable once you make some friends, so why put it off?

Don’t walk in like you own the place: During your first week, air on the side of saying less rather than saying too much. You will provide a fresh set of eyes for looking at systems and processes. Your suggestions will be valuable, but store up some ideas and save them for when you have a better idea of how the company works.

dilbert-remember-name-620x278

Don’t call your boss Mary when her name is Kate: A magical amnesia wave washes over me during introductions. I am so focused on shaking hands and telling the other person my name that I completely forget to pay attention to their name. Immediately after they tell me, I have already long forgotten. Save yourself the embarrassment by paying attention during introductions. During your first week, avoid using the phrase, “I’m not good with names.” No one is good with names. The only way to get good at names is by consciously focusing during introductions. Sometimes you’ll blow it, but hey, it’s the first week.

Meet with your boss: Or better yet, your boss’s boss. Take time your first week to discuss the company’s goals and how you fit within the larger goals of the company. Knowing not only your responsibilities, but the responsibilities of those above will allow you to go above and beyond from the beginning in a noticeable and productive way. This puts you in a great position for a raise down the road (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

Most of all, don’t worry. Your first week and the many first impressions will be intimidating, but you will get used to everything and you will learn your co-worker’s name and, with no warning at all, you will get to your desk one morning and realize you’re thriving. It’s co-op season, so let’s make it happen.

Lindsey Sampson is a middler International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and/or tweet her @lindseygsampson.

Swimming Against the Tide: Alternative Careers after the PhD

source: wisciblog.com

source: wisciblog.com

Sometimes we find ourselves caught in a current, headed toward a known, but undesired destination. It takes a little effort to reset our course, a few strong side strokes to pull us out of the momentum of the moving water until we are picked up by another stream.  For the last six years, I have been training to be a professor.  The English PhD program at Northeastern has taught me to be an astute reader of culture, a critic of discriminatory ideologies, an observer of systems, a writer skilled in argument, and a teacher ready to pass on these skills to a new generation of learners. As I moved along the stages of coursework, exams, and dissertation writing, the tenure track carrot dangled before me. But, half way through, disillusion set in.  I’m not here to share the doom and gloom that clouds today’s academic job market (you can find plenty of that here).  While I enjoy teaching, I wanted to engage with a wider community beyond the university boundaries. Finding an alternative career path takes some effort, but can lead you to promising horizons.  Here’s what I learned along the way.

Search Your Soul, Then Do Your Research

After many years pursuing a PhD, it felt like defeat to turn away from the professor Holy Grail.  But, I could no longer ignore my feelings of disconnection.  Coming from rural Maine, I want to mediate the gap that divides the world of academics and the working class in which I grew up. I brainstormed careers that would serve my goals of public engagement in the arts, community building and cultural education.  After some research, I realized my skills could find a home at cultural centers, publishing houses, museums, historical societies, nonprofits, research and philanthropic foundations. Be open to alternatives if you want your career prospects to widen.

Tap Your Network

When I initially approached my dissertation committee with my career doubts, I feared I would be ostracized for ‘dropping out’ of academia.  My announcement was met with some caring resistance. Trained as professors themselves, my advisors worried they would be unable to give me the alternative career advice I sought.  As my career goals solidified, they helpfully suggested colleagues working in publishing and nonprofits that I could contact for informational interviews.  I also discovered a burgeoning online community of PhDs like me seeking alternative academic (alt-ac) careers. Following the #altac community and tapping my network gave me the language to articulate my growing interests. 

Create Opportunities for Growth

To learn more about arts administration, I began to seek opportunities to test those waters.  I volunteered with the English Graduate Student Association’s (EGSA)  annual conference doing administrative tasks like booking rooms, creating marketing materials, and setting up receptions.  Finding I had a knack for organization, I proposed the EGSA add an art exhibit to the conference.  The first exhibit was a modest two day show featuring local artists, yet, in my mind it was a success as I watched an idea come to fruition.   The next year I dreamed bigger and secured a space in Gallery 360.

Photograph by Genie Giaimo

Photograph by Genie Giaimo

That same year, I dabbled further in arts development by creating an online journal, The OrrisThe Orris was a collective of graduate students, writers and artists who sought an outlet for our creative work.  Eventually, The Orris team disbanded as dissertations, families and careers took precedence, but during our time, we created a media brand, crafted mission statements and editorial policies, developed work flows, strategized marketing plans and hosted community events with a volunteer team, little funds and few resources.  With a little extra effort, you can create your own opportunities to learn new skills and make career connections.

Seek Out Mentors

The Orris experience solidified my desire to work in the arts and culture industry, but it also showed me where I need further training.  Entrepreneurship is a much touted value in today’s world, but to be an idea maker, we must first learn the logistical intricacies of putting ideas into action.  Mentors play an essential role in providing leadership guidance for young professionals. Though I am blessed with a supportive academic committee, in the year ahead I look forward to gaining a new set of mentors to teach me how to be an effective manager and leader.

As I begin my final semester and finalize my dissertation, I am eager to see where this new current will carry me. In this blog series, I’ll share my experiences on the alt-ac job market as I count down to graduation. From now until May, join me on the First Thursday of each month for resources on turning CVs into resumes, identifying transferrable skills, the value of networking, and developing your professional persona online.

Lana Cook - HeadshotLana Cook is a PhD candidate in the English department at Northeastern University. Her dissertation traces the development of the psychedelic aesthetic in mid-twentieth century American literature and film. Lana is a 2013-2014 graduate fellow at the Humanities Center.  She received her bachelors of arts at University of New Hampshire.  You can follow her on Twitter @lanacook or Linkedin