Lynn’s talk offered a number of helpful tools for those of us who cannot even fathom how to start a job search outside of the traditional academic, tenure track route. Her first piece of advice was to identify your skills; our work in English translates, she pointed out, into marketable skills. For instance, teaching and presenting at conferences gives us the skill of public speaking. This perspective helped me, at least, realize how I can frame my abilities in non-academic speak. In other words, we can convert the skills we’ve learned here in the English department in a way that makes us attractive candidates for “real-world” positions.
One of her most important suggestions, though, was to come talk to Career Services—they offer appointments to graduate students to help us identify our non-academic interests and skills, and they can help with that process of translating our skills onto a resume. Or even just converting a CV to a resume.
As for the job search itself, Lynn suggested a resource that strikes me as invaluable, and it had never occurred to me before. Though some of us may have a LinkedIn account, she showed us that it does more than just create a professional version of a Facebook page (I admit that this was my perception of LinkedIn, which is the reason I don’t have an account). The Lehigh and Lehigh Alum networks, she said, are resources for us. They are searchable, with many filters, and can help us in a few ways. For instance, browsing the Lehigh Alums network for people who list writing as a skill can show us the huge range of jobs that require writing, each a potential career. Moreover, she encouraged us to reach out to alums who have jobs we find interesting and ask them about it; this can help clarify our sense of possibilities and help build contacts that can (hopefully) lead to interviews and offers. Though many of us, myself included, may find the thought of networking unsavory or uncomfortable, she assured us that Lehigh alums welcome this way to give back to the university, and are generally very receptive to these kinds of overtures.
Lynn informed us that 80% of jobs are found this way—through networking—as opposed to searches that involve sending in resumes cold. She discourages spending much time on job hunting sites like monster.org. Openings listed online generally get thousands of resumes, she told us, making it very difficult to stand out. But applying for a job with a contact within the company automatically gives you an advantage (I suppose that this is the logic of networking, but I at least never considered it in quite this way). Lynn suggests, then, spending only 30% of your job hunting energy on job sites and 70% of your efforts on building your network.
The main takeaways:
- Figure out your interests outside of English
- Figure out how and which of your English skills translate to the non-academic market
- Create a LinkedIn account and use the Lehigh Alum network to build your own
- Focus on your network more than job sites like monster or careerfinder (70/30)
- Make an appointment with Career Services to help with any stage of this search