Alt-ac Advisor

Launching careers outside academia.

Author

Josh Cracraft

LinkedIn: Essential for the Alt-Ac Job Search

Top professionals use it, which means you should too. We get it—our lives are supersaturated with social media. From hashtags to check-ins, status updates to Twitter trends, social media and all its trappings can be off-putting, especially to those of… Continue Reading →

Get the Most Out of the Big Job-Search Sites

Indeed, Idealist, CareerBuilder. And how you’re probably using them all wrong. Many PhDs interested in careers outside academia begin their alt-ac searches by heading straight to the big job-search sites. This is understandable, since these databases advertise themselves as one-stop… Continue Reading →

Interview Questions Only PhDs Get Asked, #3

Your reply should go beyond the basic because-that’s-what-interested-me-most answer.

This question is less of a potential minefield than some other interview questions only PhDs get asked, since employers generally only ask out of personal interest or if the subject of the dissertation is relevant to the nonacademic job at hand. Still, don't brush off this question. Instead, explain how you felt that previous research on your topic was insufficient and that you embarked on your project to help scholars better understand it. Doing so will paint you as a problem solver—someone who can identify and fill a need that others might be unaware of—which is one of the most valuable traits that employers seek.

If applicable, also describe how your research methodologies will potentially help other scholars in your subfield or academic discipline. In so doing, you’ll show potential employers that you have the ability to add value by pushing the collective needle beyond the status quo—an even more desirable trait in any job market.

Example Answer #1: I conducted research on Native Americans in the 18th-century Southwest not only out of personal interest—I grew up in Santa Fe—but also because it’s still one of the most under-studied regions and periods in American history. There’s still so much we don’t know. I chose to study Navajo and European understandings of disease in particular because I believed that by doing so, we could better understand how ideas related to health shaped experiences of colonialism in the region. While my research explored perceptions of health in one place and period, the way I was able to reconstruct Navajo ideas on disease and medicine has the potential to help historians do the same for colonized peoples in other places and periods who left few written records.

If your dissertation is in any way related to the alt-ac job you’re considering, make that connection explicit in your answer as well. If, for example, the applicant in the example above were applying for a position in a health-related field, she could conclude her explanation by saying, My research also got me interested in the ways in which people today time think about health and medicine, which is what led me to apply for this position.

Your reply should go beyond the basic because-that’s-what-interested-me-most answer. This question is less of a potential minefield than some other interview questions only PhDs get asked, since employers generally only ask out of personal interest or if the subject of the… Continue Reading →

Biggest Mistakes PhDs Make in Their Cover Letters

Cover letters aren’t essays, but it’s surprising how many applicants treat them as such. Yes, letters need to be thoughtful, personable, and tailored to each individual job, but that doesn’t mean they need to be elaborate. Whether it’s because they’re used… Continue Reading →

With a PhD, am I Entry-Level or Management Material?

Both. Neither. And here’s why. In most professions, five-plus years of training will net you a low-to-mid-level management position. Medicine residents help coordinate teams of nurses, interns, and students to ensure quality patient care; mid-level attorneys supervise paralegals and junior… Continue Reading →

101 Action Verbs for Your Altac Resume

Action verbs make your resume—and you—look awesome. A resume is more than a list of your work history and accomplishments; it’s also an argument for your efficacy in the workplace. Employers want employees who are proactive and who can get… Continue Reading →

Interview Questions Only PhDs Get Asked, #2

If your interviewer is persistent in diving deeper into your reasons for not pursuing an academic career, confront the question head-on in a positive manner. Don’t try to duck the question, since any evasiveness on your part will raise red flags and suggest to the interviewer that you really would rather be interviewing for an academic job instead of the position at hand. It’s especially important that your answer also convey your own agency in your decision not to become an academic, because no employer wants to hear that they’re your second choice.

If you knew prior to the interview that academia wasn’t really right for you, then say so, and explain why the nonacademic job you’re applying to feels like a much better fit. If, however, you’re interviewing for a nonacademic job because you didn’t fare so well on the academic market, then keep your answer focused on your interests rather than any particular career aspirations.

Example Answer #1: I knew pretty early on in grad school that academia wasn’t the right fit for me. While I enjoyed the research I was doing, I came to realize that I also wanted to be a practitioner in the field—to actually work with the immigrant communities I was studying instead of just writing about them. Of course, I would have been able to do both as an academic, but, personally, my interest lies significantly more in the practicing rather than the researching. That’s why I’ve applied for this position.

Example Answer #2: While I considered academia as a possible career path, my primary interest has always been in pursuing opportunities that would allow me to develop and apply my expertise in immigration, wherever those may be. That’s why I was so drawn to this organization, a place where I can apply my prior knowledge and experience and, at the same time, continue to grow.

If your interviewer is persistent in diving deeper into your reasons for not pursuing an academic career, confront the question head-on in a positive manner. Don’t try to duck the question, since any evasiveness on your part will raise red… Continue Reading →

Attitude is Everything: Shawn Achor’s “Happy Secret to Better Work”

Will Anyone Care About My Publications in the Nonacademic World?

Yes! But probably not for the reasons you think. You’re proud of your scholarship and rightly so. You’ve spent the better part of a decade becoming an expert in your field, and your publications are testaments to all those hard… Continue Reading →

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