“So…what will you do with that?”
It’s a question we’ve all heard.
It could be coming from your mother, your grandfather, your cousin’s fiancée, or the person sitting next to you on an airplane– if you’re a PhD student, you’ve no doubt you’ve faced this question on multiple occasions. Most of us, particularly those of us in the humanities or social sciences, have really just one answer for them: college professor.
The truth is, most of us know that there are other options besides the professoriate (or the traditional tenure-track), but we don’t know what they are. What’s more, we don’t know how to talk about our skill set outside of the university setting.
Thanks to the Humanities Without Walls (HWW) Pre-Doctoral Workshop, we now have a new set of answers (should we choose to use them). Funded by the Mellon Foundation, the workshop gives humanities PhDs the opportunity to meet people in a wide variety of careers (many of them with PhDs in humanities themselves) and even sometimes to visit them “in their natural environment” (at the workplace). At the same time, the workshop helps us to recognize the skills we bring to the broader non-academic workplace, as well as equip us with the know-how to use media and public forums to make that apparent.
We went to foundations and design thinking firms, everywhere from museums to LinkedIn, to community organizations and marketing agencies. We heard from freelancers and storytellers, talked with career advisors and musicians, with consultants, writers, municipal and federal employees, curators and executive directors. It was phenomenal experience. I learned about places and jobs I didn’t know existed. We got real talk from freelancers and people who followed their passions to start their own organization or company. I highly recommend it. To give you just a little taste, here are the 6 biggest takeaways for me: