How To

5 Career Tips for Arts PhD Candidates

From Academia to Amazon and Beyond

On Oct. 28 Dr. Anne Krook, a former Amazon executive, led a workshop at the University of Alberta for 2nd and 3rd year PhD students on how to direct their energies and structure their dissertations. Krook – who holds a PhD in English Literature from Cornell University – is passionate about helping students at the point of candidacy achieve their goal of a job in academia. But not every PhD will find an academic-based job and she’s equally passionate about preparing a student for the alternative.

Here are Krook’s 5 main tips and tricks to prepare you for the non-academic job hunt:

Tip #1 Be Optimistic

The job market is diverse. Students often have the skills, they just aren’t positive about the multitude of ways those skills can translate into the non-academic workforce. I would say most PhcareerD students are under-confident and under-selling themselves.

Tip #2 Start Early

When you enter the graduate program, you have to realize that the end of the yellow brick road may not be a job in academics.

If you spend just 5% of your time preparing for that possibility,  just in case you have to get a non-academic job (and I’m talking about a ½ hour a week) you’ll be far ahead of the pack if and when that time comes.

Tip #3 Assemble Data

Look at your work history, extracurricular activities, groups you’ve been in, organizations you’ve volunteered for – these are skills. Non-academic employers are interested in a broader range of skills. It’s important to be selective of your time while in the graduate program but keep in mind you may need other experience.

Tip # 4 Turn your CV into a Resume

CV’s are written for academics, by academics and it’s like code. The most impressive CV won’t impress someone in the non-academic job market if they can’t understand it. Keep a resume in parallel and update them both frequently. Electronically this is now very simple and worth the time it takes to prepare.

Tip #5  Join LinkedIn

If you create a simple LinkedIn profile and cultivate a network of colleagues and aquaintances while you’re in school, you’re ahead of the game when you graduate. It’s a necessary resource, for the infrastructure of finding a job. Leverage the network and your contacts. It’s most useful when you’re not directly in contact with an organization or individual you’d like to work for/with but you know someone they know. It expands your reach.

Bonus Tip: Use the buddy system

When you’re on the non-academic job hunt, buddy up. Don’t choose your sweetie, or your bestie or your supervisor. Pick someone who is doing the same thing as you, but is far enough removed from you that they can be objective.

About Dr. Anne Krook

Dr. Anne Krook

Dr. Anne Krook

Dr Krook holds a PhD in English literature from Cornell University. She began her career as an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, where she taught for seven years before moving to Seattle. After a stint in restaurant bartending, she joined Amazon.com.  During her thirteen years at the company, she held various roles in US and international website development, program management, internal audit, and infrastructure.

After that, she worked as VP of Operations at a startup, Mindbloom, and then as VP of Operations at Synapse, a product design engineering company in Seattle. She also serves on the board of directors of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV.

Dr Krook now consults with companies and universities on a variety of topics, including strategies for integrating younger women into the workplace and preparing academics to transition to the corporate workforce.

Dr Anne Krook’s visit to the University of Alberta was sponsored by the Vargo Teaching Chair in the Department of English and Film Studies.

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