By: Shanleigh Corrallo, PhD ’20
Searching for a career beyond the academy is a daunting task. After years (maybe even a decade) of working towards a degree of specialty within your field, you have undoubtedly developed expectations and dreams for your future career. Whether you are still tethered to the idea of a tenure-track position or you are open to exploring other career options, there are many factors to consider within your job search beyond the academy. Below, we outline a few different steps that you can take in your quest to find a fulfilling post-PhD position.
Steps to consider in your Beyond the Academy Career Search:
1. Assess your willingness to look outside of academic conventions to find meaningful work
- Resist the urge to pigeonhole yourself into one pathway
- Let go of the conventions and expectations about tenure track that have been embedded into your mind since you began your PhD
- Utilize some of the resources provided within this article to explore how others have pursued careers beyond academia
2. Identify your values
- What motivates you?
- What is most enjoyable to you?
- What values fundamentally align with the life that you want to live?
Examples: Do you want a flexible schedule? Do you prefer to work outside? Are you seeking to work within the public sector? Do you want to make a specific impact?
This is a crucial first step, since it will shape how you approach your job search and who you target to expand your network.
3. Locate industries, organizations and positions that are of interest to you
- Your identified values will lead you to industries, organizations and possibly positions/job titles that align with your goals
- Conduct research on these fields/orgs/positions
- Once you have identified and researched these, brainstorm how your career narrative, skillset and goals will translate to these points of contact
4. Expand your network
Steps 2 & 3 have guided you to organizations and positions that align with your goals and values. Now, your task is to identify individuals within these organizations and connect with them.
- Conduct target outreach via email or LinkedIn
- When you request to connect with someone on LinkedIn, be sure to send a carefully crafted message that explains your interest and has a specific ask (i.e. you’d like to talk more
- Schedule and Prepare for Informational Interviews
5. Prepare your application
- Tailor your documents to the role (CV–> Resume, cover letter)
- Be prepared to articulate how your skills and experiences relate to the position
- Don’t be shy to promote your PhD, it will make you stand out
6. Practice Humility
- Understand that simply having a PhD doesn’t qualify you for everything. You have to make the connections apparent.
7. Take risks
- Be willing to pursue new opportunities and fields as they come along. View this one part of a longer journey that will invariably change over time.
The Alt-Ac career search is unique. You may have always been open to careers outside of the academy, or perhaps you are still resisting the reality that there are fewer and fewer tenure-track jobs for PhD graduates (no judgement there)! Whatever your case, do keep in mind that there is more to this process than finding a suitable job. Your many layers, experiences and complexities should be cared for, and your hard work and accomplishments should be acknowledged. You are in a unique and powerful position and have interesting choices ahead of you, if you can be open, honest with yourself and engaged with the process.
Check out these additional resources:
- The Professor is in
- Beyond the Professoriate
- Alt-Ac Career Resources, American Studies Association
- Unbound Careers
- UNC Alt-AC Career Board
- Podcast with Heidi Knoblauch (PhD History Yale)
About Shanleigh Corrallo PhD ’20
Shanleigh Corrallo earned her PhD in history from the University at Buffalo in 2020. Her research examines Black Power organizations in the Rustbelt, with a focus on Buffalo and Rochester, New York. She has worked in a variety of professional sectors, teaching American history to formerly incarcerated individuals and refugees at Houghton College, working in Albany for the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and for the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, which is located in Buffalo. She currently lives in Buffalo proper with her dachshund Franklin.
Shanleigh currently is a part of the dynamic 2021-2023 Empire State Fellowship cohort. Her appointment is in collaboration with the Department of State and the Executive Chamber. She’s working on community reentry and rehabilitation with the Council on Community Reentry and Reintegration. Her priority and perspective is with the community organizations, grassroots people and justice-involved individuals who deserve dignity and respect at all levels.