Over the weekend both the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association convened their annual meetings. Professional association meetings are fantastic opportunities to learn about the innovative research being done in your discipline, discover promising new pedagogical approaches, and reconnect with colleagues. Many, however, attend these meetings with a much more singular focus—their own professional future. It is not entirely surprising then, that graduate student professional development was top of mind at both association meetings.
An increasingly competitive academic job market requires graduate students to consider and plan for careers beyond the academy. Finding ways to prepare recent PhDs for non-academic careers is a priority for many disciplines, although understanding the best way to serve their career development needs can be challenging. This charge to graduate advisors and academic departments takes on new urgency with the revelation that many academic positions now seek out candidates with skills associated with non-academic professional experiences—a recent survey of MLA job listings indicates that nearly three-quarters request at least one “alt-ac” skill—skills not traditionally developed in graduate school.
Non-academic experiential learning presents a promising opportunity for career exploration and “alt-ac” skill development. Unfortunately many institutions struggle to ensure that participation is not a barrier to degree completion and that the opportunity is aligned with graduate student interest. Through the University of Miami’s UGrow Non-Teaching Assistantships, however, advanced PhD students develop important competencies and skills in a way that complements their academic work.
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Integrating Academic and Career Development