Transferable Skills for Humanities PhDs: Stacy Hartman and the MLA visit UConn

On February 1st and 2nd Stacy Hartman, Coordinator of Connected Academics at the Modern Language Association, gave a talk about alternative careers in the humanities and led workshops for PhD candidates and faculty across departments. Her main objective was to help students and faculty think more broadly about career opportunities available with a doctorate degree, both within and outside of academia.

Dr. Hartman kicked off the workshop for Ph.D. students from students English, History, LCL, and Medieval studies by asking them to introduce themselves by offering one thing that most people did not know about tem. Given the diversity of backgrounds each brought different experiences to the discussion that ensued.

Dr. Hartman explained to us that the reason we discuss transferable skills and resumes is because the two are bound to each other: the way that you talk about your skills affects the way that you write your resume. We started off our exploration of transferable skills through a packet, first completing individually a “Skills Self-Assessment,” evaluating our strengths and weaknesses and likes and dislikes in the workplace. Dr. Hartman asked us to discuss these results with our peers and examine what was surprising to us about our results.

During the second phase, we divided into groups and examined job advertisements, discussing the skills necessary and our impressions of the jobs. This led to a discussion about the many career opportunities available to PhDs and the strategies to use to search for non-academic jobs.

The next day, Dr. Hartman met with faculty from English and LCL. This workshop mostly involved inquiring about faculty perception of non-academic jobs and then exploring why we do not count students who end up in non-traditional careers as successful placements from our programs. Hartman and the MLA stress that this will involve a fairly substantial shift in how faculty understand both their own roles and the core missions of their programs. The second part involved brainstorming steps we could take to change perceptions in our departments. Part of this would, she stressed, must involve drawing students’ attention to alternative job markets as early as the admission letter. It would then be incumbent on departments to keep creating activities aimed at equipping our students with a wider range of skills and encouraging new ways to imagine the skills already at the heart of their academic training. This would advantage students in either case, whether they were applying for academic or non-academic jobs. The MLA is currently in the process of developing toolkits to facilitate these conversations within departments in the humanistic disciplines.

For access to the Career Exploration Activity Packet used during the workshop please visit:
https://connect.mla.hcommons.org/files/2016/10/PhD-Career-Exploration-Packet.pdf

For questions about her program, please contact Stacy Hartman at shartman@mla.org.

Written by Ayjan Arik and Jennifer Terni