"those who can't do, teach." those who can't teach...
October 9, 2017 6:30 AM   Subscribe

I once heard a recruiter tell someone five years into a PhD in philosophy that he'd be better off with prison time on his resume than a stint in academia. I think he was joking, but I'm starting to wonder. I need to find a way to convince employers that I'm not useless just because I made a terrible life choice and tried to become a professor in the humanities. I know I made a huge mistake, but I need to make a living, somehow.

I apologise for the negative tone here. Things look kinda bleak at the moment.

I started a humanities-based PhD program five years ago -- basically, something along the lines of media studies. I've been adjuncting to support myself, and have a decent amount of teaching experience, but it is becoming very clear to me that I will have no chance at a tenure-track position, or even stable teaching employment. I knew the odds were bad when I started, but I never wanted to be a big published name, I only wanted to teach. At that time, a little career at a backwater small liberal arts college or community college seemed attainable. Prospects have deteriorated since then. So I will need to make a jump to the private sector, because I have student loans and a cat to feed. But no one wants to hire an academic, particularly not one from the humanities, and there's no concealing that I've spent the past five years teaching lit theory and digital cultural studies and History of Video Games &c.

I've visited many of the "alt-ac" and "beyond academia" resources and have found nothing. The advice seems keyed to people in STEM and the social sciences who somehow are so deeply insulated by academia that they never considered private industry would be interested or are afraid that making the leap will brand them as failures. (I am pretty certain such people do not in fact exist, or are vanishingly rare.) Many of these "alt-ac" figures seem to be people who were in my sucky unemployable position and then figured out they could convince other desperate folks to pay them consultant money for rebranded basic career advice, so I'm doubly sceptical, to be honest. At any rate, there's not much for those in the humanities, except constant exhortations to "keep updating your LinkedIn!" If my LinkedIn was doing anything for me at all, I wouldn't need to keep haunting your danged alt-ac site, but whatever. I have used resume-writing sites to ensure I'm translating my CV into something employers will care about. I craft a position-specific cover letter and resume every time I apply for something. I highlight transferable skills. It doesn't seem to help.

Jumping from college-level to K-12 teaching seems... dispiriting, as a prospect, frankly, and my field doesn't directly translate into a particular high school subject. Plus I don't have certification, and getting said certification would be expensive and would take a while. I'm too old for the content industries, I'm pretty sure; they are more interested in hiring the kids I teach, and I don't really blame them. I've applied, but no interest. These industries align most closely with my teaching experience, but since I study social media, I have long known enough to know I do not want to actually use it ever because it is a literal garbage fire, which means I can't point to my thriving personal accounts teeming with followers, and this is a thing employers are looking for. Most college sophomores have better social media portfolios than I do. I teach journalism courses and advertising-adjacent courses, but have no direct work experience; even entry-level copywriter positions are a stretch, and I've never gotten an interview. I have editing experience, but again, not even an interview for entry-level positions, there, since such positions are ridiculously competitive.

I've tried to teach myself to code, with marginal results; coding tends to reward those with a tinkerer's mindset, and I'm more the "oh god I touched it I broke it OH NO NOW IT'S BROKEN FOREVER" type, so I've never gotten very far. I've done the free prep course for a "boot camp" and came to the conclusion that going $15K further into debt for something I'm not likely to git gud at was a bad idea. Freelance proofreading, transcription, and translation have gotten so competitive in the past few years that I seem unable to make a living on them. I really don't know what I'm going to do. I have strong research skills, and strong communications skills, but so does everyone else in the job market, and I don't have anything beyond that going for me. My non-teaching work experience is general-office-type stuff, and was all 5+ years ago; my references don't even work at those places any more. Other than that, all I've done is retail and service industry. I'm assuming that's what I'll have to return to, since even entry-level office jobs (working as a doorman, reception, etc.) don't net me interviews. Even my therapist seems stumped, at this point. Most recent suggestion: "maybe start a podcast?"

Complicating factor: my department is being dissolved. I no longer have a committee or an advisor at my institution; they've all left for greener pastures. I'm currently stitching together adjuncting gigs at different institutions but it's not enough for me to live on and it has no future. I could attempt to finish the dissertation, still, but I'm not sure there's a point. Having the PhD on the resume seems like a hindrance, not a help. Giving up and going to work seems more sensible, but no one wants to hire me, and I'm not sure what else I can do. All I'm really any good at is telling people that the internet is terrible and rife with unintended consequences and that is pretty much not a thing I can get paid to do, ever?
posted by halation to Work & Money (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I feel for you. I'm sorry you're going through this. But serious question: what would it take to get the diss written? Are you, like, 50% done? 75%? Or, not at all even started, really? Because if what you really want is to teach (and it sounds like that's what you want) but not be on the adjunct hamster wheel, then you probably do need that PhD in hand to be eligible for work even at non-research-y universities. If it were me, I'd be cynical about the dissolving department thing: a potentially good opportunity in the midst of organizational chaos to get a diss done with little hassle or intervention from a committee. Hopefully, too, an easy pass mostly just for completing the sucker.

Also, are you place bound?

Because if it were me, I would crank that diss out and then target my applications to every regional school, every community college, every academic outpost I could find. Also, I've had friends who, when finished with their PhD, found K-12 teaching at private schools where the curriculum was innovative, no certification was required, and their PhD in hand made them desirable to the admin. They've been shockingly happy and well paid there.
posted by pinkacademic at 6:44 AM on October 9, 2017 [44 favorites]

All I'm really any good at is telling people that the internet is terrible and rife with unintended consequences and that is pretty much not a thing I can get paid to do, ever?

I know you're being ironic and bitter, but of course that's not what Media Studies is, that's not the only thing you've done for 5 years, and if you let yourself get engulfed in thinking so, even ironically, even because you're so understandably angry and frightened by the job market and feel so betrayed by academia, then no one will want to hire you because of course no one pays you to just say that.
Try to think less in terms of wasting this time. You've not made a terrible mistake that you should wear on your sleeve as some awful thing you've wasted yourself on. You actually did not commit a crime, despite what that recruiter jokingly said. You've made a life choice based on what seemed like a good fit for you at the time, and it's a choice that entailed a lot of hard work and intellectual rigor. And now you're making another life choice.
What skills would you be pursuing and trying to sell if you were still yourself right now, but five years ago, without having gone to grad school/being ABD?
And: REFRAME your last five years in a positive way!
I'm a professor in the humanities, in a field not unlike yours. My grad students who choose to leave before the PhD have landed on their feet and you can too.
posted by flourpot at 6:47 AM on October 9, 2017 [15 favorites]

I turned my linguistics PhD into a pretty decent job as a tech editor.

Step 1 was doing some freelance copyediting after grad school for contacts in academia who needed it on dissertations or journal submissions.

Step 2 was realizing that there were years of grad school when, for all my official title was "graduate assistant," I could honestly describe myself on a resume as having been a copyeditor — between proofreading for a journal my department was putting together, coauthoring with my advisor, and helping out on other one-off tasks, there was always at least one bit of editing on my plate at any given moment.

In hindsight, doing that journal proofreading was a stroke of luck — without it, I'd probably have had to put in a bunch more time as a freelancer before getting a job like the one I've got now. But when I was desperately trying to figure out what I'd do after graduation, it didn't feel like a stroke of luck. It felt like this shitty pointless thing I'd been toiling away at for years that nobody in the corporate world could possibly value.

I wish I could say I reasoned things through and arrived at the inspired conclusion that I could sell myself as an editor. Honestly, though, I just stumbled into it. I got scared and desperate, spent months applying for any damn thing I could find and taking freelance proofreading clients to pay rent, and then noticed that the only jobs I was getting callbacks for were editing jobs and realized "OH SHIT, I'VE BECOME AN EDITOR."

Anyway. I don't know how much of this is relevant to you. MeMail me if you want to talk more about any of the stuff I did or tried, or about how to get off the ground freelance editing if that appeals to you. But I think the bigger piece of advice I'd give is that having a plan is overrated, nobody who escapes academia has an airtight plan, the closest any of us get is a hunch about what might work — and even then those hunches often end up being wrong and we end up throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and just seeing what sticks. You've got a ton of skills. 95% of them won't be legible on a resume in a way that gets you hired. You don't even know which are the 5% that will resonate with an employer, or which employers they'll resonate with. So just, I dunno. Try stuff? It sounds lame, but it honestly does work better than trying to Plot Your Escape entirely in advance, which is not a thing anyone I know has done successfully.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:51 AM on October 9, 2017 [15 favorites]

Finagle to get the piece of paper. You've worked at your program for five years, and it'd be silly to give up if you're close to completion. Spending five years to get a PhD certainly sounds better than not finishing it. Also, if you ever end up working for the government, it will net you a higher salary.

If you really just want to teach, you should look at universities abroad. There are definitely schools out there looking for an experienced professor with a PhD. There's drawbacks to living abroad, but it's less stressful than cobbling together adjunct teaching jigs.
posted by Trifling at 7:05 AM on October 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I wonder how you're looking for jobs? In higher ed (and in K-12 for that matter), you mostly have to put in your best possible application for an advertised job and hope for the best. But outside of academia, A LOT of people (maybe most?) find jobs through personal connections.

So, who do know outside of your department/field? Former colleagues, friends from undergrad, family, whatever? Do these people know that you're looking for a job outside academia, and that you'd be up for general office/admin work (if you are - I'm not 100% clear on this from what you write)? If not, make sure they do!

Also think about how you can broaden your network. Like, say you're a little bit interested in technical writing - is there a technical writers' meetup near you where you could go to learn a little more and meet some people in that field? Also consider working with a recruiter.

Finally: sign on with a temp agency. You might not make much more money than you're currently making adjuncting, but it will probably be a lot less work and anxiety.
posted by mskyle at 7:19 AM on October 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

You sound like an excellently qualified grant writer and philanthropy manager.
posted by taff at 7:21 AM on October 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Hey, I really feel for your situation and I know it must be extremely hard, and incredible easy to get discouraged. That being said, it sounds like you're feeding yourself a bunch of "I can'ts," when maybe you actually can, and you're lumping the legitimate "can'ts" in with the less valid "can'ts." For example: These industries align most closely with my teaching experience, but since I study social media, I have long known enough to know I do not want to actually use it ever because it is a literal garbage fire, which means I can't point to my thriving personal accounts teeming with followers, and this is a thing employers are looking for.

You basically said, "I know enough to know that I do not want to use this . . . which means that I can't point to my thriving personal accounts teeming with followers" - those personal accounts being a thing that you ostensibly do have the skills to create, and that you yourself say is a thing that employers are looking for.

I do understand your aversion to social media. But perhaps you would find yourself more mobilized, with more options, if you took the stance that some things are necessary evils and did them even though they are unsavory.

I personally am a very private person and do not like to share ANYTHING about myself (unless under cloak of complete anonymity - thanks MetaFilter) however, I consider social media to be an intrinsic part of my line of work and therefore necessary. (I studied Media Technologies in college.) I am able to maintain public profiles on almost all of the large social networking platforms, using my face and my name, while engaging my audience, without actually sharing any truly personal or meaningful information about myself. The point is, I'm making it work because I recognize the value. A few years ago, I created a blog that I only maintained for about a year and that's now dormant. But during that short time, I worked up to consistently receiving hits from hundreds of different countries around the world. I'm not doing anything with that blog now, but it sure looks great on resumes. Perhaps you could consider creating an online professional persona of yourself, or some cause a bit removed from yourself (gluten free eating, save the whales, the history of cinema, etc) and build yourself an impressive social media following - not because you want to, but because you recognize you need to.

Note: I realize this isn't the answer to all your problems. My main point is that biting the bullet and being willing to do some things that you really, really don't want to do (and discerning the difference between "can'ts" and "don't want to's" will probably open up more options for you than you currently feel you have.) Best wishes!
posted by quiet_musings at 7:24 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I know quite a few people who did or did not finish PhDs who found rewarding careers in staff positions at universities, often the same universities where they did or did not get their PhDs. There are often robust advising or writing programs, which might scratch the teaching itch you have. I know department coordinators with PhDs who teach the occasional course. Etc.
posted by goatdog at 7:31 AM on October 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

I am someone who regularly recruits PhDs for non-academic work in international and public policy-related stuff. Based on what my organization and I look at, I agree with the advice above to finish the damned dissertation and get the degree if you are halfway or more there. A PhD doesn't hold you back but a lapsed one, with no obvious decision to pursue a good job or other clear opportunity, might make an employer wonder about your ability to complete a project.

Second, get involved in some kind of activity that lets you organize things, e.g. presentation/discussion sessions for the public, something related to governance at your university, etc.. We look for real-world project management and interpersonal skills. Fake news and media analysis is a hot topic right now.

Third, don't devalue your ability to write and communicate. As someone says above, grant writing is big business and the ability to put together a coherent pitch, brief, or paper for non-academic audiences is valued very highly. If you have the chance to write articles, blog posts, or other short pieces for public consumption, do that and use them as writing samples along with your academic stuff when you apply for jobs.

Fourth, pay attention to your interpersonal and self-presentation skills. I just hired someone for a position who beat out an equally qualified candidate largely because the other candidate came across as a jackass in the interview and there was no way any of us wanted him around. Your question gives no indication that you have this issue at all, but if you have any doubts, seek feedback from others and take some training if you think it's necessary and/or it will increase your confidence.

Your question is very well-written and organized and this makes me think you have transferable skills that would be valuable outside academia. Good luck!
posted by rpfields at 7:34 AM on October 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

Actually you could probably teach high school english without too much difficulty. You can apply in the district with just your degrees, in many states, and be hired with an "agreement to earn" -- basically a promise to get your teaching certificate. The cert can be gotten in less than two years usually through an alternative program in the district, and usually around $2000-$3000.

Public school teachers make middle class money, especially with advanced degrees, and high school is the easiest level to teach. Go be a substitute, but only take high school jobs. You apply through the district. Treat the students the way you would like to be treated.

/8 years teaching middle school.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:38 AM on October 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you're interested in teaching K-12, private schools would love to have you. You don't need certification.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:38 AM on October 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh! The other thing I should say about being an editor is that it is definitely not my dream job, not something I'm at all "passionate" about, and I'm not even particularly stellar at the actual task of editing. I mean, I'm better at it than some rando who's never done it before, but I'm not a prose style genius or an eagle-eyed flawless typo-noticer or anything, just a regular person who learned some rules and patterns and who keeps reminding hirself to concentrate on words.

One thing that's lovely about the corporate world is that it genuinely values stuff like showing up, being kind and reliable, and keeping in touch with the rest of your team. If you do those things, you can have a nice, stable career without being any kind of genius or rock star.

It took me a LONG time after leaving academia to really internalize that stuff, because academia puts almost no value on reliability, teamwork, or kindness, and teaches you that if you're not a genius you're doomed to failure. That is just not true in the rest of the world. Feel free to find something where you can show up, do some okay-to-solid work, be friendly and helpful, and then go home and do something else. That kind of work is the glue that holds most of the world together. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and definitely not a recipe for failure.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:38 AM on October 9, 2017 [46 favorites]

I'm ABD and now work as a copy editor. I began by signing up as a temp at my university - this ended up being mostly secretarial work. It wasn't great, but it was something. From there, I just applied for every entry level position I was qualified for. My first full-time job after grad school was as something called a "technical library assistant." That organization had a copy editing department, which eventually hired me. I then moved to a better copy editing job, where I've been for fifteen years. It's not my "passion," but it pays decently, and I have health care and retirement benefits, so it's lots better than being an adjunct.

I'm just saying this to let you know there is life after academia, though it might not be possible to make a plan for it. I second the recommendation to look for temp work - if you can do that at your university, you'll meet people in other departments and it could eventually lead to something. Good luck.
posted by FencingGal at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I will reiterate some of the advice above - your best bet right now is a staff job. There is an advising center, a career center, a writing center, a speaking center, a digital media commons, an honors college, a first year living learning community out there that wants you - yes, you! Depending on the job, it will likely be 8 to 5, you will generally have holidays off, you'll get leave, you may get a tuition waiver depending on where you go that will let you finish off that dissertation (if you can find someone who is willing to take in a new student who is mostly done - talk to your former advisor, they owe you some contacts for the lurch you've been left in) [though if you do not finish the dissertation, that is not a moral failure and you still need to put your coursework and research on your CV].) Many staff jobs come with teaching appointments, too.

Examples of staff jobs you are currently qualified for:

Academic Advisor, Honors College
Coordinator of Academic Support Services (seriously, they have some preferred qualifications, but the only hard qual is a bachelors)
posted by joycehealy at 8:01 AM on October 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

Are you comfortable working with learning management systems like Moodle or Canvas? If so, you might look into a job in academic technology support. The university where I work is constantly hiring Academic Technologists to help faculty use these LMS tools effectively. I think that your experience with teaching and the ability to communicate well would make you a strong contender for this kind of position.
posted by belladonna at 8:07 AM on October 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

Media-focused non-profit?
posted by latkes at 8:24 AM on October 9, 2017

ImaginePhD can answer a lot of these questions for you. Freely available starting October 23.
posted by Owl of Athena at 8:29 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

But no one wants to hire an academic, particularly not one from the humanities

This is something that I was told a LOT while in a PhD program in the humanities, but which turned out not to be true at all when I started looking for work outside of academe. People outside of academia think experience in our field is incredibly valuable, when it is framed and discussed in the right way.

You need to reframe your work experience. Academia is a hotbed of project management and problem-solving. Start looking for jobs that are looking for those skills.

Feel free to memail me if you want to talk about my transition in more detail. People inside academia are the WORST resources for figuring out how to get out of it-- it's just sunk cost fallacy all the way down.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:30 AM on October 9, 2017 [11 favorites]

I have strong research skills, and strong communications skills, but so does everyone else in the job market

lol no they don't. and as a grad school dropout myself, finding out that this is not true is something I would actually class as "research skills." about half of everyone else in the job market does think of claiming these skills in cover letters, but that does not mean it is actually true. presenting yourself on paper in such a way as to make readers of that paper believe you will set you apart and above. jobs where strong research and communications skills really matter and are not just job-ad buzzwords are fairly rare, it is true, but less rare than high-level academic jobs.

the main problem you'll have is that the jobs you can easily get will not be the status and career equivalents of being a tenured professor. which is, I guess, terrible, but doesn't mean you have to go back to retail work unless you actually want to.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:06 AM on October 9, 2017 [9 favorites]

I work with a ton of people who were briefly university faculty. I work at a university, in the faculty support and development unit. They loooove hiring people who've been on the other side (honestly, mainly because faculty tend to only listen to people who they consider peers). I do educational technology support and have worked with folks who have had stints teaching business, journalism, astronomy, economics, Slavic literature and on and on. Some of them still adjunct on the side in addition to their main gig here.

Being staff at a university is a way better hustle than adjuncting for the same institution. At a large state institution, it resembles government work. Meh pay, great benefits, lots of bureaucracy, clock out at 5:00 and go on your way.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:28 AM on October 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have strong research skills, and strong communications skills,

Hello, librarian.
posted by telophase at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

If at all possible, finish your dissertation.

I've a highly technical STEM PhD but facing a similar deficit in career opportunities.

One fellow PhD worked towards being an editor at a decent journal. He loves it. Money's pretty ok, great work/life balance.

Another did the 'lab assistant' thing at a small regional college, hated it. Moved to Boston and got a job teaching at a private highschool. She loves it. Money's ok.

A lot of other friends aren't in in such felicitous situations.
posted by porpoise at 9:56 AM on October 9, 2017

Not all adjunct positions are the same. Most of them suck, but a few are almost reasonable.

For example in the California State University system, all lecturers (adjuncts) get full health benefits at 40% time base (e.g. teaching two typical 3 unit classes out of a 15 unit "full load"). Teach 50% for 3 semesters in a row and you become eligible for CalPERS, a generous defined-benefit retirement plan. It's true that salaries had been lagging, but they are catching up with some impressive contract wins from the union.

Other benefits: after 1 year, you qualify for 1 year contracts, and after 6 years you get 3 year contracts. This helps reduce uncertainty.

Right now, the lowest possible salary for an Adjunct with a Ph.D. is $57000 (compared to those with a Masters at $49000). Those are 9-month salaries - work summers and you can make more.

Finish the Ph.D. and move to California?
posted by soylent00FF00 at 9:59 AM on October 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Finish your degree! Hold your institution responsible to provide the staff necessary.
posted by Oyéah at 10:14 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I didn't see anything about where you are looking for jobs, but I live in Washington, DC, America's home for recovering academics. A lot of people who were once in your position are now employed here in DC at policy think tanks or consulting firms. As far as I can tell, the post-PhD job market is very location-dependent, so your problem may actually be that you are looking in the wrong cities.

Also seconding everything in a fiendish thingy's comment about how to reframe this experience and use it to your advantage rather than viewing it as a hindrance.
posted by capricorn at 10:23 AM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing - get the piece of paper. You've come too close to not get it, and there are jobs, like public ed, where it's an automatic pay bump. I'll be honest - I hire people with and without degrees, but uncompleted programs kind of depress me about a candidate. Get it done if you can.

I work in tech, and I'm not a coder. I disagree with the negative assessment of academia and experience therein. I think many of us in the private sector kind of respect academic experience. True, it's perceived as less directly applicable than hands-on experience doing exactly what a private sector job calls for sometimes, but as others have said upthread there are lots and lots of jobs that call for those writing skills. And every once in awhile you do find a company that wants to hire someone who knows how to think.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:26 AM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing completing the degree: bitterest person in the world is the one who didn't finish (see illustration by Groening, Matt).

Suggestions on this page (writer, private school, editor, librarian) all work. My suggestion is to find something you love to get known, and something that pays the rent. Something you love will eventually pop up some way to make money at it.
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 12:35 PM on October 9, 2017

I have a PhD in English. I work as a User Experience strategist now. A co-worker of mine is a PhD in history. In my job before this one, I was a business analyst. My manager had a PhD in psychology. Before that, I had a job as a research analyst (in IT!). I had another co-worker who was a PhD in psych, another who had a PhD in philosophy, and a couple with MAs in library and information sciences. That was my first non-academic job.

Every single one of these people were top performers at all of these organizations. The same talents, abilities, and attitudes that helped them excel in academia served them well in their new roles as well.

(That's not to say that doing a PhD is a path to a non-academic job. And I hate the alt-ac folks who are all "DO A PHD AND GET ALL THE JOBS! IT'S A VIABLE PATHWAY TO MANY LUCRATIVE CAREERS!" which is a very misleading and dangerous message to give people. But I would say that your recruiter is probably a bit out to lunch.)

So my advice:

You're not looking for a first job. You're making a career change. That might mean you're starting close to the bottom the career ladder, but in my experience people with advanced degrees have the capabilities to move up fast. (That doesn't mean they WILL, just that they have the capabilities to do so.) The idea of a career change might seem like a semantic shift, but it's important as it should affect how you position yourself when talking to recruiters, interviewers, managers, and so on.

This also means you need to stop thinking about your PhD as a credential. Rather, the stuff you did as a PhD are your credentials. Did you teach any classes? Tutor students (formally or in office hours as a TA?) Provide feedback on student work? Write papers? Sift through piles of highly technical documents and distill them down to key points to communicate to audiences with disparate information needs? Analyze trends and find patterns? Did any of these things produce "deliverables" of some kind? Like, any kind of output (including presentations, talks, lectures)? That's what you focus on. Stuff you created, produced, contributed to. A lot of academics who are leaving will sell themselves short on this stuff because they were around a lot of high achievers all of whom were doing all this and maybe more. Don't let that mindset bog you down.

Feel free to memail me if you have other questions about negotiating the transition.
posted by synecdoche at 4:34 PM on October 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

Fortune 500 companies hire a lot of people with teaching experience to their internal training staffs, for everything from writing training curriculum to putting together product tutorials for customers to teaching internal staff seminars about sexual harassment.

Also this is a little tangential, but more companies are more concerned about "compliance" w/r/t social media -- what can staff say on personal accounts? should they connect with customers on social accounts or only professional ones? should bosses friend employees? what are some of the novel problems that arise from social media use in the workplace? how do we contain a social media catastrophe? etc. Since you study social media, that might be an area where your talents are more useful than in performing corporate social media. I'm hazy on how exactly you would apply for that job other than lucking into it, but writing up some primers on "Smart Corporate Guidelines for Employee Social Media Use" and submitting to various industry magazines would be a start, position yourself as a consultant & expert. Also pitch state bar journals and maybe advertise in an expert witness directory? Lawyers need Official Experts to testify to common knowledge all the time, and it pays. These would be the sorts of things you could start doing while finishing the dissertation, so you had more corporate-targeted things on your resume as you're applying places.

(And then you say things like, "While talking with people about my work in corporate social media guidelines, I realized that it's the human resources piece that really interests me, the hiring and training and solving human problems ..." "While talking with people about my work in corporate social media guidelines, I realized that it's the internal communications piece that's my passion, I spoke with so many communications people doing great work to create a strong corporate culture ..." You know, bullshit pivots.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:04 PM on October 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just met someone who is an ABD in philosophy. She worked as a freelance copy editor after leaving her Ph.D. program (there's a large, prestigious private school in her town, and a few colleges nearby), and is now a supervisor in a call center. I know that's probably not a dream scenario for you, but it's a data point for you. It's at least something you can do to get on your feet outside of academia and build some non-academic experience.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:34 AM on October 10, 2017

Curious if you can get involved with companies like Twitch or Youtube. Maybe in an advisory or controllership function, and perhaps touching on social impacts and PR points, e.g. what points to monitor for unacceptable usage.
posted by lorrer at 10:32 AM on October 10, 2017

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