Job for after grad school?
April 6, 2007 5:17 AM   Subscribe

Looking for advice on a career change: History PhD program to ?

I'm 27 years old and leaving a PhD program in history unfinished, with an MA. Staying and finishing isn't an option for now. I'm trying to figure out what to do next. Having been a grad student, I'm used to living on a low income, but I'd like to eventually make more than peanuts. A decent health plan is a must. My writing and editing skills are good, I'm proficient in Spanish and have a reading knowledge of French and German, and some rudimentary spoken German.

I'm comfortable with a wide range of research techniques, a fast learner, and good with people. Based on my grad school experience, I'd really like to find a job that I could leave at the office at the end of the day, rather than one that gave me a constant sense of being on duty. Variety, challenge, and a sense of accomplishment would all be pluses. Finally, I don't really feel like teaching high school.
So what should I do when I grow up?
(Asked for a friend)
posted by amber_dale to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Try browsing through these jobs:

Do they strike your (your friend's rather) fancy?
posted by mand0 at 5:29 AM on April 6, 2007

Anymore, if you're working in an office type of environment, it's usually the type of job that you never really leave at work. Unless it's one of those mythical paper-pushing jobs you see on TV. (Nearly) everyone else has to do it, and so will you.
posted by cellphone at 5:39 AM on April 6, 2007

Check out if you like any of these jobs too

(Forgot to hyperlink in my previous comment, my bad)
posted by mand0 at 5:54 AM on April 6, 2007

Consider getting an MLS (or MLIS, or whatever they want to call it now). You should easily be able to find an interesting, rewarding career as a reference librarian at a university or museum. Plus, it generally only takes a year (at most two) to get an MLS from an accredited university, and you'll find the workload to be much more manageable than a PhD program.

I'm a librarian at a research facility in a major history museum, so if you have any questions feel free to send me an e-mail.
posted by arco at 6:47 AM on April 6, 2007

Since you now have an MA, you can teach at Community College.
posted by k8t at 6:51 AM on April 6, 2007

You're ready to be, or at least could be convincing at selling yourself an "analyst" of some sort. Think about all of the problems that people are solving: industries (oil, other natural resources), equities (stocks), country "risk", management (operations, mergers, acquisitions). Each of these has thousands of sharp people analyzing problems, writing reports, and making presentations. There are also thousands of people doing this in the government (federal and state).

Being an analyst becomes a question of doing this as an inside person, or with a consulting company (I'll leave off think tank jobs since they're hard to get without an "in"). Inside of every industry from shoes, to oil, to timber, to consumer electronics, to retail, each company hires analysts to sift through the tea leaves of economic and other market data to make predictions and decide what the company should do (or at least be a very small piece of this decision-making process).

These companies also hire big consulting firms (Bain, McKinsey, Accenture, E&Y, etc., etc.) to decide with them / for them. So these companies keep huge staffs of people to sort through all of the documents, read and analyze, and then synthesize, crystallize, and plan the moves.

This pays a *lot* more than grad school. Low six figures (with bonuses) to start. And they train you in the particulars of the industry, company, etc. It's not like they only hire people who already know about the aviation industry -- there's a few months of training and stuff. All your friend has to be is smart, analytical, and motivated.
posted by zpousman at 7:25 AM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I left a PhD program in Math 5 years ago; couldn't settle on a research topic that turned me on so I took a full-time teaching job at a little liberal arts college. It's been a great experience, and I actually had the insurance for my wife and I to have 2 kids. I also was forced to teach stuff I never liked, and in the process found out I liked it enough to go back to do my dissertation.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:43 AM on April 6, 2007

Ditto arco's librarian suggestion. The languages and prior masters degree are a big plus, especially at an academic library. Leaving work at the office - certainly possible, depending on the position. Decent health care coverage - it will vary, but many universities have stellar plans. Public libraries, not so much, maybe. Pay is decent, not extravagant. It's what I do; feel free to email me/have your friend email me with questions.

Dirty little librarian secret: Your friend may find the MLS program not very challenging, especially after prior grad school experience.
posted by donnagirl at 8:15 AM on April 6, 2007

I came in here to suggest librarian, but I see that's covered. You also might be interested in working for a historical site (like Colonial Williamsburg, or Old Sturbridge Village) in a research or educational capacity. The National Park Service probably needs historians, too.

One other suggestion: take your historical period of expertise, find out which grade your local schools cover it in, create an entertaining, educational program for that age group and market yourself to schools and libraries. When I worked as a children's librarian, I was always on the lookout for these kinds of programs. Quite often our local cultural council funded them, too.
posted by Biblio at 8:27 AM on April 6, 2007

What about a professional/administrative job in a university? A few years ago I got screwed over by a PhD program that I was going to do (long and irrelevant story). Now, after a little job-hopping, I have a job I love organizing random academic-related projects for a department/school within a sizeable university. It's using my brain and much of the knowledge i gained from my MA, and I work with some pretty great/intelligent/interesting people, but much of the time it really is a job that I can leave behind at the end of the day.
However, if you're bitter about your PhD experience, jumping that close to academia may sting too much to make it worthwhile.
posted by bassjump at 9:58 AM on April 6, 2007

I was a history major. I now do marketing research and strategy. It's a great fit.
posted by miss tea at 11:31 AM on April 6, 2007

What zpousman said. These can be great jobs, both interesting and very rewarding. I would only add that it *really* helps to make contact with someone working in the industry. In business, it's really all about who you know. This isn't to say that you shouldn't put your resume up on (or whatever), but a few calls to contacts (old, new) who work in business will get you a lot farther a lot faster. Give them the "I'm making a transition right now and am looking for opportunities" intro. If they are clued in, they will have heard it before and will know exactly what to tell you. Be patient. Don't take the first thing that comes along.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:50 AM on April 6, 2007

wrk4us is an excellent forum for people with advanced training in humanities/ed/soc sci, who want to transition to nonacademic careers. Subscribers include - MAs, ABDs, postdocs, adjuncts, junior academics who have decided they'll never get tenure, etc. Sometimes the moderator organizes guest panels from a variety of fields to present their experiences and answer questions about getting your foot in the door, qualifications, prospects, salaries.

You might want to subscribe (for free) just to troll through the archives to see if you find it helpful. (Expect to read bitter opinions sometimes about academe, sometimes. Goes with the territory.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:52 PM on April 6, 2007

Whatever you do, get away from the university as fast as you can. If you hang around, you will feel like a failure.

Get away from it for six months away and you will wonder why you stuck around as long as you did.

Take it from a fellow ABD. I run my own business and can't imagine doing anything else.
posted by mrbugsentry at 2:00 PM on April 6, 2007

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