What Do You Like To Do? Polizzi #5

Allessandria originally titled this post, “Who Do You Want to Be?”  I have changed the title to “What Do You Like To Do?”  I did this because what I’ve come to understand about the postac job search is that the most important task is to replace your focus on your IDENTITY as the academic (specialist in Renaissance literature) with a focus on the SKILLS and APTITUDES you can bring to a range of different kinds of work.

In this post, Allessandria provides some techniques for doing that, and then shows how to link those skills and aptitudes with actually posted corporate jobs.


By Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Once you have decided that you want to explore a corporate career, the next question to ask yourself is: “doing what?” There aren’t generic corporate jobs out there, from my experience. Rather, companies are looking for specific skills and experiences to hire. And, I want you to repeat this to yourself: they are looking for people just like you.

I say this because, chances are, if you are contemplating a change, you are doing so with mixed emotions. I liken it to coming out of a break up. If academia didn’t want me, why would anyone else? But this isn’t the case. It is you who is choosing to “see other people.” You are in control. And you have a lot going for you.

But first things first: what do you want to be doing?

To start, pull out a piece of paper and write down the things you like about academia. Why did you get into it in the first place and what has kept you coming back? Do you love research, studying up on authors or artists and finding out as much about them or their works as possible? Do you like writing, crafting a well constructed sentence, engaging people through language? Is it reviewing and grading the works of others that you enjoy, helping others be better, or are you most energized when in the classroom, having lively discussions and watching your students grow in their thinking and analysis? One thing I have done is picture my perfect day and then describe it to myself in detail. Why was it perfect? How did I feel? Spending time on this is important, so try to approach things with a clear and open mind.

Now that you have this captured, do the opposite. What are the things about your job that you hate? In a prior post, I mentioned how much I dreaded doing the same thing over and over again. When I was teaching technical writing, I actually thought about (only partially jokingly) having stamps made that said “show, don’t tell” and “watch your margins” because I hated writing the same feedback over and over again. I loved teaching; I abhorred grading. Knowing what you don’t like will be as important as finding what it is you love because it will help you edit and focus on which role(s) you want to go after.

You should also look at your hobbies to see if these could be good indicators of what potential ways you would enjoy spending your time 40+ hours a week. Maybe a part of you really likes computers and systems, but you never thought about taking that on as a “real” job. While I would steer away from anything that would put you into a similar financial situation to the one you are in, try and find the skills and strengths you have to build on.

Now that you have this, lets start talking about how some of these roles might translate into corporate positions:

  • love teaching? Look into jobs like corporate training or instructional design.
  • enjoy analysis & research? How about something in strategic planning or project management?
  • find grading and editing a thrill? How about editing, process or change management, or something in the finances, like auditing?
  • is writing your thing? Explore roles in communications or PR.
  • just love people? What about HR or talent management?

This is where the Internet is going to come into it (& my favorite trick for choosing a career path or next step. I have used this process a lot). Google the skills or talents you have for ideas. Once you have a couple of starters (or using the ones I listed above), go to a website like LinkedIn or Indeed and type these into the search. And start reading and reading and reading. This will give you insight into what the roles are out there and what might be interesting to you. No, you probably aren’t qualified for the role yet. Don’t panic! You are just window shopping.

Let me walk you through an example. Here is an excerpt from a posting on LinkedIn (it’s one of ours, so I don’t feel bad):

  • Use appropriate skills to deliver training programs to ensure trainees attain competency in the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver exemplary customer service as described in the 7-Eleven Five Fundamentals; and to maximize sales and profitability in their store
  • Conduct all aspects of approved training programs including delivery of materials, facilitation and evaluation of participants.
  • Document all test scores and maintain written documentation on trainee progress.
  • Initiate discussion and provide feedback (both written and verbal) throughout the training program.  Communicate to appropriate departmental representatives within approved timeframe.
  • Work with Operations Training Manager to evaluate the effectiveness of training using the Kirkpatrick’s 4-Levels of Evaluation.
  • Conduct all activities according to the 7-Eleven Way and 7-Eleven’s Servant Leadership model.

In reading this, you may say, “hey, I could totally do that because I have been teaching for 5 years!” Or, you might be saying, “what the heck is a Five Fundamental?” So, consider the following:

  • job descriptions are often written by the hiring manager who will use a lot of internal jargon and, worse yet, acronyms. Don’t let them scare you. They aren’t really trying to make you feel left out, I promise.
  • if you don’t know something, look it up. Proprietary stuff like “the 7-Eleven way” won’t be out there, more than likely, but Kirkpatrick sure is and so is Servant Leadership
  • if you can picture yourself doing 50% of what’s listed and being excited about learning the rest, keep it as a potential good option for you to consider ( I will talk about this more in my job hunting post)

And this is what is most important: finding something that will get you as excited as you were about academia (if not more). What jobs do you find that sound interesting? Which ones do you get excited about? It doesn’t matter yet if you are qualified because you will be some day. You just need to know which direction you want to head in. And this investment in better understanding what drives you and what options are available is your first step in that direction.

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


What Do You Like To Do? Polizzi #5 — 2 Comments

  1. Great post!! The focus on skills is really key to any conversation about the post-ac transition. I would add, though, that even if you think grading is a drag (and who doesn’t, at least sometimes?) you might still enjoy editing! When I was teaching, I spent hours upon hours each semester grading hundreds of pages of student writing, always with a sense of futility because students ultimately cared more about the bottom line (the letter grade) than about my nuanced comments and suggestions. By contrast, now that I do scholarly editing for people who are deeply invested in the improvement of their writing projects, I get a lot more satisfaction out of reading, analyzing, and commenting on people’s writing. Not to mention that the content is a whole lot more interesting than undergrad essays! (Sorry, undergrads.) My larger point: even if you don’t really enjoy the academia version of a task, you might like the post-ac version!

  2. Pingback: Monday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion | Clarissa's Blog

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