Ask the Post-Acs #2 — What’s It Like to Work With You One-on-One?

Dear Post-acs,

Can you tell me what it’s like to work with you on a one-on-one basis? What happens in the free initial 20-minute consultation?  And, once we’ve decided to work together further, what happens in the 50-minute Skype consultations? How do consultations differ from document editing?

From Karen Cardozo:

I manage the initial consultation by circulating some diagnostic questions ahead of time and then formulating an agenda for discussion based on your responses. As an experienced career counselor (and someone who has experienced a lot of transition in my own academic and nonacademic work), I’m especially interested in helping you break from academe’s patterned mindset and narrow values to compose a satisfying life from the full toolkit of your aspirations, experiences, and skills.

As for the consult/editing distinction, I find these to be different processes only in degree rather than kind:  that is, document editing is often a vehicle for a more in-depth career consult because the devil is always in the details–document work brings out the nuance in a client’s background and goals in ways that a general consult may not.  For example, it was only in working on a resume for an advising position that one client disclosed (in response to my prompt about geographic connections) that she had attended high school in the very same city where she was applying for the Alt-Ac job!  Following conventional wisdom she had deleted high school from her resume; in this case, that history gave real credence to her desire to return to that community (in an application that otherwise made her look like someone new to the area).  We decided she wouldn’t put high school on the resume, but would mention it in her cover letter as part of the rationale for relocation: returning to a part of the country she knew and liked and where she had strong personal connections. This might reassure any search committee concerned about her retention.

Overall, whether in consulting appointments or in document work, I emphasize how important it is to be willing to rethink your story, and tell it in fresh and responsive ways for each new job application – much more so than in the academic application, which follows a more predictable generic format.  The Alt/Post search requires a greater willingness to change up the presentation in accordance with the requirements of each new job situation. My hope is that after showing you how to do this in a few concrete cases, you’ll gain the creativity and discernment to do it confidently for yourself in the future.

From Maggie Gover:

In my 20 minute consultation I will try to get to know who you are and what you need in regards to assistance with a job search.  I begin by asking about your background.  If you already have an academic career, some of the things we might then discuss are what you find satisfying about that career and would like to continue to find in your new career.  We may discuss different career opportunities and the different skills you would like to highlight in order to transition out of academia.  If you are very early in the process, we may talk about how you can position yourself for a career out of academia.

I like to end my session with “next steps.”  For those early in their career, I might suggest an early draft of a resume.  If you already have documents ready for editing, I will spend a few minutes talking in generalities about how they can be improved or which sections might have to be modified for different job descriptions.  The goal of my 20 minute session is for us to get to know each other and to find out if further consultations would be helpful.

From Jessica Langer:

I’ve done a couple of 20-minute consults now, as well as a few longer consults. I usually use the 20-minute consult to listen to the person, mirror back what I understand their meaning to be – which often gives them some insight into trends in their thinking that they may not have understood on their own, being too close to their own thoughts – and help them to establish goals for themselves (and for possible future work). I ask for a short bio and their application materials beforehand, spend 5 minutes looking them over, and I ask a lot of questions based on what jumps out at me. Most of these questions are “why” questions, designed to get them to think. I also give them “homework” of a few questions that I’d like them to answer for themselves.

My goal with the 20-minute consult is to help the potential client decide whether they would benefit from a longer consultation – but I also want them to get at least one actionable thing out of the consult, even though it’s free, because I really do want to help!

From Joe Fruscione:

I recently finished my initial Skype consult with a client looking into career-changing. Specifically, she needed help converting her teaching-geared resume & cover letter into materials for non-academic jobs. She was also interested in how to frame herself as a strong candidate for a writing or editing job in the private sector. She sent drafts of her sample resume, letter, and Statement of Purpose to familiarize me with her writing style and qualifications. I then clarified the realistic purpose of the consult–i.e., to talk and advise, not to fix her resume immediately or perfect her self-presentation in 20-30 minutes.

I started by asking her how she’d most like to proceed–with me asking the questions, or her asking them, or just me doing a lot of listening. I posed these questions throughout our conversation:

  1. Strengths: What are your strengths as a teacher and thinker? What labels or terms can you use to describe them, and how can you then use this lexicon on your resume, cover letter, and interviews?
  2. Concerns: What areas of improvement or concerns do you have about applying for and then doing a non-academic job?
  3. Network: What contacts do you have outside academia? Who do you know who’s doing the kinds of teaching or writing & editing work you’d like to do?
  4. Informational Interviews and Freelancing: Can one of your contacts set you up with an informational interview with a supervisor or director in the profession? (Informational interviews can be incredibly helpful for getting a frank, honest assessment of the field, your “fit” in it, and your areas of improvement. Because you’re not officially being interviewed, the industry professional isn’t as limited by HR rules and the like.)

What opportunities are there to do freelance or part-time work in a writing or editing field? Since it’s possible that you won’t get a full-time job right away, how can you start small, so to speak, and gain valuable experience? (I reiterated the freelance/part-time approach as baby steps toward full-time work.)

  1. Resume: What do you think needs to stay in your resume, and what’s expendable? (We discussed how to tighten the writing and rearrange the material based on the jobs being applied to. I also reminded her that she can have a short self-description at the top that echoes the language of the job ad. The key thing I stressed was to foreground the writing and editing skills she already has from her teaching & presentation experience.)

These, I hope, are the kinds of questions other post-ac job seekers can ask themselves when changing careers. Self-reflecting on your strengths, weaknesses, and transferable skills often improves your manner and language of self-presentation as a job seeker. And, while you’re doing this self-reflection, do a little self-advertising as well: when friends, former professors, colleagues, and others know you’re looking for new work, your net is cast all the more widely.

From Margy Horton:

I view the free 20-minute “mini-session” as a chance to explore how we work together and to see whether we’re a good fit. Beforehand, I ask you to share some basic info with me via email or the intake form on my website: info such as your degree field, geographic region, transition timeline, and general goals. My post-ac specialty is helping people figure out how to earn a living by “selling” their knowledge-based skills (ie, as freelancers, contractors, consultants, or small-business owners). So, I like to spend consultation sessions (both the 20-minute session and the proceeding sessions) helping clients to identify and label their most marketable skills, and then figuring out a specific plan for selling those skills. What service will you provide, and to whom, and at what rate, and how will you get the word out to prospects? As we conclude each session, you state the next steps in your process. For example, if you’re starting a small tutoring business, we might spend some time working to define the target market, services, and marketing message, and we conclude with you affirming that you plan to write a first draft of your business plan within a week. I usually follow up by emailing some free resources and/or suggestions for further reading.

As for the editing service, please note that I do not edit resumes and cover letters; I leave that to the experts who know those genres better than I! However, I do edit business plans and marketing materials. (In my “day job,” ScholarShape, I’m a scholarly editor and writing consultant.) For me, the distinction between consultation and editing is that consultation is a discussion (one that’s focused, rigorous, collaborative, task-focused), and editing is written feedback, in the form of revision suggestions and comments. In many cases, you could feasibly opt for either consultation or editing. People tend to select services based on (a) whether they have a draft worth commenting on (if not, consultation is an obvious choice because it can help you plan and produce said draft), and (b) whether they prefer engaging with ideas in texts or in person (if the former, they choose editing; if the latter, consultation). Some my clients opt for both consultation and editing at different stages of the transition process. One scenario for combining consultation and editing is to spend a consultation session talking through the business plan, and then draft the business plan on your own, and finally send me your business plan to so that I can provide a detailed, substantive edit/critique. I say more about the distinction between consultation and editing on the Services page of my website. But of course, these distinctions and approaches can vary from one service provider to another, so always check with the person you’re thinking of hiring! And good luck!

The Bottom Line:

Your free 20-minute session is an opportunity to experience, with no strings attached, what it actually feels like to work with the post-ac expert of your choice. Because you and the consultant prepare for the session by exchanging basic information, you get to spend most of your 20 minutes actually having a productive discussion about your post-ac transition. You will experience first-hand the approach that your post-ac consultant describes explicitly in his or her consulting philosophy and implies in the blog posts. Each of the post-ac experts has a distinct approach to consulting and editing, but all of the experts are committed to arming you with the specific knowledge, skills, and strategies that you need to transition into post-ac work that suits you perfectly.

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Ask the Post-Acs #2 — What’s It Like to Work With You One-on-One? — 1 Comment

  1. “I really do want to help!”
    Would i be Theprofessorisin I would say:”NEVER say “really” because it means “I am about to lie” and it just sounds wrong”.

    I really didn’t mean to be mean and sarcastic (or did I)?

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