Plan Bs and PhDs: Thinking About Non-Academic Career Options

Vanderbilt University

Amanda Krauss, PhD


October 12, 2016

"Always have an exit strategy."

But why?

Choice, baby.*

*Also, the job market is abysmal, you use up all your slack getting a PhD, and you should be skeptical of “doing what you love.”

The Plan!

  1. Find target job/industry.
  2. Network towards it.
  3. Apply w/ resume.
  4. Profit.

(As outlined in this terrific Fast Company article!)


The reality: Welcome to non-linear life

Illustration by Demetri Martin

Where to start???

Research creative fields and organizations.

PS: Look beyond titles.

Business Analysts just wanna have fun.

So do Content Strategists, Product Managers, Social Media Managers, User Experience Researchers, and Program Managers!

CV to Resume (Rough draft)

Explain your job to a rubber duck.

(Don't sweat the format yet.)

Soft Skills Leadership Skills

They pay me in actual money and food, can you believe it? Turns out that the skills taken for granted in the academic world are actually highly valued in the workforce. Who knew?
--M.A. working at a startup

Hard Skills

Do you even portfolio, bro?

Should I take a class?


  • micro-learning (webinars etc.)
  • online classes and certifications
  • But remember: portfolio is more imporant than certificate.
"Fortune rules in all things."

Listen to Beyonce. There is no fucking meritocracy.

Networking: Make Your Own Luck

Yay, Local Meetups!

*Google your own location/interest!

Yay, Digital Networking!

  • Twitter
  • Webinars
  • Slack Channels

Your target industry as anthropological excercise

  • Culture differences: "We hate meetings!"
  • Jargon differences: Learn to love "deliverables".

Don't Fail to Follow Up

  • LinkedIn
  • Informational interviews
  • Coffee
  • Good ol' email

Who knows,you might find a mentor!

Your Resume: First Draft

  • Use the right vernacular.
  • Sell your research.
  • Focus on results.

Academic Research vs. Applied Research*

  • "There is no lit review!"
  • limited time/scope
  • What happened because of your research??
  • Just read these Tweets

*Notes from the Applied Anthropology Summit

Bonus: Here's some fun jargon!

Resume Alternatives: Owning your digital presence

“Wait. What is Jekyll? What is Github? WTF?"
--Audrey Watters

What's the URL?

Do you have a portfolio?

  • Format: Problem, Process, Solution
  • Artifacts of your work

Ways to build your portfolio

  • Repackage what you're already doing in bizspeak.
  • Volunteer your time (for an organization you care about, doing the job you're aiming for.)
  • Barter.
  • Passion projects (which you're kind of already doing, right?)
  • Open source task lists (like this mapping project!)
  • The ever-popular side hustle.

Sidebar: Digital Humanities (DH)

Digital Humanities ≠ Tech

Digital Storytelling vs. Digital Humanities

OMG, How can we have it all?!?!

There's a really simple answer.

(That nobody likes)

Put. It. On. The Calendar.

A meetup every month. Your resume every Thursday. Whatever!

Life is choice. Choice is loss.

--Mitchell Hurwitz, paraphrasing Isaiah Berlin


PhDs Who Write For The General Public*

*From within and without the academy.

Resources for PhDs on the Lam

Places to look for jobs