The Official Blog of UChicago's PATHS Program

Author: jillianefoley

Career Exploration Series: Networking

In winter quarter of 2018, PATHS hosted a series of workshops covering different aspects of career exploration for humanities graduate students. This article is the third in a three-part series summarizing the advice and discussion from those workshops. PATHS would like to thank our panelists Monica Felix, Natasha Ayers, Mollie McFee, Donald Chae, and Novia Pagone for sharing their experience and expertise.


How can students use networking to pursue their goals and interests?

Networking, especially informational interviewing, is consistently one of the most reliable ways to find new career options. The main advice our alumni give to current students is to use your networks–including acquaintances and classmates’ contacts–to try to get a personal introduction to anyone you want to talk to. Learning from people in a field that seems interesting is one of the easiest ways to get a sense for the work and whether it might be a good fit for your background and interests. Cold emailing people can be a fruitful way to network, but is likely to require more effort to get the same success as contacting people through introductions.

Informational interviews can also help by expanding your own network. Even if the person you talked to never has a job opening to recommend to you, he or she can often introduce you to other people or point you to related jobs. Donald Chae, a Music PhD alumnus with a long career in business and consulting, said he talked to 50-100 people for every big job search, more during the times when he wasn’t sure what type of job he was looking for. Informational interviews can help you pinpoint specific jobs or industries that fit you the best, and help you find leads once you narrow that down.

When doing an informational interview with someone, flexibility is key. Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended or even vague questions about their experience and background, especially if you are in early exploration stages; you want to learn as much as you can! Be open to picking up on the negative, which sometimes requires paying attention to recurring themes, as not everyone will be completely open about drawbacks to their jobs. Questions to ask include: What allows you to do your best work? What does success look like for that industry? What skills do you use daily, and what skills are you working on developing?

UChicagoGRAD has resources like practice interviewing and career counseling to help you identify networking opportunities and make the most of them.

Malayna Evans, digital marketing expert

Your name:  Malayna Evans

Your degree at UChicago: Ph.D. History of the ancient Near East

Tell us about your work.  What is your current position?  What do you do on a daily basis?
I run a small digital marketing firm,  PWR New Media ( We work with clients on messaging, branding and maximizing their digital presence. I spend a lot of my time with clients but a fair amount of time working with designers and developers as well; I help the internal team craft content that meets clients’ needs, budgets, and timelines. I write for clients as well as our brand.  And, being a small business owner involves a lot of work outside of my comfort zone: negotiating with vendors, dealing with accountant, etc.

I also just got a 3 book contract for a middle grade series, The Egyptified Joneses,to be published in April of 2019 by Month9 Books. The books are about south side Chicago kids who go back in time to save an Egyptian princess. Not exactly my original plan but a good way to put that education to work. 🙂

How did you make the transition from doctoral study to your current work?
My transition to small business owner actually started when I took a part time job while writing my dissertation. The company I worked for was bought by venture capitalists and the product changed. Along with some of my favorite coworkers, I ended up starting a small business, which we’ve now run for over 10 years. 

What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your current role?
I think the three skills I use in my current role, which were strengthened at UChicago, are writing, project management (an important skill for anyone who manages to shepherd a dissertation through the process) and working with people (also important both for academia and business).

What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in your field?
My advice to students looking to transition into careers is twofold:
1) Network, network, network
2) Stay flexible; plans tend to go south but if you go with the flow sometimes that works out even better.

Career Exploration Series: Branching Out during Graduate School

In winter quarter of 2018, PATHS hosted a series of workshops covering different aspects of career exploration for humanities graduate students. This article is the second in a three-part series summarizing the advice and discussion from those workshops. PATHS would like to thank our panelists Monica Felix, Natasha Ayers, Mollie McFee, Donald Chae, and Novia Pagone for sharing their experience and expertise.

What can students do to explore these options during their graduate studies?

Students should regularly reflect on the skills they are developing and on the skills they want to develop. Opportunities like grant writing, project managing, and public speaking can lead to interesting career options.

When looking for ways to branch out in your career, getting some experience in a field adjacent or related to academia or your subject can feel like a natural evolution. A professional network built through side projects, conferences, or other related work can also help facilitate a long-term career move. Be flexible and creative about looking for jobs broadly related to something you’re interested in or good at. Joining other professional organizations–at a student rate–can be a way to explore related fields and meet active professionals without committing to a job.

Trying new experiences outside of graduate work, even if it doesn’t lead to a career, can also be valuable more generally. Having experience that non-academic employers understand can help communicate that you have the skills they want, even if it’s volunteer or part-time work. These skills and experience are useful even for people who are doing the academic job market; being a professor is not necessarily a ‘more natural’ evolution from being a grad student than other jobs! Cultivating new skills and experiences helps any career transition, even when they don’t immediately seem directly relevant.

Consider what time-management approach works for you. Some people find that doing career and scholarly exploration together during coursework is helpful while reserving time to work full-time on a dissertation in later years. Other people find that the structure of having a part-time job while ABD helps them manage their dissertation project more efficiently. Don’t feel bad if something that works for a colleague doesn’t work for you! Everyone manages time differently. UChicagoGRAD advisors can help you think through this question if you’re not sure what would fit best with your working style.

Career Exploration Series: What’s out there?

In winter quarter of 2018, PATHS hosted a series of workshops covering different aspects of career exploration for humanities graduate students. This article is the first in a three-part series summarizing the advice and discussion from those workshops. PATHS would like to thank our panelists Monica Felix, Natasha Ayers, Mollie McFee, Donald Chae, and Novia Pagone for sharing their experience and expertise.

What career options are available for humanities graduate students?

There are a huge array of careers that build on skills from a humanities graduate education, and a surprisingly large community of fellow humanities scholars interested in these fields.

Plenty of people with PhDs have great outcomes and professional satisfaction outside of academia! Many professional organizations, such as the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association, have started tracking where people with PhDs in their field make their careers. For example, even before the recession in 2008, MLA & AHA tracked that over a quarter of PhDs were working in fields outside of academia. The University of Chicago has also started tracking PhD careers– you can see a list of some of these careers here.

Many successful careers outside of academia are based on skills developed during graduate school, like writing, editing, project management, and building expertise. Some of the most popular fields for humanities PhDs to pursue include academic and arts administration, teaching and research–both inside and outside universities, marketing and communications, and government. More general career options, like consulting and entrepreneurship, can also be a good fit for humanities scholars who are motivated by things like problem-solving and building relationships. When considering careers in these types of fields, it it sometimes fruitful to look at the intersection between fields, where non-traditional applicants like a humanities PhD can build their own niche.

Remember, you’ll always be stepping into a different role with different skills no matter where you go. Consider whatever you do next to be a career transition, and start working on how to make that transition easier before you finish your degree–whether your next job is as faculty or somewhere else. Treat your future career like a research project: learn as much as you can about your options and what you need to prepare, and reflect on what that means for your personality and background. Take advantage of UChicagoGRAD resources like career guides, or other sources like ImaginePhD and Versatile PhD for researching career paths.

A Grad Student’s Intro to Authors’ Rights

Are you considering publishing an article, and wondering about copyright? Elisabeth Long, Associate University Librarian for IT and Digital Scholarship at the UChicago Library, recently provided an overview of authors’ rights and publishing contracts for humanities graduate students.

Copyright law governs the creation, ownership, sale, and use of original works of authorship. Long stressed that, in the United States, copyrights are granted automatically as soon as the work is written down, and authors do not need to petition or apply for them! For graduate students, that means that everything you have written is already copyrighted.

Copyrights can be transferred by the owner. If a piece of writing is created as part of a work-for-hire contract, the employer may own the copyright from the start. Otherwise, the creator of the writing owns the original copyright, and can choose to transfer those rights in various ways. Licensing a copyrighted work grants another party permission to use the work, and licenses can be exclusive (nobody else can get a license), as well as transferrable, depending on the terms of the license. Transferring the copyright either in part or entirely then grants the control of the entire work to another party, such as a journal publisher.

Graduate students looking to publish their work should be sure to read the details of a contract before signing! Rights that you may want to keep include: the right to self-archive your work (e.g. in an institutional repository), reuse rights (e.g. if you plan to include an article as part of a book), and rights to use the work in teaching or to share with other researchers. Long encouraged graduate students to negotiate for the rights they want when signing a publishing contract. Although some journals and publishers are more open to negotiations than others, it is worth thinking carefully about the tradeoffs of copyright transfer before making any agreements.

Long described three models common among academic publishers. Traditional publishing includes copyright transfer to the publisher, and published works are available by subscription only. Gold open access publishing uses Creative Commons licenses, meaning the author retains the copyright, and does not charge subscription fees to view published works. This model may require publishing costs to be covered in other ways, such as author fees or grants. Green open access publishing transfers copyright to the publisher but typically allows the author to retain some rights, such as self-archiving on a personal website or repository. Two online databases help authors learn about the practices at various publishers: the SHERPA/RoMEO database and the Open Access Spectrum Evaluation Tool.

For UChicago graduate students, Elisabeth Long and other librarians are available to help navigate the publishing process. UChicago also provides an institutional repository for archiving academic work. The slides for Long’s presentation are available in Knowledge@UChicago and provide further information and links to sample author rights agreement addenda another other useful resources for understanding how to manage your rights. 

Alumni Profile: Liz Siegel, Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago

A headshot of Liz Siegel, curator at the Art Institute

Name:  Elizabeth Siegel (I’m Elizabeth in print, but everyone calls me Liz).
UChicago degree: I received my Master’s degree in 1994, and my Ph.D. in 2003—both in Art History.
Current position: Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago

Tell us about your work. What is your current position? What do you do on a daily basis?

I am Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of three curators in the department. At any given time, I am working on a number of projects, at the museum or traveling for work. The work varies quite a bit from day to day, but could be roughly broken down into the following:

Collections: Our first priority is to identify, collect, preserve, and research works of art. We have about 22,000 photographs in our collection, ranging from photography’s invention to the present—and we are constantly adding to the collection. So I might be looking at photographs at an art fair, a gallery, a collector’s home, or an artist’s studio, considering what we already have and, within our available resources, the priorities for the shape of the collection. But with such wide and rich holdings I also spend a lot of time with photographs already in the collection, to learn more about them for an exhibition, study them with our conservators, or present them to the public.

Exhibitions: We have several exhibitions spaces dedicated just to photography in the museum, and since photographs are light-sensitive, they can’t remain on view as long as, say, paintings or sculpture can. So we rotate our works quite often, displaying photographs in exhibitions that may range from a smaller rotation of permanent collection objects to a major loan exhibition that has a catalogue and travels to different institutions. At the heart of any of these displays, though, is the selection of objects and new research that will help illuminate them for both the scholarly community and the general public.

Outreach: The great thing about this job is the people and networks that form alongside the study of objects. We give lectures and exhibition tours that might reach seasoned scholars, young students, or a new art enthusiast; we network with a community of colleagues in museums, universities, galleries, and related fields; and we build relationships with collectors and donors who support the work of the institution.

Of course, there is plenty of less glamorous stuff that is part of any job. But I get to work in this beautiful building, surrounded by some of the most incredible artworks produced in human history, with smart, curious colleagues. I’m pretty lucky.

How did you make the transition from doctoral study to working in museums?

There wasn’t much of a transition: I did both simultaneously. While I was in coursework, I was the curatorial intern at the Smart Museum of Art, where I worked for different curators doing research in the library, assisting in installations, helping to run print viewings for classes, and even was able to curate an exhibition from the collection. It was a terrific start for me, with wonderful mentors, and in a smaller, university art museum I was able to see a variety of different collections and museum activities.

Later, when I was writing my dissertation, I began working as a research assistant at the Art Institute for a large exhibition on the New Bauhaus/Institute of Design, an important school here in Chicago. I was fortunate to be able to dig deeply, poring through archives, interviewing dozens of former participants, locating loans from all over the country, editing and writing for the catalogue. Toward the end of that project—when I was almost (but not quite) finished with my dissertation, and six months pregnant—I was offered a job as assistant curator. I’ve been with the museum ever since, with increasing responsibilities as I advanced.

When I was a student at the University of Chicago, there seemed to be more of a separation between the academy and the museum; I’m quite pleased to see more openness between both generally, and collaborations specifically between the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago.

What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your current role?

Undergraduate and graduate studies hone your thinking, writing, and critical capacities, skills that are useful in any arena. At the graduate level, studies in methodology and historiography helped me to get a better sense of art history as a field, and the history of photography as one that is still being contested; this context has helped me to better understand my own place within a discipline and community of curators and scholars. Researching and writing a dissertation both allowed and forced me to conceptualize a large, original project, and to see it through. That process is analogous to conceiving and researching an exhibition, including how to make a case for the project as a contribution to the field. However, I realized then—and now have been proved correct—that the chance to focus so deeply on a single, perhaps open-ended project, and follow the research wherever it might lead, is a luxury that is rare in life outside of graduate school.

What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in museums?

The typical employment notice asks for both a graduate-level degree and a certain amount of museum experience. It can be difficult to do both, but I would certainly encourage graduate students to try to work at a museum during their doctoral program. Specifically, I would encourage trying to get experience at a wide variety of institutions—large survey museum, university art museum, contemporary art museum, or project spaces—and within those to try to experience different kinds of functions within a museum. (At the Art Institute, for example, we have eleven different curatorial departments, the library and archives, and conservation, as well as departments dedicated to publishing, public engagement, academic engagement, digital experience, legal affairs, and more.) Increasingly, museums are offering paid internships so students can afford to get this crucial work experience.

I recommend trying to get a wide variety of experiences so that you can find where might be the best fit for you. However, once you know where you want to be, I suggest doing whatever you can do to work there in some capacity to build relationships and so that the staff there can get to know you and your unique skills. In my own case, I was fortunate to be a known quantity in the Photography Department at a moment when a position became available.

Alumni Profile: Marlis Saleh, Bibliographer at Regenstein Library

A headshot of Marlis Saleh, University of Chicago bibliographer

Name: Marlis J. Saleh
UChicago Degree: Ph.D. 1995 in Islamic History from the Department of Near
Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Current Position: Bibliographer for Middle East Studies at Regenstein Library

Tell us about your work.  What is your current position?  What do you do on a daily
I am the Bibliographer for Middle East Studies at Regenstein Library here at the University of Chicago.

My core responsibilities here are collection development and patron reference and instruction. I decide which resources in the field of Middle Eastern Studies the library will purchase; these could be books and journals, but also various types of electronic resources, films, etc. Then I assist patrons in locating and using these resources, as well as relevant resources outside of the library. I often meet with students one-on- one to discuss a project they are working on and the best means for obtaining the materials they need to complete the project. I also give workshops and class sessions to instruct students in the best methods for accessing the really incredible resources the library has to offer them. I work with faculty as well regarding both their own scholarly research and resources they need for their teaching.

I am active in the Middle East Librarians Association, serving on the executive committee, and also I am the editor of the association journal, MELA Notes. I solicit and evaluate articles for the journal, and edit the articles, book reviews, and association meeting records to prepare the journal for publication. The other journal that I edit is Mamlūk Studies Review, which is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted the study of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria (1250–1517) which began publication in 1997. This is part of a suite of scholarly endeavors related to the study of the Mamluk Sultanate hosted here in the Middle East Department, which now includes in addition to the journal our Chicago Online Bibliography of Mamluk Studies and the School of Mamluk Studies, which organizes a scholarly conference and intensive workshop in a different international city each year (this year, for instance, it was in Beirut, and it will be in Ghent, Belgium, next year).

How did you make the transition from doctoral study to working in libraries?
After I completed my Ph.D. I worked briefly in a corporate position in the Loop, quickly realizing that it was not for me. It was very fortunate that at that time my predecessor in this position contacted me about an opening here at the library. I came here to the department and realized that this was the perfect setting for me. Working in an academic library is an alternate path to participating in the academic life.

What skills that you developed during your doctoral studies have proven valuable in your
current role?
The experience that I gained from my own doctoral studies has proven invaluable to me in my current role. The skills that I developed in taking classes, preparing for exams, and researching and writing a dissertation are exactly the skills that I can assist the next generation of students in developing. The subject expertise that I acquired and continue to develop allows me to assist patrons in a way that goes beyond technical knowledge of how, for instance, the library catalog works. And the fact that I did my work at this very library gives me an added dimension of a deep familiarity with the resources available here and how best to access them.

What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in library
This is a really exciting time in the field of library science—libraries continue to expand their conception of what their role is in assisting students and faculty members to succeed in their learning, scholarship, and teaching. I would advise current Ph.D. students who think they might be interested in a library career to continue their best efforts to accomplish their own scholarly goals, but also to educate themselves on newly emerging trends in scholarship such as digital humanities.

Advice from a CEO with a Classics Degree

How can a graduate student stand out as a job applicant outside of academia? Jack Emmert, CEO of the Austin studio of Daybreak Games, offered useful advice on this question at a PATHS event in Fall of 2017. Emmert, who holds a UChicago Master’s Degree in the Ancient Mediterranean World, reflected on his years of experience building teams for game development and the value of his academic background. His advice for job-seekers boils down to one basic goal: be interesting!

Emmert suggested thinking of resumes and cover letters as a conversation starter, not just simply checking all the boxes of a job ad. He said his company’s job ads regularly receive 90+ resumes, so anything that helps the hiring manager remember you is an advantage.

Have you done challenging fieldwork on a unique archaeological site? Discovered a new molecule or historical document? Faced a particularly tough challenge while teaching? Describing specific accomplishments like these not only illustrate the skills a recruiter is looking for—like teamwork, creativity, or analytical thinking—but also make you seem like an interesting person a hiring manager would want to talk to for an hour. Graduate students’ specialized knowledge and unusual experiences, if framed correctly, are both unique and relevant to a wide range of jobs.

On resumes and cover letters, instead of simply translating research and pedagogical experience into standardized professional skills, which can sometimes be vague, emphasize the specific things you’ve done that make you interesting. Just as in writing papers or lectures, you should highlight your most important or strongest points, and use specific examples wherever possible. List these parts of your background first when building resumes, or consider whether a nontraditional format like a skills resume might work best.

Emmert used his own academic study of ancient Greek civilizations as an example of how skills from graduate school are useful to him every day. Almost all graduate students excel at analytical thinking, initiative and ownership of tasks, communication, and the ability to learn quickly—all skills that Emmert looks for in any good job applicant!


Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑