SPOTLIGHT

The Official Blog of UChicago's PATHS Program

Tag: Teaching

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.

Alumni Profile: Temby Mary Caprio, Country Director for Peace Corps

Caprio (Pictured Left)

Name: Temby Mary Caprio

UChicago Degree: BA ’91, MA ’93, PhD ’99 in Germanic Studies

Current Position: Country Director for Peace Corps/ Federated States of Micronesia and Palau

 

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

As Country Director for Peace Corps/ Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, no two consecutive days are alike. I lead, direct, manage, counsel, mentor and coach (staff and Volunteers), coordinate, negotiate, report, interpret policy, troubleshoot and travel (a lot!).

At Peace Corps, our post is considered small and very complex, spread out over 2,000 miles of North Pacific Ocean and 3 time zones. Our team of 18 supports 35 2-year education sector Volunteers in FSM, and 2 Peace Corps Response Volunteers in Palau. Our job is to set Volunteers up for a successful service, which includes everything from designing assignments together with host country officials, to identifying sites and host families, to training, to admin support, to managing safety and security systems and a medical unit.

 

How did you make the transition from doctoral study to the Peace Corps?

In 2000, when I turned down a Visiting Assistant Professor appointment at a top school and a tenure-track final interview at a state university looking to grow its German program, and I decided to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, those who didn’t know me thought I was crazy, and those who did, knew I was making the right decision for me at the time. I loved teaching, and find these aspects of my current job the most satisfying. I knew, however, that I wanted to pursue different questions and be part of different conversations.

After my Peace Corps service in Cape Verde, I was hired by the German government’s development agency for technical cooperation: giz (Gesellschaft fuer international Zusammenarbeit, www.giz.de) as a “junior” advisor for an education project in Mozambique. At giz, my learning curve went vertical again, much like in graduate school. I was able grow and learn in diverse contexts on multiple continents and with amazing, engaged colleagues. I’m the grateful recipient of generous professional development programs, including change management, leadership training, and language training. I also got lucky and had supervisors who trusted me and supported me to take on increasing responsibility.

My professional dream was to serve Peace Corps as staff, and I am currently half-way into a 5-year limited-term appointment. I started working with the agency in 2015 as the Director of Programming and Training in the Dominican Republic and have been the Country Director in Micronesia since December 2016.

 

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

Critical thinking. Resiliency. Humility. And, of course, teaching! Maybe I’ll write a book: Everything I needed to know about leading a multicultural team in a complex environment in a developing country I learned teaching in the College!

 

What advice do you have for current Ph.D. students looking to launch a career in human services or management?

  1. Be willing to start at the bottom of the org chart. Be willing to volunteer. My first management experiences beyond the academy were as a volunteer for two film festivals in Chicago. One of these volunteer experiences with Chicago Filmmakers turned into a paid position with more responsibility.
  2. Know your questions and let them guide you. You might not know your next job title, but if you define what you are passionate about, you might have a better chance of getting there.
  3. Be grateful for and proud of your time at UChicago — final doctorate degree or not! Two of my best friends from graduate school chose other paths before finishing their Ph.D.s. With M.A.s in English, they moved on to have amazing careers in journalism and management consulting.

Caprio (Pictured Right)

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