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Several students attending the Professional Development Workshop
© APPAM

Looking Beyond the Degree at the Fall Research Conference

November 6, 2014 11:00 AM

By Belinda Archibong, Columbia University

This year, APPAM offered a professional development workshop for students and young professionals, Beyond the Degree: Bringing Career Options Into Focus. This half-day workshop featured panel sessions that bring faculty and policymakers together to speak to three major career avenues of importance to students: the career search, tenured faculty and the fellowships, and the non-academic pathway.

The afternoon began with Career Search: Behind the Scenes, a sub-session with Melissa Kovacs, Research Director, Maricopa County; John Hutchins, Communications Director, Development and External Affairs, MDRC; and David Schachter, Assistant Dean and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration, New York University. The three speakers, who work in and outside of academia, were very candid about the opinions and expectations of employers, particularly for doctoral students in a job search. They discussed everything from the appropriate length of a cover letter and resume for academic and non-academic positions­‑-always one page for non-academic positions, with some caveats allowing for two pages for an experienced hire--to the proper means of communication with employers after you’ve submitted your resume and cover letter for application. (Tip: don’t contact them, they’ll contact you--unless you personally know someone at the organization to which you’re applying, at which you can then feel free to drop that individual a line notifying them of your application.) They also gave tips on how to present your academic ‘job talk,’ such as learning how to present your dissertation in bullet point form.

The next session, Tenured Faculty and the Fellowship Career Path, featured Uday Desai, Professor, University of New Mexico; Maureen Pirog, Rudy Professor and Past JPAM Editor, Indiana University; and Eric Schwartz, Dean and Professor, University of Minnesota. Here, the panelists presented a useful primer on the academic job market, with a focus on policy jobs. The main advice given was to publish as much as you possibly can and try not to take visiting professorships, as that path makes it difficult to get into a tenure track position. A caveat on publishing was provided for the economics market, where publishing as much as possible was not the order of the day. Advice was also given on maintaining a work-life balance, handling inappropriate questions during interviews, and the importance of maintaining and attaining funding for your research.

The final session, Non-Academic Career Path, with Misty Heggeness, Labor Economist, National Institutes of Health; Todd Grindal, Associate, Abt Associates; and Rebekah Selekman, Researcher, Mathematica Policy Research, was very interesting. The panelists shared their various experiences transitioning into non-academic positions from academia. The process was described with encouragement given to the attendees to chat with advisors ahead of time, if possible, especially if a Ph.D. student was thinking of transitioning into a non-academic position. All three perspectives on the job search provided with some useful back and forth discussion between students and panelists in the session.

 

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