I thought it was me. I advertised the non-academic job market event. The GSE sent emails, hung posters, spread the word verbally, but the event was not well-attended. Don’t get me wrong, the room was full but it was not overflowing, like I imagined it would be given the dreadful job prospects. Despite my delusions of standing room only among student attendees, it was not until I read “Whose Job Is It, Anyway” by Alexandra Lord, that I really noticed the lack of faculty attendance at the workshop. Lord explains that faculty in the humanities do not contend with the realities of the job market and often shame or dismiss students who ask about academic alternatives. She states that it is the faculty’s job to talk about the real world application for the humanities degrees. Lord is specific about how the faculty can better prepare students for the job market including alumni surveys and presentations and workshops that cover both academic and nonacademic jobs in equal measure.
I agree with Lord’s assessment about the responsibility of faculty in addressing the job market in a real way. However, my experience suggests engagement with the greater university and community will help the bridge employment gap. My husband attended business school at North Carolina and what I found most different from his school experience and mine is the involvement of career services in his academic life. The faculty at Carolina had connections, sure, but the career service department had bigger and further reaching relationships with huge businesses. Companies like Kellogg, General Mills and Campbell’s came to campus with the express purpose of seeking graduate students to fill active vacancies. These programs were sponsored by career services and were specifically for business students. I looked on with a pang of envy as my husband interviewed with these organizations. But why hasn’t anyone ever sought me out as a humanities academic? Don’t these corporations need writers, communicators, critical thinkers? Of course they do. So, where’s my special career event? The graduate students in English need more from career services than pithy weekly emails about jobs that are geared toward undergraduates.
The humanities faculty does not likely have these connections, so I do not expect them to bring these events to fruition. But, what I do expect is for the faculty to sell us to career services as a pragmatic resource for the corporate sector. I agree with Lord that the faculty has to overcome whatever negative attitudes they have regarding different paths or pushing students to justify the need for the humanities by pushing them toward non-existent academic humanities jobs. Once these attitudes are overcome, I believe that career services will cease to see us as an ivory tower that can take care of itself, but rather as a group of stellar communicators who will be a benefit to local and national corporations, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies and a credit to their university.