Back in the (probably mythical) day, it was enough just to have an advanced degree. Relatively few people went to graduate school, and those who did were largely destined for the professoriate, the clergy, law, and medicine. In these cases, the relationship between the educational path and the professional path was fairly straightforward.
It would be an understatement to say that this is no longer the case.
There are many reasons that you may find yourself wanting to “translate” your graduate degree into skills and language that employers in non-academic contexts can understand. Here are a few of those reasons:
- You earned a degree because you are changing professions, and your previous job experience doesn’t match the jobs you are applying for.
- You have a degree in the field you’re going into, but have no real work experience in that field.
- You have a degree in the humanities or social sciences, but are looking for jobs in the non-profit sector, in the private sector, or for non-teaching jobs in a university setting (academic advising, library, or admissions work).
- You are tired of adjuncting or visiting or short-term teaching jobs.
One of the biggest mistakes I see academics make when applying for jobs outside the academy is expecting the meaning and value of their degree to be self-evident. Instead, I suggest that you get comfortable articulating the skills, knowledge, creativity, tech skills, and initiative that went into earning a graduate degree.
If you don’t find this easy, it’s because these skills are largely invisible within the academy. Typically, we’re asked to focus on the content of our work, not on the skills that go into conducting or communicating that work. It is possible, however, to tease out these skills and to talk about how they can apply in other professional settings.
Not sure where to start? Download templates from my recent talk, “Telling Your Professional Story Across Contexts” as a jumping off point to articulate and contextualize your skills. (Here is a clip from that talk.)