My name is Treviene Harris, and I’m a 7th year PhD candidate in the Department of English. I’m in the final stages of writing my dissertation, which is an interdisciplinary project that examines how sound functions as a critique of historiography in Caribbean fictions: literature, music, and film. As I approach the end of my degree program, I have been considering seriously career prospects beyond the academy. To explore diverse career possibilities and how to ready myself for a different type of job market, I have sought to expand my professional development to be visible to employers outside the university. As part of the process, I have attended various “alt-ac” talks, conducted informational interviews, and attended career diversity bootcamps, all of which helped me to think more expansively about where my advanced humanities training could be valuable. However, what was missing from these professional development opportunities were the experience of putting the skills and knowledge I have acquired during my studies to practical use.
In my own assessment of what constitutes meaningful work, I am interested in work that has a public facing component that centers marginalized communities. For the Humanities Engage Summer Immersive, I worked with a non-profit organization that provided aid and assistance to survivors of domestic violence. Working as a grant writing intern, I was able to draw on my research and writing skills to help secure grants for operational costs for the organization. My experience in writing for different audiences proved useful as different grant makers required a focus on different elements of business operations that had to be highlighted in funding requests. I relied heavily on my training as a writer to craft a compelling narrative supported by data derived from thorough research. Being detail oriented and the ability to manage multiple projects at the same time were also skills I drew on from my work as a teacher during my graduate studies. Knowing how to prioritize grants applications by deadlines was closely aligned with how I managed my own work in tandem with teaching and grading during hectic parts of the school semester. My strong analytical skills helped me to decide which grant makers were most viable considering both the history of grants allocated by any one grant maker and the targeted audience of the organization I worked for. I had to be able to assess who were the best matches possible for the stated goals and missions that we were working to accomplish.
In terms of my professional goals and postdoctoral trajectory, this summer immersive has given me a new set off experiences that I can leverage and reference in “alt-ac” spaces that will be in addition to my academic career experiences. I have used my skills in new ways that I can speak about confidently. Crucially, this immersive has allayed certain fears I had of my writing and research skills not being useful or valuable anywhere else but in academia. Considering the current state of the academic job market, I think it will be increasingly important to think of and work on ways repackage ourselves as dynamic professionals. During the summer I applied and interviewed for three grant writing jobs and made in to the second round of interviews for one. I’m uncertain of what made me an attractive candidate to these organizations, but for me it’s more important that I seemed attractive at all given my very limited experience (as shown on my resume). What this tells me is, if I focused on acquiring more experience in this field through other volunteer or internship opportunities, grant writing could be a viable career path for me.
From this experience it has become easier for me to read non-academic job postings and be able to decode a skills-match. Learning how to do this will help me to search more pointedly on the wider job market as I seek out future postdoctoral, internship, or volunteer opportunities that will help me build my resume.
My advice to people who are interested in future iterations of this immersive training program is to use it to figure out where else your existing skills are transferrable, use it to isolate where you do or don’t want to be, and use it to strategically build a new cache of skills across related career areas.
October 14, 2020