Putting the Humanities PhD to work by Katina L. Rogers is a book that does exactly what the title says it will. It puts in the work. The writer has imbued her intention in every single chapter of the book recommending multiple ways in which both students and faculty can find workable steps to ensure that their skills can be put to work.
In Chapter 5 of the book, titled “Students: How to Put Your PhD to Work,” Rogers firstly acknowledges the difficulties and uncertainties experienced by graduate students. As someone who is applying to graduate schools now, I am very relieved to have found the book at this moment in my life. Roger’s uses a very reassuring approach throughout this chapter which puts me at ease. She talks about the difficulties of the job market, the disapproval common in academia towards non-academic careers, and above all the conflicting messages students receive. The chapter is a very helpful guide in “taking control of your own pathway” as a graduate student.
Rogers doesn’t just leave us with vague advice but also gives us specific guidelines to be followed. She identifies the problem of the academic trend of leading students towards a saturated job market as well as the uncertainty faced by students of integrating in non-academic settings. Rogers lays out important methods to help students integrate and along with this method, she also gives actionable tasks to be taken up by the readers. For example, Rogers suggests blogging as an exercise in conveying the potential impact of research. This easy to follow exercise encourages students to take small steps towards diversifying their experience in writing and research.
Throughout the chapter, she emphasizes the art of translation which she defines as “showing a prospective employer exactly how your experience within academia can be an asset in a very different context.” Rogers explains that the core values of research, teaching and impact are of value in academia and outside it. We simply need to learn how to translate those skills to make future employers see our academic experience as an asset.
As someone who has been working outside academia for the past couple of years, this is something I have found difficulty with. The stigma faced by humanities graduates during the hiring processes in India where we are deemed to not have enough knowledge or skills to work outside academia has been bothering me. But, this chapter gives students a language to work with against this bias which is instrumental in giving students the tools to achieve success in non-academic settings. For graduates like me, the key takeaway is to not limit ourselves to academic boundaries and to value the work we do in academia and learn to apply it beyond academia.
The writer gives a very elaborate list of Dos and Donts for graduate students at different levels of their career. She paints a very objective picture of employer biases, challenges faced during the interview process, in networking, etc. As an experienced academic, Rogers also cautions students against underestimating their value. She gives advice to help salary negotiation, gauge intellectual stimulation and job satisfaction, all significant factors that are usually learned through experience and not shared this early into our careers.
Overall, Rogers has shared a lot of advice that students learn the hard way if they don’t want an academic career or are not able to pursue one. This book and specifically this chapter is a necessity for the future of graduate students. “The world needs you,” Rogers says towards the end, reinforcing the importance of graduate students not only as assets in a job market but as valuable members of the world at large.
(Image Description: Photo of a desk capturing the laptop keyboard, pens and highlighters, mouse, a diary and a notebook opened to the page of scribbled notes on Chapter 5 of Katina Rogers' book)
(Photo Credits: Salwa Kazi)