What You Did to Get Through Grad School — and What We Learned

We all did a lot of weird things

Well, in throwing out this question on Twitter, we learned a lot. Not all of it surprising — graduate students did a lot of work as TA and RAs in various capacities, whether tied to their funding package or not; providing editing, copyediting, and proofreading services; freelance writing and ghostwriting; and, of course, teaching as an adjunct instructor. But of course people did many other things as well — jobs that run the gamut of the service sector.

We’ve compiled a list of jobs below, from our thoroughly anecdotal, 1000% unscientific survey of academic Twitter. We tried to cull most of the jobs mentioned in people’s responses and formulate them as job titles. What can each of these work experiences contribute to marketing oneself as a person with an MA or PhD in History (or a related field) when looking at a variety of fields in the private sector? Tech, publishing, sales, HR, management, policy and advocacy, consulting, social media, and so forth?

Several other issues became clear in this discussion as well: one, that people with disabilities may not be in a position to “hustle” in the way of working five jobs as a bartender, adjunct, and office temp to supplement a meager graduate stipend — which raises issues of equity and justice across the board in terms of how academic work is valued, organized, and supported. Two, that international students have the same stipends but face severe limitations on their ability to work and add to their income. Both of these considerations ought to be raised as we move forward thinking about career diversity, career development, and job opportunities for scholars.

But here it is: the Great Whirly List of Gigs… What can we take from all this that would be usefully translated into professional careers across the private, nonprofit, and public sectors?

You can find many of the responses (though not all — we’ve had a hard time keeping up!) here as part of a Twitter Moment.

  • teaching assistant
  • research assistant
  • adjunct instructor
  • labor educator
  • freelance writer
  • ghostwriter
  • copyeditor
  • bartender
  • security guard
  • editorial assistant
  • grant writer
  • library clerk
  • receptionist
  • barista
  • tutor
  • restaurant server
  • buffalo wing delivery driver
  • assistant journal editor
  • bookstore clerk
  • retail employee in general
  • proofreader
  • high school teacher
  • bus driver
  • private chef
  • executive assistant
  • website editor
  • web designer
  • babysitter
  • house sitter
  • nanny
  • exam proctor
  • data entry
  • telemarketer
  • gift wrapper
  • antique & collectible dealer
  • coat check attendant
  • office temp/clerical worker
  • yoga teacher
  • LSAT, GRE, and other test prep tutor
  • pinsetter mechanic
  • contract researcher
  • short-order cook
  • convenience store clerk
  • AP test grader
  • Uber/Lyft driver
  • counselor
  • foreign language teacher
  • life insurance salesperson
  • house cleaner
  • preschool teacher
  • curatorial assistant
  • assistant registrar
  • transcriber
  • translator
  • park ranger
  • career counselor
  • writing center tutor
  • housekeeper
  • hair stylist
  • ski instructor
  • seasonal firefighter
  • AV tech
  • coffee-shop manager
  • DJ
  • call center operator
  • lifeguard
  • cashier
  • caterer
  • fitness instructor
  • bookkeeper
  • hotel maintenance person
  • construction worker
  • petsitter
  • surf instructor

Author: Tropics of Meta

We are legion.

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