Yesterday afternoon Kevin Switaj, PhD (’99) visited to give his insight on a career outside of academia with a degree in history. Dr. Switaj received his MA from Villanova in 1999 before getting his PhD from Indiana University. However, instead of entering the world of academia and finding a teaching job, Dr. Switaj searched for a job outside of academia, once in the workforce he found that much of what he learned in his schooling could be used in other fields. He broke his talk into three parts; the skills we all have learned, fields a history degree can apply to and how to market yourself.
Communication – A historian must communicate well through their writing. As with Dr. Switaj’s current job, as director of proposal development, he must also communicate well within the guidelines set for him. With proposals it must be clear why their company is the best choice and should be picked.
Strategic development and innovation – History is living and breathing and historians work to apply new ideas in history, at the corporate level this is also true. Also historians need to be able to look at the big picture and have a critical eye, being able to think of the picture is needed in the corporate world as well.
Collaboration – No matter what field, you always want to make sure the work is the best quality. Peer reviews and analytical skills are needed for both the history field and other fields as well.
Soft Skills – It is important to be well-organized, have good time management and also the ability to have multiple tasks going at once. As a graduate student you must learn all of these in able to thrive.
Also being well read is an advantage, it gives you a good frame of reference.
Fields to work in:
Training – Teaching and analytical. Many graduate students have done some teaching through assistantships making them good candidates for training positions.
Content Creation – Using the knowledge of writing, also the ideal entry level candidates and able to learn fast.
Proposal development – Using the writing skills in a different way, when writing proposals, a strict set of guidelines need to be followed. Need to be able to work within guidelines.
Analyst – Having a historical background knowledge helps to see the big picture, not just government jobs.
Resume/ CV – Your resume or CV should be very strong, tailor your resume to the position, make sure you list your skills, take credit for what you have done but do not lie, if you do you will be caught and lose all creditability.
Networking – Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, join alumni groups online, also don’t let connections you have made wither away. You never know where they may lead.
Pepare for the interview – Know the company you are playing for, an hours worth of research can do along way, know what they do, who they are and what their mission is. Ask questions, by asking you are showing a level of interest and engagement.
Be Yourself – It is best to be if yourself and will it will show if you don’t. It is natural to be nervous and they expect that.
Dr. Switaj ended by saying it doesn’t hurt to learn about business at least a little. Coursera gives online courses for free, Linkedin also publishes articles on business, and the Bloomberg News post news on the business world. His personal favorite is a book called The Personal MBA he uses the book a reference point if he needs a quick review on something.
Overall Dr. Switaj’s talk was very helpful in how to prepare for a life outside of academia as well as telling us what uses our current life in academia will be after. He also says that a PhD is not necessary, a masters degree is sufficient enough.
“It is a horrible irony that at the very moment the world has become more complex we’re encouraging our young people to be highly specialized in one task… The liberal arts are still relevant because students to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.” Former Kenyon College President Georgia Nugent