In some ways, I felt encouraged about the career fair. There were quite a few companies who were paying to put themselves in the way of PhD students – clearly, we do have value.However, one thing that I found a little discouraging was how many tech companies are still looking out primarily for computer scientists and engineers. I think in the past, I would have felt too intimidated to talk to tech companies. My own area of study, linguistics, is not even recognizably quantitative or scientific to most people (if you’re reading this blog, you can now be more knowledgeable than most people, and know that it is both!). However, being in my last year perhaps made me bolder, and I gave a skeptical person my resume. He ended up being really surprised, to see that I in fact had the skills he was looking for. This taught me an important lesson: companies want you, but they may not necessarily know they do. It is up to you to convince them, and do it confidently.
Do you do qualitative research? The American Institute of Research is looking for people doing qualitative as well as quantitative research. They are a large non-profit, with locations across the country. The closest location is in San Mateo.
Another opportunity that I didn’t know about before was the Strategic Data Project, which focuses on using data to improve education policy. If you have a quantitative background, and would like to apply it to improving education policy, this is a really great thing. Applications for next year will go up December 1. The fellowship is through Harvard, but you decide where you will carry it out – past fellows have been at a variety of educational institutions across the country.
In the end, what I found most encouraging was, it seems like there are a variety of non-academic opportunities for PhD’s. For me, I am looking for a job where I can continue to do research in some capacity, but where I also believe in the goals of the company. I had been worried more about the latter, but after going to the career fair, it struck me that there really are so many companies, surely it is possible to find one whose goals I believe in. The academy is not the only place to find a combination of research and idealism.