In a 2020 AAA career webinar titled Breaking Into Tech, I shared my experience transitioning from academia into tech roles, along with several key considerations for determining the best fit with an employer or job. While the talk was tech-focused and took place during the pandemic hiring frenzy, many of the lessons remain broadly applicable. Likewise, I resurrected some of my talking points, and share them here to help students and early career anthropologists thinking about leaping from academia to industry.

assess job fit

Organizational Considerations

Navigating the nuances of organizational culture and dynamics requires a keen understanding of one’s own working style and alignment with the company’s structure and ethos.

  • Company Size and Dynamics: Consider whether a large corporation with specialized roles and documented procedures or a smaller, more dynamic startup aligns with your working style. Some people like staying with defined rules. Others prefer the freedom to explore and express themselves. Only you know who you are but choose wisely, as they can be very different experiences.
  • Project Duration Preference: Consider if you prefer the variety of short-term projects or the depth of long-term engagements. In practice, your role will likely involve a mix of short and long-term projects, so understand this upfront.
  • Work Culture and Values: Reflect on how different organizational cultures align with your values and work ethics. Examine the vision and mission statements. Consider how the organization makes money. Think about the negative externalities the firm throws off (every company has some), such as environmental degradation, labor disputes, or perpetuating economic inequalities. Understand these, as there is no perfect role, but some will pair better with your values and goals.

Role Considerations

As you navigate the transition from academia to industry, reflect on where you currently stand in your career and the types of roles that align with your skills and ambitions.

  • Assess Your Career Stage: Be reasonable about your non-academic career stage. If you’re early in your career, focus on entry-level roles to build experience. For mid-career professionals, consider how your existing skills and experiences can translate into more advanced positions.
  • Depth vs. Breadth: Determine if you excel in deep diving into a single project (depth) or if you thrive in a dynamic environment working on various projects (breadth). For example, if you like depth, then shorter-term consulting engagements such as those common in tech may not be for you, but if you prefer variety, such a role can be an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge about different industries.
  • Choosing Your Research Focus: Decide if direct research engagements resonate more with your career vision than roles that benefit from research insights, such as strategy, design, or product management. This choice reflects the diverse applications of our anthropological training, allowing for impactful contributions in various organizational contexts.

Research Considerations

Consider your desired impact and how it aligns with potential roles, balancing the depth and type of research, pace preferences, and your desire to influence.

  • Influence and Impact: Similar to the previous bullet point above, appraise your desired level of impact. If the prospect of not seeing your research directly applied or fully utilized concerns you, aim for positions that may offer greater influence, such as management roles, thus ensuring your work drives meaningful change.
  • Research Engagement Level: Decide if the initial exploratory stages of projects appeal to you, in contrast to refining and evaluating mature ideas. Regardless of your preference, remember that larger organizations often reserve more exploratory roles for more senior employees, since these roles are often tied to the longer-term vision of the organization.
  • Research Pace Comfort: Evaluate your comfort with fast-paced research environments versus settings enabling more detailed analysis, such as in academia. While fast-paced environments characterize many industries, particularly in tech, where agile development cycles prevail, not all roles may operate this way. If you seek something slower, assess that in the job posting or when interviewing.

Personal Considerations

Finding the right job is not just about the role; it’s also about how it fits with your personal life, including considerations of location, income, and work-life balance.

  • Location and Lifestyle: Consider how the location of a job impacts your cost of living, personal safety, and lifestyle. You need to take care of yourself, appreciating that sometimes you won’t always have the privilege of finding the ideal role. Regardless, use resources like AreaVibes, City-Data, and NeighborhoodScout to do some research.
  • Income and Wellbeing: Understand your financial needs and look for roles that meet or exceed your requirements for your well-being. Do your research. Glassdoor and LinkedIn are your friends. Look at company and salary postings on Glassdoor and related postings on LinkedIn.
  • Work-Life Balance: Reflect on what work-life balance means to you and seek opportunities that align with this balance. Again, while it may be that you are not fortunate to find your ideal role in every job market, you should advocate for yourself. You matter and need to take care of yourself and your family.

I hope these considerations allow you to reflect on optimal fits as you evaluate new career opportunities. Remember that no role or organization will perfectly align with your needs and values. Seek those resonating with the considerations most important for your well-being and professional growth, appreciating that it is also a negotiation between two parties, both of whom should get value.

Good luck in your search, and don’t forget to leverage the Anthropology Career Readiness Network’s job seeker tools and exercises.

About the Author: Matt Artz

Matt Artz
Matt Artz is an innovative anthropologist, designer, strategist, product manager, and entrepreneur, specializing in user experience, product development, and consumer insights. His groundbreaking design work has attracted attention from Apple’s Planet of the Apps and the 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) Pitch Competition and his visionary ideas have been showcased on TED, UNESCO, UserZoom, UX Planet, Towards Data Science, Product Coalition, and Zapier. Follow his podcasts Anthropology in Business and Anthro to UX to learn about the application of anthropology to business and design. Stay connected with Matt’s latest work and insights by following him on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, and Google Scholar. For media inquiries, contact Matt.