You have your degree—so now you want to find a job.
The connection between career and degree seems to be getting harder to navigate. Should you focus on “soft skills” like interpersonal communication or teamwork? “Hard skills” like laboratory techniques or a particular degree title? Course work? Experiences? Interdisciplinary approaches? If your path is anything like mine, I am sure well-meaning people approached you to give their take on your degree or career trajectory.
How do you shape a career? Use your anthropological skills to talk to people about the work they do and how they secured their employment. We call this technique “informational interviewing” because it offers an opportunity to learn about what you might be interested in. Check out the Anthropology Career Readiness Commission (CRC) information on this topic. And, while skill sets may remain the same, careers are always evolving; some existing now that were unknown 10 years ago.
I created a course for the Community College System of New Hampshire focusing on ethnographic methodologies and the culture of work to equip undergraduates with the skills necessary to complete these informational interviews and ground them in anthropological theory. Students examine and analyze interview narratives; examine intersectionalities and identities; use critical observation, detailed note taking, and qualitative analysis to examine the workplace. Students spend the semester building the necessary skills to create an ethnography about a career of their choice.
As with so many aspects of anthropology, students are encouraged to consider their current social location, future goals, and worldview to try to connect with what they hope for in a career. The current focus for students has shifted—most are less concerned with making the most money, and more about the culture of the workplace. They want to understand the ethics of the company and the people they are going to work with. While students have always asked questions about how work and personal lives interact, they seem to have more questions now about how employees are treated, the availability of flexible work options, and whether the workplace is supportive and encourages growth. What drew you to anthropology can help you identify where to focus your job search.
My advice for finding a career:
- Conduct some informational interviews and take good notes.
- Read lots of job descriptions. Focus more on the skills the organization is looking for than the job title. For example, holistic thinking from anthropology is always in demand, but it is not always packaged in an obvious way. Check out the CRC information on this topic.
- Note regional differences in key words (around here, most companies look for “social scientists,” “strengths in narrative reports,” and “data-based storytelling”).
You will probably need to educate prospective employers on what an anthropologist can do for them. Many will be surprised (and hopefully not ask you about dinosaurs, as happened for me).