Today’s post is from Derek Attig, whose freelance and on-campus jobs during grad school helped him transition into his post-PhD career. He has a great point at the end that all grad students should apply in their lives!
Graduate Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1. What were your side or temporary jobs?
I wrote for the book culture website Book Riot and worked as a teaching/learning consultant (helping grad students teach more effectively) on campus.
2. How much did you earn?
The teaching consultant job was a graduate student hourly position and paid $13.50/hour. Book Riot has a revenue sharing system where contributors are paid quarterly based on the traffic their posts generate.
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3. How did you balance your jobs with your graduate work?
I was lucky in that both of my side jobs were pretty flexible. I could write for Book Riot whenever I found time, and the teaching consultant job could adjust to fit the needs of my program. But still, it was a lot to juggle. I managed by carefully blocking out my time, assigning different time slots to different tasks, and carefully prioritizing.
4. Did your jobs complement your graduate work or advance your career?
My dissertation was on the history of print culture (bookmobiles!), so writing for Book Riot was both relevant and energizing as I worked on it. Teaching was always central to how I imagined my career (whatever that was going to be), and the teaching consultant job kept my knowledge and skills in that area sharp.
And, it turns out, they were both central to my transition from the academic job market to a non-academic job. Having Book Riot on my resume helped me land a marketing/communications job immediately after receiving the PhD. And my job now involves working with graduate students—a set of skills I honed in the consulting job.
5. How did you get started with your job?
Networking, of various kinds.
I got the Book Riot job thanks to blogging and Twitter. I had started blogging about (or, at least, adjacent to) my research when I started dissertating. Then I saw on Twitter that Book Riot wanted contributors. I used a blog post and an article I’d written for Boing Boing (a gig I picked up by through a connection I made as a Google Policy Fellow) as writing samples and got the job.
I got an interview for the teaching consultant job because I knew someone who worked in that office. The position wasn’t really advertised, but she knew about it and encouraged me to contact the supervisor. I got the job because I had extensive teaching experience and had pursued various opportunities to mentor other grad students on teaching within my department. Just one or the other might not have cut it.
6. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
I’d encourage graduate students to pursue a lot of different opportunities while in school, even ones that are at a slant from what they usually do. It’s easy to get tunnel vision as a grad student, but if you open yourself up, you can develop really useful skills while reinvigorating your academic work.
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