23 Jobs for History Majors

3DCoverI just came across a really interesting website titled “Sell Out Your Soul: A Career Guide for Lost Humanities Majors”  It is run by James Mulvey, a former English student who now works at a global software company.  He started the site to “inspire others to run from the culture of fear, isolation, and single-mindedness that keeps many graduate students from finding employment outside of academia.”

Here is a taste of a post titled “23 of the Best Jobs for History Majors“:

If you’re wondering what careers are available for History majors, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve collected 23 of the best jobs for History majors—careers that pay well, complement the skills taught in History departments and have long-term growth.

Despite the lies you’ve been told from the annoying Engineering major or clueless Business major, History majors end up in a variety of interesting places.

So pour yourself a beer. Roll up your sleeves. And let’s take a fast tour of the best careers for History majors.

The point of the list isn’t to tell you the exact steps to get these careers. That would be a long post and I cover that in my book. Use this list to decide on a general direction. Then go and search those careers on the following sites: Glassdoor, LinkedIn advanced search, Twitter advanced search, and Reddit. This will give you a realistic view of what your day-to-day would be like and whether this career would be a good match for you.

The jobs include Exhibit Designer, Content Creator, Customer Success Manager, Business Analyst, Growth Hacker, Product Marketing, PR Manager, Internal Communications, Content Strategist, Web Developer, Journalist, Project Manager, Social Media Manager, Content Editor, Research Analyst at Think Tanks, Political Campaign Manager, Government work.

Read how James connects the skills of history majors to these jobs.

“Stale Ph.Ds” and “Overqualified” Applicants

bowenThis morning Michael Bowen is back with more insight on the academic job market in history.   As you now know, Michael has been writing for us from the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Denver.  I think this post raises some very important points about the hiring process in history departments around the country.   Read all of Michael’s posts from the 2017 AHA here. –JF

After studying the job market for well over a decade, some clear, systemic biases have become evident. It might be too strong to call them biases, but the cumulative effect is to disqualify many good applicants right from the start. These observations will come over two blog posts in the hopes that interested search committee members might at least be more cognizant of them and job seekers can be prepared and make smart decisions regarding publishing.

Some caveats are in order first. These are qualitative, not quantitative. I don’t have a spreadsheet in front of me crunching the statistics for every hire in the last decade. I am open to arguments that they may be unique to my situation, and I am sure that there are exceptions to every rule. These are also only valid for the initial screen, where committees determine their AHA/Skype lists. Since the majority of applicants for any given job never make it to the first interview, these decisions are the most crucial.

For this post, I want to focus on time from degree. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that job candidates from ABD to about four years from their defense date are hirable, while everyone beyond that is not. There are exceptions…I know of one person who went on the tenure track for the first time after ten years…but those hired after an extended time as contingent faculty are in the minority. The higher ed press refers to these individuals as “stale PhDs,” which is incredibly insulting and implies that good academic work can only be accomplished in the dissertation stage or on the tenure track. Controversy erupted a few years ago when a couple of English departments posted ads that explicitly required a degree received within the previous three years.  History has not been so brazen, but we have a similar bias.

Maybe once, long ago before postdocs were readily available and the academy shifted the burden of instruction to adjuncts and lecturers, it made sense to make a “first cut” of applicants based on time to degree. Now, with individuals stringing together years and years of contingent appointments and producing good scholarship in the meantime, it seems unwise to do so. My dissertation director always told my cohort that as long as we can add something substantive to our vita every year, we would be fine. That has been my goal, which has been met eleven out of eleven years. He never envisioned a scenario where I would need to do that for eleven years, but his advice is still good. I would argue that such a benchmark would be a better measure of a candidate’s employability, than an arbitrary line on the calendar.

However, the aforementioned measure for success runs counter to the second pattern prevalent in today’s job market; the “overqualified” applicant. With so many people finding survivable, contingent employment for extended periods of time, more and more applicants are going for assistant professor lines with books in hand and a significant number of courses under their belts. In theory, this should be a good thing…you can bring in a new faculty member who you do not have to train and needs little prep time. But it goes against the old idea that faculty lines are apprenticeships. An assistant professor must learn the ropes from their colleagues and, when deemed sufficiently qualified, be granted tenure. If someone exceeds those requirements from the start, should they be hired? In most cases, search committees say no.

Historians who are working on an extended contingent faculty track find themselves treading a fine line. Do you hold off publishing a book because it could hurt you on the job market, or do you go ahead and publish because it is ready? My first inclination is to say publish, but I have lost enough jobs (both VAPS and TT) to individuals with a single journal article or a handful of book reviews to question whether or not I should have published mine before I had a tenure track line.

If you are a search committee member, do you see a book as a sign that an applicant will produce no further research of merit? It is a valid question. We all know of professors who have an early burst of scholarly productivity, get tenure, and then coast for the next thirty years. There may not be an answer to this, but it would be nice if we would get past the traditional expectations for a hire and take into account how academia has changed. Committees should factor in both logged experience and future potential.

Reflections on the Academic Job Search

job-searcvhWe are very happy to have William S. Cossen writing for The Way of Improvement Leads Home this weekend from the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. William defended his dissertation, “The Protestant Image in the Catholic Mind: Interreligious Encounters in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,” in October and graduated with a PhD in history from Penn State University in December. (Congratulations!). He is a faculty member of The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  Below you will find some of his reflections on Day 1 of the AHA.–JF

Greetings from sunny Denver!

Well, a little wishful thinking can’t hurt.

After a smooth flight from Atlanta and a scenic train ride from Denver International Airport to the city, I made it safely to AHA 2017.  I’ll be presenting on Saturday at the American Catholic Historical Association’s conference as part of a panel titled “Catholicism and Americanism in the 19th Century: New Perspectives on an Old Debate.”  It will be nice to have so much time before delivering my own paper to enjoy the rest of the conference.

Following a quick, efficient check-in process (thank you, AHA!), I made my way to my first panel of the conference, “Deciphering the Academic Job Search,” which was sponsored by the AHA’s Professional Division.  With the market seemingly getting tighter every year, I was eager to hear opinions on the process from a recent candidate, a search committee member, and an academic dean.

The recurring themes I picked up in all three presentations were the necessity of flexibility and the need for candidates to be able to compellingly present their research – specifically providing a clear answer to the “so what?” question, a skill which is also useful in academic publishing and grant writing – to those outside their fields.

The first presenter, Ava Purkiss of the University of Michigan, provided helpful advice for how candidates can make themselves stand out in the initial stages of the job search process.  One tip was for candidates to shop their job materials around widely before applying, not only among their advisors and committee members but also among other professors and graduate students.  A second tip was for candidates to seek out search committees’ evaluation and scoring criteria for job applications.  This might not be easy to find, but Dr. Purkiss mentioned an example of one university posting this information online publicly.  A final piece of advice, which is especially useful in an era of online applications, was to print out all components of the application before submitting them to search committees to find and fix any glaring errors.

The second presenter, Paul Deslandes of the University of Vermont, counseled prospective job candidates to be self-reflective.  He urged job seekers to answer an important question: What do you really want out of academia?  He noted importantly that if one does not see themselves enjoying teaching, then academia is probably not a good fit.  Dr. Deslandes emphasized one of the panel’s key themes, which was that job seekers need to learn how to communicate their research to departments in their entirety, or as he put it, “Speak the language of other people.”  Regarding job opportunities, he encouraged those on the job market to “be expansive.”

The final presenter, Catherine Epstein of Amherst College, offered practical advice for the all-important cover letter: the letter must make clear “why your work is interesting.”  While Dr. Epstein noted that candidates are not expected to write a brand new cover letter for each job, the letters need to be tailored to specific schools.  Responding directly to the job requirements found in a job advertisement demonstrates true interest in the position and shows search committees that a candidate has actually attempted to learn about the institution to which they are applying.

The question-and-answer session following the presentations reflected some of the larger anxieties of the current history job market, but I think that panel chair Philippa Levine’s reminder that this is very much an impersonal process is an important point for job seekers to take to heart, as difficult as that may be, if they are disappointed by the outcome of their search for employment in academia.  One essential fact is that the number of job seekers far outstrips the number of available tenure-track positions.  However, these sorts of panels do a good service for the profession by partially demystifying what is for many an often confusing, frequently disappointing process.

I’m excited for Friday’s full schedule of sessions – and, of course, also for the book exhibit.  As with other conferences of this size, I have upwards of ten panels which I would like to see simultaneously.  This is ultimately not a bad problem to have.  More to come!

Bowen: The Historical Profession is “abjectly terrible at talking about the academic job market.”

bowenThis morning’s post by Mike Bowen resonated with many readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home and struck a chord with folks attending the Annual Meeting of the AHA in Denver. Read it here.  In this post, Bowen offers some thoughts on the history job market.  –JF

Writing about the academic job market from the inside is very difficult. No one likes a braggart, and no one likes a complainer. If you stray too far in either direction your message can get lost amidst the visceral reactions emanating from the comment threads.

I tried writing about the job market once, back in the heady, pre-recession days of 2008. Frankly, the article is embarrassing and I wish I had never published it. It is too inflammatory and should have been more constructive and conciliatory. The response to the piece is why I spent the next nine years away from the topic.

Based on their reaction at the meeting in the graduate students/junior scholar job panel two days later, the AHA staff didn’t appreciate my contribution. There was no subsequent dialogue about any of the points I brought up. The AHA staff rediscovered a couple of those points in 2011 or 2012 on their own, and others have drilled down on the communication issue on non-academic sites, but there hasn’t been any substantive movement towards fixing the lack of communication or late notices for interviews.

More alarming to me were the grumblings among the job seeking community. You can see that a little bit of dialogue happened on the IHE comment thread, but the readership of the Chronicle forums was severely underchuffed. For the first time in my life, I was called a “special snowflake.” Someone said that I was “entitled.” God knows what would have happened if Twitter had been around back then.

The point for bringing all of this up…the profession is abjectly terrible at talking about the academic job market. Everyone knows that there is a major concern that needs to be addressed, but no one will actually make even a half-hearted effort to try. That has compounded the problem.

As the organization that is most closely associated with the job market, this situation comes back to the AHA somewhat. However, in late 2014, the executive director of the AHA wrote in Perspectives that the AHA is not here to help people find jobs in academia. I am legitimately, with no sarcasm intended, glad that he admitted this and has turned the organization to career diversity initiatives. I don’t need the help (see below), but I know others do.

The remaining stakeholders generally fall in to one of four camps. One small group outside the faculty wants to put everyone on five year contracts and do away with tenure. Some proposals have been more radical than that.  Another, slightly larger, group of contingent faculty wants to unionize. That may be a viable solution in some circumstances but, given today’s political climate I can’t envision a movement becoming so widespread that it works at every institution. The third camp is composed of job seekers who hope to God that they can land on their feet next academic year and are otherwise powerless.

The larger fourth camp is generally the rest of the profession, and they tend to ignore the situation. Job seekers make faculty members uncomfortable largely because, while many want to help, they can’t do much. You can’t really blame them either. Is it worth going to battle with a college administration, risking potential blowback down the line, to try to get more lines? More often than not, in an age of disinvestment in higher education and the dominance of STEM, the answer is no. So rather than confront the problem, the faculty retreats inwards and worries about themselves.

The net result is that we continue on the same path we have been on, motivated largely by inertia. We are a profession composed of highly-educated, socially-aware people, yet we have collectively thrown our hands up at a problem that we find too difficult to solve. I wish that we could engage in an honest discussion about this without politicizing it. Our discipline is fading , and the job crisis is part of the reason why.

Postscript: I have received  e-mails from people offering to help me transition out of academia. I appreciate the contacts, but it isn’t necessary. When I received notice of my non-renewal, I connected with a local job coach and subsequently landed a very good job in the editorial department at a research and publishing firm. I now manage a great team, am surrounded by wonderful co-workers, and have a supportive boss.

More importantly, I was able to get on with my life. That distance is what is allowing me to write these blog posts. I still adjunct at JCU one night class a semester to keep a foothold in the field and to supplement my income but, barring a miracle, the new job is my first priority now. It has to be. Do I want to get back into history full-time? Absolutely. I feel that teaching history is my vocation, but my past experience tells me that that is highly unlikely that there is a place for me to do so. That is just the reality.


What Happens After 9 Years as a Visiting Assistant Professor?

bowenI appreciate that Mike Bowen will be writing for us from Denver this week as part of our coverage of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association.  Bowen is adjunct instructor in history at John Carroll University and the former assistant director of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida.  He is the author of The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party (University of North Carolina Press, 2011).  -JF

Here is the first of his #aha17 posts:

I consider myself a veteran of the AHA annual meetings. My first was the 120th, held in January 2006 in Philadelphia. I was just a pup then…one semester away from defending with three chapters left to write. Like many, my goal was the elusive tenure-track line. I didn’t succeed in Philly, but that spring I worked something out in the secondary market, finished those chapters, and defended.

My AHA attendance has been sporadic since Philly, usually dependent on the prospects for a job interview. Those prospects have declined dramatically in recent years and became non-existent at the end of the 2014-15 academic year when, after nine consecutive one-year VAP/administrative appointments scattered across three states, my VAP line was terminated early. I was collateral damage to the administrative fallout from an accreditation decision. I remain an adjunct in good standing at that same institution and remain hopeful that there will be a full-time opportunity of some sort for me there. Even though I continue to apply to everything I can, there doesn’t seem to be much left for me as a working historian.

Barring a miracle of some sort, then, this will be my last trip to an AHA annual meeting. I don’t know what to expect, really. I am presenting what I imagine will be my last academic paper (Friday at 3:30, for those of you who are interested in moderate Republicans in the 1970s. I’ll be the one with the Southern accent). It is the fourth conference paper on the broad topic that I had planned to cover in my second book. Also, one of my former undergrads who is now a political organizer in Denver is going to meet up with me. That’s all I know. I plan to watch, observe, and ruminate on the job environment, the state of my field as I see it, and how the annual meeting has changed in my eleven years on the job market.

I will be writing from a position of tacit acceptance. Unfortunately, we have been beseeched in recent years with what scholars have come to call QuitLit. My posts will not be QuitLit because I do not want to quit, even though I likely will not be continuing as a historian. I am also not looking to trash the academy or the profession, because, even though I disagree with a number of their standards and practices, I would love to remain a member in good standing. I hope any criticisms I make will be taken in the constructive spirit in which they are offered. If my posts from the AHA can make people examine how they act when they are on search committees or can dispel some notions and biases that have worked against me, then I will have done a service.

Above all, I recognize that I am far luckier than most to have lasted almost a decade as a full-timer in this business. I do not want sympathy from the profession…I learned long ago that there the profession generally has little sympathy for those not on tenure track. If anyone wants to offer up an opportunity, though, I would gladly listen.

Some Helpful Stuff on Trump’s Carrier Deal


Kudos to Donald Trump.  He negotiated and saved about 1000 jobs at the Carrier plant in Indiana this week.  Indeed, there will be 1000 people who will have a better Christmas because Trump did this.

But we historians have a nasty habit of understanding events like this in larger contexts. We tend to look for a bigger picture.  We think about the implications of political decisions and about cause and effect.  We take the long view.

One piece that has provided a start point for helping me understand the implications of Trump’s job saving efforts as Carrier is Matt Yglesias’s piece at Vox.

Here is a taste:

Now, the overall scale of this move relative to the size of the American economy is pathetic. In Indiana alone, there were 672,000 manufacturing jobs at the 1999 peak, falling to 425,000 in the summer of 2009 and bouncing back to 513,000 as of this fall. Which is just to say that broad Obama-era policies aimed at overall economic recovery have “brought back” almost 90 times as many jobs as are at stake in the Carrier deal. Getting all the way back to the Clinton-era peak would require Trump to pull off about 160 Carrier-scale moves in Indiana alone, to say nothing of the millions of manufacturing jobs in other states.

But the very small-scale nature of the Carrier situation is part of what makes it such appealing public relations. It’s true that something abstract like a 0.25 percentage point cut in the federal funds rate or a temporary partial suspension of the payroll tax would do a lot more to create jobs than jawboning a single company about a single factory. But Trump’s willingness to roll up his sleeves and get involved in the problems of one American community indicates an obsessive focus on boosting the fortunes of working-class Midwesterners — even as his administration’s big-picture policy focus remains on deregulating Wall Street, enacting an enormous tax cut for rich people, and slashing spending on assistance to the poor.

And this:

Trump has done a good job over the years of making his Twitter feed livelier and more exciting than Obama’s feed. But it’s still the case that allowing him to set the media agenda via Twitter is an enormous win for him. Very few people will be affected by the Carrier move — many fewer, for example, than the million or so people impacted by Obama’s leave for contractors initiative — whereas huge numbers of people will be affected by things Trump doesn’t like to tweet about, including rolling back Dodd-Frank and slashing taxes for millionaires.

Touring the country looking for factories to cheerlead or small interventions to help particular communities is a perfectly legitimate thing for a president to do. But a PR stunt is a PR stunt, not a major economic policy initiative.

If Trump actually does try to make this kind of stunt the centerpiece of his economic agenda, that will be a disaster. But the much more likely scenario is one in which he continues with his stated policy agenda of tax cuts and deregulation while using a handful of PR stunts to maintain an image as an champion of the working class. The big question is will he get away with it?

Read the entire piece here.

Are You Interviewing at the AHA?


If you are on the job market and have been fortunate enough to land an interview at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Denver, you may want to check out a few pieces I wrote several years ago about interviewing at various types of institutions.

Where John Kasich Is Wrong About Job Preparation


In last night’s CNN GOP Town Hall meeting, John Kasich had some advice for young people preparing for the work force.  Here is what he said:

And one final thing: workforce development.  We have got to begin to teach our kids in K through 12 and also in the community college and the four-year schools to be getting an education for a job that exists.  Don’t get educated in a vacuum.  Make sure you know what you want to do, and look for an education that can lead you to a real job.

Kasich could not be more wrong here.  Here was what I tweeted last night:

For a candidate who talks so much about community, moral philosophy, social healing, and what it means to be human, Kasich has bought into the rhetoric of vocational training often associated with advocates of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and politicians such as Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, Barack Obama, and Jeb Bush.

Kasich misses what most career professionals have been saying and writing about for more than a decade.  Namely, many of today’s students will one day work at jobs that do not yet exist. Students–especially college students–are better off training broadly and generally in the liberal arts and the humanities.  This will allow them to obtain the skills needed to adjust and adapt toa  constantly changing marketplace.

My tweet solicited a few responses along these lines:






Job Opening at Huntingdon College


The Way of Improvement Leads Home reader Mandy McMichael passed this along.

The Department of History and Political Science at Huntingdon College (Montgomery, Alabama) invites applications for a full-time tenure-track faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin August 2016. The ideal candidate will specialize in European History and demonstrate a record of excellence in teaching and student engagement. The successful candidate will be proficient in engaging pedagogy, and special attention will be given to candidates with expertise in the Reacting to the Past curriculum. Huntingdon College is seeking to expand the diversity of its faculty and strongly encourages applications from minority candidates.

The Department of History and Political Science at Huntingdon College (Montgomery, Alabama) invites applications for a full-time tenure-track faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin August 2016. The ideal candidate will specialize in European History and demonstrate a record of excellence in teaching and student engagement. The successful candidate will be proficient in engaging pedagogy, and special attention will be given to candidates with expertise in the Reacting to the Past curriculum. Interested candidates should submit a letter of interest, one-page statement of teaching philosophy, CV, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation to Dr. Chad Eggleston, Provost and Dean of the College, at officeoftheprovost@hawks.huntingdon.edu by March 7, 2016. Huntingdon College is seeking to expand the diversity of its faculty and strongly encourages applications from minority candidates.

Desired qualifications: Ph.D. in History (specializing in European History). Minimum of two years teaching experience, record of student engagement, evidence of ongoing research and scholarly activity, excellent interpersonal skills, desire to contribute to the growth and evolution of a successful program.

Huntingdon College, grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the United Methodist Church, is committed to nurturing growth in faith, wisdom, and service and to graduating individuals prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Founded in 1854, Huntingdon is a coeducational liberal arts college.

Huntingdon College is committed to a policy against legally impermissible, arbitrary, or unreasonable discriminatory practices. Therefore, the College, in accordance with applicable federal and state law and stated College policy, prohibits discrimination in its employment practices and in the delivery of its educational programs on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, and/or national origin. Inquiries and or complaints may be addressed to the Huntingdon College Title IX Coordinator / 1500 East Fairview Ave. / Montgomery, AL 36106, phoned to 334-833-4420 or e-mailed to TitleIXCoordinator@hawks.huntingdon.edu. Inquiries or complaints regarding disability services may be addressed to Huntingdon College / ADA Section 504 Coordinator / Director of Disability Services / 1500 East Fairview Ave. / Montgomery, AL 36106, phoned to 334-833-4465 or e-mailed to DisabilityServices@ hawks.huntingdon.edu. For additional information, contact the Atlanta office of the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 61 Forsyth St. S.W., Suite 19T10, Atlanta, GA 30303-8927 at 404-874-9406; OCR.Atlanta@ed.gov.

How to Interview for a Job at a Church-Related College or University

Chapel of the Resurrection (exterior), Valparaiso University

Chapel of the Resurrection (exterior), Valparaiso University

On Saturday, I wrote a post about interviewing for jobs in history departments at teaching colleges.  Today I offer some tips about interviewing for a teaching job at a church-related college or university. These also come from an Inside Higher Education piece I published in December 2012.

Here is a taste:

If you get an interview at the American Historical Association or another meeting with a church-related college, you need to do your homework. What kind of church-related college is it? A good place to start is Robert Benne’s Quality With Soul. Benne identifies four different types of church-related colleges. I have charted my own course in this post, but have relied on some of Benne’s classifications.

There are many schools that have historic connections with Protestant denominations. This, of course, does not mean that those connections will have any bearing on the hiring process or the AHA interview. For example, Duke University has a historic connection to the United Methodist Church, but this connection will play no factor in the search process. The same might be true of a place like Gettysburg College, a school with connections to the Lutheran Church. If you have an AHA interview with this kind of church-related school, there is no need to treat it any differently than you would an interview at a nonsectarian school or public university. You may not even realize that you are interviewing with a church-related school!

Other church-related schools take their church-relatedness a bit more seriously. Catholic schools, for example, might ask you if you have any problems with the Catholic mission of the university. In most cases, however, this issue will not be raised during the AHA interview. (It might be raised by an administrator during an on-campus visit). The only exception to this rule is the small number of Catholic colleges who only hire Catholic faculty. If these schools interview at the AHA (most will not), the committee will not only ask you if you are Catholic, but will want to know if you are a practicing Catholic. (Yes, a private school can ask such a question).

Read the rest here.

So What CAN You Do With a History Major?–Part 52


Jonathan Lewis

Work as a supply chain engineer for a major US baking company.   

Jonathan Lewis graduated from Stony Brook University (my Ph.D alma mater) in 2011 with a major in history. Over at the blog of the American Historical Association, Lewis describes how he uses his degree in his current work as an engineer.  He writes, “The skills I developed in four years as a history major ended up being useful in both getting hired and performing my current job.”  
Here is a taste of his post:
…Chances are if you have purchased bagged bread, cakes, or bagels at a grocery store, I, or one of my colleagues, determined exactly how that product traveled from the production line to your hand. I majored in history with a concentration in European and American foreign relations. Going into a math-heavy career like logistics may seem like a pretty big shift from humanities, but my history degree armed me with a variety of skills that prepared me well for it. Logisticians spend a lot of time pouring over maps and negotiating with labor representatives. My love of geography and political intrigue is what motivated me to pursue a history degree in the first place, and I found an outlet for both at my job….Proving that my history degree had equipped me for a career in logistics involved a lot of hard work and some creativity…
Selling a Degree in History on Job Applications 
I approached my applications as I would a paper for class. My thesis statement was, conveniently, always the same: “I am the best candidate for this job.” My prompts? The job postings, each of which detailed exactly what the position entailed. My sources? A stack of papers, presentations, and extra-curricular projects I had completed during the course of my undergrad career. For instance, if a job posting listed Excel skills as a requirement, my body paragraph might say, “Utilizing over 20 Excel charts and graphs, I successfully defended my senior thesis on population growth of Icelandic urban centers in the 19th century.” If requirements included “works well with others” I could mention my time working as a writing tutor for ESL students. Or, if the employer sought a candidate who could “handle sensitive information,” I could point to my experience entering final grades into our university’s student portal, a sensitive task usually reserved for the tenured professors. Depending on your area of focus, a history degree can involve developing familiarity with a wide variety of disciplines, and is limited only by your imagination. Politics, economics, statistics, and even meteorological data played big roles in my own studies. I found it useful to spend a day digging through my papers and listing on my resume specific skills I had developed while completing my assignments. When applying for my current job, one of the requirements listed was “able to manipulate data and provide graphical representation of sales trends.” In one class, I had compared the unemployment rates of weak and strong Eurozone economies, including a before and after chart to demonstrate the effect of the global recession in 2008. I brought a copy of this chart to my interview to show that I had the skills necessary to complete my work tasks. (As a supply-chain engineer, the trend graph is the most effective tool I have when proving that changes must be made to the supply chain. A sales area that shows consistent growth over a decade will need to have truck routes added to meet demand and keep drivers from being overworked.) Coming to the interview prepared and organized showed that I had the motivation and talent to learn specific job skills, and that my attitude would be a boon to the department. 
History Skills on the Job 
A major is not meant to lock you into a specific career path, even if this does sometimes feel like the conventional wisdom. My liberal arts degree ultimately allowed me to approach problems with a different perspective than my colleagues who were hired from sales or delivery positions. 
Many of my history skills have been useful at work. All the late hours I spent on research papers pays off every time I am asked to review presentations for my colleagues, usually with a focus on editing their written slides. The baking business is also one that has much reverence for tradition. Every bakery my company owns displays prominently in the lobby an exhibit on the origins of the brand, and the transition that brand made from local delicacy to national prominence. This culture has occasionally caused negotiations with drivers and local management to stall. On one of my first projects, a major concern about the changes I had made to a supply chain was “this is not how we’ve been doing it for the last 75 years.” I learned that certain runs were passed from father to son for three or more generations. Because I had some experience conducting oral history interviews during my undergraduate career, I was able to establish a personal connection with the driving team, which helped smooth the process of labor negotiation better than any set of sales numbers could….
Read the entire piece here.
Are you doing something interesting with your history degree?  If so, we would love to talk to you about our So What CAN You Do With a History Major? series at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  Contact us!

Connecting Your Past and Future: Charting a Career in History

Today I have been following the Twitter feed–#PhDCareer–of a one-day conference in Washington D.C. on careers in history.  This looks like a great event.  It is sponsored by the National Council for Public History, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Smithsonian Institution.

While many of the tweeters have Ph.Ds in history, a lot of the advice also applies to undergraduates and masters-level students who want to use their history majors and degrees in work outside of the academy. Unfortunately, the link to the program and speakers seems to be broken.

Here are just a few of my retweets so far:

Data On Career Prospects for History Majors

Over at AHA Today, Rob Townsend offers some online resources “that can help you and your students in thinking about their potential careers and financial prospects.”

Here is a taste:

The prevailing question from students and parents these days seems to be about how salaries for history majors compare to other fields. A new report from the Humanities Indicators finds median annual earnings were $55,000 for workers who majored in US history and $50,000 for those who majored in another area of history (with only a bachelor’s degree). Both numbers compare favorably to $42,000 for the average American aged 25 to 64 (including all those who have not earned degrees), but lag a bit behind the average for graduates from all fields ($57,000). Those numbers can provide a baseline for general discussions with parents and administrators. For a one-on-one conversation with a student, however, PayScale offers a nice visualization of history’s relationship to other degrees. The visualization is very accessible for the average reader, but needs to be read with caution, since it relies only on self-reported data. 

Read more here.

And for more anecdotal evidence check out our series So What CAN You Do With a History Major?

Why Should You Hire a History Major? Here are 30 Good Reasons

Here is a taste of a post from a website called Shaunanagins.com:

When my co-op advisor asked how my current job relates to my History degree, I didn’t know what to tell her. Not because the job doesn’t relate to my studies–it does. Almost everything does, if you ask me. On the transferable skill side, there is just so, so much.

As I sit at the tail end of my History and Communications double major, resume full of business-friendly internships and experiences, I can’t help but notice how underrated the History half of my education seems to be. It has helped me thrive in so many work worlds–from the public service, to high tech marketing, to education and tourism. It’s time we stopped overlooking the History degree.

Here are some of my favorites on the websites list of “30 Reasons It’s Smart to Hire a History Student”:
  • History students are experts at tracking trends. They know how people, strategies, and time-stamped statistics work (or don’t work)
  • When presented with a whole bunch of information, History students are trained to be able to quickly judge what is relevant, and why it is relevant.
  • History students need to pick up on the jargon, locations, and terms associated with different historical periods and disciplines.  If there’s unique lingo, acronyms, or language that your team/organization uses, they will be quick to understand and adopt it.
  • These kids know how to write.
  • Oh, and they know how to summarize. Throw them a hodgepodge of random information, and they’ll turn it into a concise, focused, and coherent package (hey, maybe they’ll even make you a list! Eh? Eh?)
  • They can recognize long term effects.…which means they can help develop long term solutions.
  • And they’re aware that the world changes constantly, so those solutions (and their attitudes) will likely stay flexible.
  • They know how to back up their points, and are champions of logical argumentation
  • Chances are they have an awareness of international relations and the history/culture of different countries. With our increasingly global economy, this shouldn’t be underestimated.
  • They know how to confirm data, to critically evaluate sources, and to filter out irrelevant information.
  • These are critically thinking storytellers. They can make almost anything look and feel interesting.
  • They are trained on how to observe human behavior. Like, say, a client or customer’s behavior.
Read the rest here.

Why Major in History?: An Undergraduate Perspective

James Mueller is a sophomore history major at Messiah College.  I first met James last year.  He was enrolled in my Introduction to History course.  As a first-year student he was deciding whether he wanted to major in history or engineering. He eventually chose history. Now, over at the blog of the Messiah College Center for Public Humanities Fellows Program, James defends his decision.   Here is his post, in its entirety:

Asking people for money over the phone is as eventful as you suspect. Occasionally they pick up and you have a successful, or at least a pleasant, conversation. More often, they tell you (with kindness levels varying from person to person) that they’re not interested. Most of the time though, you just get voicemail – lots and lots of voicemail. It was one of those voicemail nights last Thursday at the Messiah Phonathon Call Center when my mind started to wander. Normally I would shoot the breeze with a coworker until an alumnus or alumna in my calling pool picked up the phone, but I wasn’t much in the talking mood. So I just listened. And, on par with what normally happens when you listen well, eventually I heard something that was worth thinking about.
He was talking to my supervisor: “Look, there’s a reason Messiah has such a terrible ROI. Most of the kids going to this college are majoring in things like English or some other pointless degree. What are you gonna do with that when you get out of college?” A couple of the 9 other people in the Call Center started to snigger in agreement. He went on: “Get this, the first couple days of class, my Shakespeare prof  even tried telling us why being an English major is a good idea. He talked about how it would be good for being a lawyer or even a good businessmen – he said every business needs good writers. Like, what? Why don’t they just major in Business if they’re gonna be working for a company?” More laughter and agreement followed from a couple others.
I almost spoke up. I almost told him how wrong I thought he was. But I didn’t. I held my tongue and spared my coworkers an argument that may not have made sense to them and that they probably didn’t even want to hear – I do like these people after all. Instead, I decided to preserve my thoughts, reflect on the matter, and then respond with the written word. I figure giving people the opportunity to stop reading and close the web browser is a kindness.
The first thing that needs to be set straight is this notion that humanities majors are worthless and impractical. I could write another whole post about how skewed this is; I could highlight the indispensable analytic and verbal skills the Humanities hone; I could mention the many notable business and political icons who ‘wasted their time’ on ‘worthless’ degrees; I could talk about how hilariously modern this notion is; but instead I’ll hold off. If you’re really itching for some fact check though, a simple Google search ought to clear things up (‘successful liberal arts majors’ perhaps?). You’ll be surprised. For now, I’ll talk about something you’re probably more interested in: success.
Success is simple. Go to college, get a useful degree, score a well-paying job, settle down, raise a family, send your kids to college, retire. Done. You probably think I’m making a gross generalization. Maybe you even think my trite imagery is a weapon that only angry hipsters use to justify their failures. Oh, how I wish I could make fun of hipsters and agree with you! But talk to someone. Right now, tomorrow, a week from now, whenever: ask someone why they do what they do. Preferably ask a college student. Now listen. What do you hear? Money, job security, practicality…all prudent reasons some would say. And I don’t entirely disagree. I understand wanting to be self-sufficient. I understand wanting to start a family and provide for that family. Those are responsible and unselfish goals. But they are not the most important goals.
So then, what is the ultimate goal? I don’t know. There are a lot of things I could say, but many of them would probably be wrong. So I’ll just stick to something I think is more important: understanding people. Husband, wife, kids, family, friends, coworkers, everywhere you look we’re connected to someone else. Relationships form the heart of all domestic and workplace activities. Despite this, we’re bad with people. We hurt each other. A lot. I’ve watched countless relationships fall apart. It’s depressing, frustrating, and generally due to a web of complex issues which have pushed both people to the brink. Many people just can’t seem to grapple with their partner’s humanity (or their own for that matter). They don’t understand what makes other’s tick, their judgment is impaired from an inability to draw on more experiences than their own, they don’t understand why people can’t seem to just get it right (aka, do it the way they think it should be done), and they end up alienating the people they love most because of all this.
Okay, so it’s clear our relationship I.Q. is low. But how do we fix this? How can we understand more about ourselves and about the people around us so that we can form healthier and longer-lasting relationships? Studying one of those ‘worthless’ degrees just may be the key.
I can’t speak for English or any of the other Humanities majors (though I’m sure students of each respective field could give you a great argument), but I can confidently say that history is all about people. Sorry if that sounds like tautology, but I think it truly does need saying. Most people think history is in the business of facts and dates, but that’s just not true. The facts and dates are important because they are attached to the people of the past. Not the other way around.  From the individual to the collective, history gives you the opportunity to intently study the human experience. ‘What did this person say? What were they actually trying to say? What did they really mean? Why?’ Such simple and nuanced questions transport the historian into a wild and unfamiliar land; a land where he has to navigate the conflicted, confused, and utterly different personalities of countless human beings. Sometimes the trip is lovely. At other times it’s terrifying or disgusting. All the time it’s enlightening.
It’s impossible to turn off a brain once it starts thinking historically. You’ll continually want to hear people’s stories, you’ll carefully examine the motivations and actions of others, you’ll become a good listener, and, if you practice history long enough, you’ll start to understand.  Or at least understand that you don’t know it all. And this understanding can lead to humility, appreciation, patience, and, hopefully, to more wholesome relationships.
I’m not going to barge back into the Call Center on Monday and tell my coworker he’s wrong. Because, from his perspective, he’s not. That’s what makes life annoying and beautiful all at the same time. We all have lenses that we look through. Change over time, and all the funny things it does to humanity, is one way me and a lot of other people look at the world. So please hear me: I’m not asking you to get a new pair of glasses. You don’t even have to like the ones I’m wearing. All I hope is that people will recognize there’s more than one barometer for success. Understanding is nice. Trust me: I’m going to school for it.

Chair in Quaker Studies at Haverford College

This looks like a nice gig for a scholar of Quakerism.  –JF

Douglas and Dorothy Steere Professorship in Quaker Studies (open rank)
Haverford College, founded in 1833 by Quakers, invites applications for the newly endowed Douglas and Dorothy Steere Professorship in Quaker Studies.  This tenure-line faculty position is open to teacher-scholars at all levels (Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor) whose scholarly work engages the history, culture, religion, literature, peace building or social activism of the Religious Society of Friends.  The successful candidate will maintain an active research and teaching program that includes opportunities for faculty-student collaboration, preferably utilizing Haverford’s extensive Quaker Collection of manuscripts, organizational records, artifacts, and artwork gathered from the 17thcentury to the present.  Haverford faculty members teach five courses per year, of which the Steere professor will teach at least two courses that substantially address some feature of Quaker Studies within the candidate’s disciplinary or interdisciplinary fields of study.  Additional courses should contribute to one of Haverford’s existing academic departments and/or programs (http://www.haverford.edu/academics/departments_and_programs/).   
Candidates for the position should have a Ph.D. and a strong record of research and teaching.  The position also requires a firm commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship and the emerging field of Quaker Studies.  Salary is commensurate with experience and qualifications and research and travel money accompany this endowed professorship.
Please submit a cover letter addressing your vision for this new position, a curriculum vitae, a sample syllabus for a course in Quaker Studies, a research statement, a writing sample (published work or work in progress), and arrange to have three letters of recommendation submitted to (apply.interfolio.com/27495).  Questions about the application process should be directed to Georgia Davidis Malone, Faculty Dossier Coordinator, Haverford College (gdavidisma@haverford.edu).  To receive full consideration, all application materials should be received in electronic form by December 10, 2014.

So What CAN You Do With a History Major?: Part 49

Work for a non-profit organization that helps to resettle immigrants and refugees.

In this post in our series “So What CAN You Do With a History Major?,” we caught up with Caitlin Babcock, a 2010 graduate of the Messiah College History Department and a recent graduate of the M.A. program in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at Arcadia University. Caitlin tells us how she is putting her undergraduate history major to good use in her current job.

JF: Why did you decide to major in history in college?

CB: When I entered Messiah College, I planned to be a high school history teacher upon graduation. I had always been interested in history – most of my books of choice during primary and secondary school were historical fiction – and I desired to pass on this love of history to teenagers. Early in my college career however, I quickly realized that I was far more interested in my history classes than my education classes, and as a sophomore decided to abandon my pursuit of an education certification so I could focus solely on my study of history. Though I wasn’t at all sure of what I would do with my history degree, I knew I had countless options and wanted to have the time and space to explore those options during my undergraduate career.

JF: Tell us about your current job.

I was hired in April 2014 as the Executive Management Assistant at the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, PA. Our organization works with newcomers to the United States (both immigrants and refugees) to assist them in resettling and integrating into their new community, which includes housing placement, job readiness and placement, legal services, and English classes.

My role as Executive Management Assistant is designed to be a nonprofit management training role. The majority of my work is project-based, with the goal of learning how to run a nonprofit organization. Overall, my current projects emphasize the implementation of effective systems, including cash flow management, media inquiries, grant writing and tracking, and professional development for staff. One of my key projects is fundraising – I have been tasked with initiating two giving campaigns for the current fiscal year, which will target both faith-based communities and young adults. Additionally, I serve as the staff liaison to the Board of Trustees, have developed and maintain an internal newsletter for staff, and assist in the development and implementation of the current strategic planning process.

JF: In what ways did your training in history prepare you for this job and how does your training as a history major help you in your day-to-day work?

CB: Honestly, my current job is not what I had in mind when I first chose to major in history, but my degree has ultimately prepared me very well for this role in a variety of ways. At a very pragmatic level, the research and writing skills that I honed as a history major have made writing assignments at work far less daunting. For example, I recently had to summarize the current state of the unaccompanied minors humanitarian crisis and our work in that area for our Board members, and I know that it was the skills I learned in my study of history that enabled me to research, synthesize, and clearly articulate this complex issue within a few hours. More broadly speaking, the way I approach my work – as well as my view of the world more broadly – has been profoundly shaped by my study of history. Despite the fact that I am not working directly in the field of history, the historical content I learned, especially in regards to subaltern history and the variety of narratives present in the historical context, has been particularly useful as I work closely with case managers and attorneys to elevate the narrative of the marginalized populations that we serve.

JF: Any advice–either about the job market or otherwise– for current history majors or those thinking about majoring in history?

CB: Don’t be afraid of a non-linear career path! I think a lot of folks avoid majoring in history (or another branch of the humanities) because they think the career path is limited to teaching or law, for example. I’ve learned that one of the keys to success is studying what you love and fully engaging in it, and that’s when opportunities begin to present themselves. Honestly, my resume looks a bit like a puzzle at this point, but the key is being able to connect all of your experiences and demonstrate their relevance and the transferrable skills you’ve learned. In taking a non-linear path, however, it’s important to fine-tune your “job function” skills as you find your niche. For example, I had wanted to stay as far away from administrative jobs as I could, but once I came to terms with the fact that administration was where my skills were strongest, I was able to fully embrace how I can use those skills in a context of meaningful work for me.

That being said, intern, volunteer, and network as much as you can. From my own experience, that has been the best way to figure out what it is I really enjoy and would want to pursue as a career. Your history degree provides you with strong analytical and writing skills (which all employers love!), so a variety of experiences can help you find your niche in the “field,” whatever that ends up looking like for you. More often than not, people who are already in your field are more than willing to offer advice or help as they are able, so don’t be afraid to ask them how they got involved in their work or about their career path. Informational interviews and networking events are also great ways to connect with people and explore some career options.

Thanks, Caitlin!

Michael Roth on What the U.S. Would Look Like Without Liberal Education

Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan College (and a historian, I might add), is the author of the brand new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters.  In his recent piece at Inside Higher Ed he tries to imagine a country where liberal learning did not matter.  There is some great stuff in this piece about the way the liberal arts teach us complexity, how CEOs of major corporations are looking for employees who understand the complex nature of the world, and Thomas Jefferson’s vision of liberal arts education. 
Here is a taste:
So, what would America look like if we abandoned this grand tradition of liberal education? Without an education that cultivates an ability to learn from the past while stimulating a resistance to authority, without an education that empowers students for lifelong learning and inquiry, we would become a cultural and economic backwater, competing with various regions for the privilege of operationalizing somebody else’s new ideas. In an effort at manic monetization without critical thinking, we would become adept at producing conformity rather than innovation.
The free inquiry and experimentation of a pragmatic liberal education open to ambiguity and complexity help us to think for ourselves, take responsibility for our beliefs and actions, seize opportunities and solve problems. Liberal education matters far beyond the university because it increases our capacity to shape a complex world.