Project Management, Program Evaluation & Instructional Technology: 3 fields where you might find linguists

The Career Profiles in Linguistics section regularly highlights career paths taken by linguists. If you would like to recommend someone (including yourself) for a future profile, please contact Career Linguist.

I have been reflecting today on my “process” as Career Linguist while I do some research into three kinds of work where linguists thrive: Project Management, Program Evaluation, and Instructional Technology.

Starting with Project Management

I came across this very helpful article in Fast Company What the Hell is Project Management Anyway? In the article, the interviewer asks expert Frank Ryle – “who makes for a good project manager”?  Frank’s response:

You should be comfortable with ambiguity. You have to be willing to reshape the rule, the process, whenever things change. It’s really important to be comfortable with people too, different cultures, so much of business being international now. You’ll be called to walk into a situation where you don’t know the people you’re working with, maybe not even where, or their genders, and say, ‘How do I work with these people?’ You’ll have to create a bit of a roadmap for yourself, and, hopefully, be likeable enough to get by.

Sound familiar?

What I hear is that Project Management is a perfect fit for someone with the skills we possess as a result of our training in linguistics. We are comfortable with ambiguity, skilled at systems-thinking and pattern recognition, and possessed of heightened cross-cultural awareness. Stay tuned for more on how we linguists seem to be ideally suited for a career in project management (I have an interview in the hopper). But for the purposes of this post and sharing a bit about my process as a Career Linguist, I return to that Fast Company article again:

Project management was just a thing you did, a job you had, but nobody wrote about it just a little while ago. You weren’t a ‘Project Manager’ in the 80’s and 90’s, but when something went good or bad, everybody else stepped backwards, and you were the one left. Project managers were the only ones who could talk about the process, not just the product. And, usually, you were the person who had the charm to do it.

This struck me as the way that many of us linguists come to recognize our callings in the professional world. We don’t quite realize why we are good at something necessarily, just that we get asked to do it and then one day someone (perhaps we ourselves) recognize “hey, you do that really well!”  In my writing, I trace this back to skills, which themselves comprise just a piece of Karen Newhouse’s handy-dandy venn diagram from Outside the Ivory Tower.

VennWe are looking for the intersecion of our skills, interests, and values about work, but then will each of us be drawn to different aspects of our work, which I think are useful to think about when you are trying to make a career decision.

What Frank Ryle is talking about as the moment of insight about being a project manager is captured in the bottom right, you particularly enjoy the function, tasks, and skills of your work.

Julie Solomon, who works in Program Evaluation shared that in her career a big moment of transition came for her when she realized that she needed to be in control of the lifestyle implications of her work (top right corner), namely that she wanted to own her own business.

For me, it was a “work enviornment” pull – a desire to work more directly with clients (top left quadrant) which led to my most recent career transition into Instructional Technology.

What is Instructional Technology you ask? Gee, I thought you’d never ask!! 🙂

According to Wayne State’s Department of Education Instructional Technology (IT) is a field concerned with improving the efficiency and effectiveness of instruction involving:

  • designing instruction (including all the phases of activity from needs assessment to evaluation)
  • applying learning theory to instructional design
  • selecting delivery systems and designing techniques for a given delivery system
  • assessing human characteristics
  • conducting process and product evaluation
  • managing change and adopting innovations
  • building teams and managing projects
  • integrating instruction with other factors that influence human performance
  • implementing delivery to reach learners when they need it
  • using technology in support of the development and delivery of instruction

Perhaps you have a job in (IT) and would like to be interviewed by me about it here at Career Linguist.

Or perhaps you are interested in pursuing opportunities as an Instructional Technologist. Here were a few that I just turned up in a quick search:

  • Content Authors and Editors currently being sought at Pedago – innovators in online education and educational technology
  • Instructional Design Manager at CareerArc– Burbank, CA

Have more? Am always looking for things to share with our community!!!

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