Career Profile: Training
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.
While I’ve always been drawn to language, I didn’t officially begin exploring it until I took an introductory course as a freshman at the College of William & Mary – and it lit my brain on fire. I quickly applied for a joint linguistics and community studies class, “African American English,” focusing on the connection between language discrimination and the education opportunity gap. In that class, I met my advisor, Dr. Anne Charity Hudley, and was encouraged to sign up for my first alternative break. This experience swirled my world, and led me to my first job out of undergrad, with a social justice training organization called Break Away.
This job involved consulting with program leaders at over 200 colleges and universities that send local, domestic, and international service trips. Break Away exists to guide best practices around these ‘alternative breaks,’ and to promote mutually beneficial service partnerships as one method of fostering social change through civic participation. My work largely consisted of traveling 8 months out of the year to train groups in-person, and to work with my colleagues to refine and write curriculum. Training groups ranged from 3 people in a roundtable discussion to a room of 200 college students. When our training schedule was light, I took on much more administrative and creative tasks, like toggling with the website and writing for the organization’s blog. (There were also days when I mostly answered emails or entered data.)
Break Away also holds four train-the-trainer convenings during the summer, and chooses a social issue focus for each conference – training through example on the structure and purpose of alternative breaks. The organization seeks out partnerships and issues that are widely unrecognized, but have the capacity for greater support. In 2015, we brokered partnerships with the Oral History Association and StoryCorps (both somehow with offices in Atlanta, where I was living at the time) to introduce ‘oral history collection’ as a form of service, and to provide training and curricula for the 60 college students and faculty attending our conference, “Ensuring Representation for Unheard Voices.” The stars aligned and – without intending to – Break Away announced the conference the same day that StoryCorps’ free recording app was announced – so the students were able to practice with the technology in preparation for their interviews with our community partners. The students paired off and recorded interviews over three days with residents at assisted living facilities, and people living in transitional homes and shelters.
Two soft skills stood out to me from this experience:humility and active listening. Linguists practice these all the time, wanting to understand a speaker and the context of their speech. Translating this practice into an even more expressly social atmosphere – while challenging – was so valuable and humbling. (Sidenote: I was able to apply my StoryCorps training to interview my grandparents on their 65th wedding anniversary – totally unforgettable!)
Want to read more? Click for Part II of Anna’s career profile.
Sectors profiled in the “Profiles in Linguistics” series: Corporate Social Responsibility, Healthcare Communications, Library Science, Knowledge Management, Naming, Program Evaluation, Publishing, Social Media Marketing,Tech, User Experience Research, Training and Facilitation and many more!