Career Profile: Cara Shousterman (II)

Career Profile: Cara Shousterman

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.

CaraShoustermanCara is the Partnerships and Engagement Manager at Harmony Institute. She earned her PhD in Linguistics from New York University.

Recently, we posted Part I of our conversation with Cara, where she spoke with guest blogger Anna Dausman about the skills and projects she works with in Media Impact. Here, Cara tells us about her unique job search process following her PhD.

Below is Part II of our interview with Cara Shousterman.

Anna: Can you tell me about the career support group you started?

Cara: “Job Club” (like “Fight Club”) started a little more than a year ago, around the time that there were a bunch of us finishing our PhDs and the academic job market was not looking great. I had been on the academic job market for probably for two or three years while I was finishing my dissertation, and I’d seen that each year there were only a few jobs in my field and hundreds of candidates; not good odds. And I was hearing from my colleagues that we all wanted to have some kind of say over where we lived, and some of us were interested in finding jobs that had more flexibility with regard to salary than what you typically see for an assistant professor.

Anna: What was the structure of “Job Club?”

Cara: It started out as just a weekly Skype meeting with another friend in linguistics. We would share challenges and what we’d learned in the job search. At that point, I was learning from networking with people, and my friend was learning from reading books and resumes. Then we’d decide on the thing we’d accomplish before the next meeting – for example, a first pass at a resume.

Then more people (-coincidentally all women) gradually heard about what we’re doing and were interested in joining. Ultimately, Job Club became a support group for women in linguistics, and the specific challenges we faced. At most we’ve had 7 people on a skype call, talking about our different challenges – and I’m very happy to say that we met a 100% success rate. Everyone in Job Club ended up in a professional position or promotion they were very happy with.

Anna: What was your biggest takeaway from “Job Club?”

Cara: Crowdsourcing information for one another was a huge help. I could present a problem — for example: “I haven’t heard back from this place where I had 3 interviews. When is the right time to follow-up and ask what’s going on?” We could run questions like that by this group of people and inevitably, some of them had experience or had read about how to handle that situation. Together, we could come up with a solution. This ‘group knowledge’ was a huge help.

Anna: What are you doing with “Job Club” now?

Cara: Now it’s “Job Club Pro!” We’re focused on navigating challenges in the workplace, and it’s still a support group for professional women.

Anna: Do you have any additional advice for linguists on the job hunt?

Cara: You have to build a very solid narrative of how everything you’ve done ties together – from what you studied in grad school, to what you’d like to do in the professional world. A lot of organizations don’t know that they need a linguist (or understand what you have to offer), and it’s up to you to articulate, ‘Here’s why you need me!’ Whether it’s your unique insight into human behavior, your understanding of structures at a micro- and macro level, or something else entirely – you have to be able to make these connections for potential employers.

Check back soon for Part III of this interview, where Cara explains the components of her PhD that were most transferrable to her everyday workplace.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Anna Dausman is a linguist and storyteller based in Washington, DC., with a background in training and curriculum development for service learning programs. She loves the W&OD trail, and the National Parks. You can reach Anna at


Sectors profiled in the “Profiles in Linguistics” series: Corporate Social Responsibility, Healthcare Communications, Library Science, Knowledge ManagementNaming, Program Evaluation, Publishing, Social Media Marketing,Tech, User Experience Research, Training and Facilitation and many more!

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