5th annual Careers Mixer at the LSA meeting

Let’s begin this event summary with a quote from one of the participants:

I felt invigorated with a sense of possibility and hope that there was a lot more out there for me than I had thought. I had been feeling anxious all semester knowing that graduation was around the corner, preparing for some monumental task of having to then gain a whole list of “hard” skills in order to be an appealing job candidate. I still want to gain a lot of those skills now but its out of a desire to learn and grow rather than a sense of anxious urgency because I now know that my linguistics training is in and of itself an appealing element to employers when presented in the right way.                                                                                                               -student participant


One of the most exciting things from this year’s – 5th annual – Careers Mixer organized by the Linguistics Beyond Academia Special Interest Group were the number of new friends we made in Salt Lake City! We found Suzannah Woodbury on LinkedIn using the keywords “linguist,” and “Salt Lake City.” Not only did she enthusiastically agree to come and talk about the fascinating works she does in in Instructional Design and Taxonomy, but she also brought Matt Halverson who works in clinical trials and clinical research, and another University of Utah alum and colleague who does work in human rights advocacy.

To kick off the evening of networking, I asked each professional participant to name one thing that they particularly wanted to be asked about. Jennifer Renn invited attendees to ask her about how she has been able to keep one foot in the classroom, having taught at Georgetown, Mary Washington, and George Washington since she started her job at the Center for Applied Linguistics. Deborah Walker, a linguistics services consultant at Acrolinx, garnered a huge response (and one that I kept hearing about all weekend) to her offer to share insight into the work that can be done with “just” a BA in linguistics, drawing from her own 27 years of professional experience in doing just that!!!

Deborah Walker

Sarah Stockler-Rex’s employer MARTTI sponsored her participation at LSA because they were delighted to have more linguists learn about their work in Video Medical Interpreting, Spanish Interpreting, and Quality Assurance for Healthcare Interpreters. Also, they are supportive of – and willing to invest in – Sarah’s professional development. We should see more organizations doing the same!!! Contact me if you are a Career Linguist and would like to think through how to make the pitch to your employer for this kind of thing!

In a bit of serendipity, one professional participant shared that when she had submitted her LSA abstract, she didn’t yet know that she would have a new job to talk about.  Her request was to come with questions about the search, having just been engaged in it so very recently herself. Amy Franz of Ethnic Technologies told us a story (at my own <only very slight> prompting). She dates her initial interest in naming to having dozens of Barbie dolls as a kid, and needing to give them all names. Years later, as she was finishing up her studies, because she wasn’t getting answers that satisfied her as she made inquiries about where she could find application of her interest in onomastics, she emailed the American Name Society. This initiative led to her current job, which you can read a bit more about in this article.

Maya Cavallero shared this article about her work to give a sense for the kinds of questions her team is seeking to answer!!

Lauren Collister talked about her tremendous job at the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh. As she shared with us: as a scholarly communications professional, she finds that she is still very much immersed in her research interests in language and the internet, language change, and multimodal communication, and she has found new passions in open access advocacy (see: OpenCon Librarian community), copyright and author rights education, and creating systems to help scholars share their work and track the impact of their work.

Jonathon Coltz, who I had only met hours before at his poster session about his work in focus groups in food evaluation research who does work in food research gave me the quote that I circulated in this tweet:

Mixer tweet.png

I’ll cap out this summary with Nick Gaylord’s call to action that there should be more events like this. As he noted, we still have work to do to de-stigmatize wide-ranging exploration of careers. Despite the good turnout – there really should have been many more folks at this mixer, given that there were 1,100 linguists at the LSA meeting this year! As Nick quipped: “I sure know that I would have been nervous to come to an event like this, concerned that my advisor would find out about it.” Learn more about Nick by reading his blog PhDeli which seeks ways of bridging the gap between academia and industry and let’s keep up this work career linguist community! And organize an event like this in your home town! Or a happy hour or a meet-up! Contact me if you would like to think through/plan!!




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