I have received a few inquiries this week from linguists wondering how to begin job searches. Some of their specific questions included:

How do I narrow down what fields to focus on?  How will I know what kind of a job I will like?  How do I find jobs that leverage my strengths and interests?  What jobs are out there?

Because there is not one way to answer these questions, nor indeed is there any one way to begin a job search, my response here will take the form of a “choose your own adventure” from the list below featuring three big ideas I have shared over the course of the years here at Career Linguist. 

  1. Research 

If there is one thing that I can guarantee that you will need to do as part of jump-starting a job search, it will involve research.  The thing about researching in a job context, however is that you are going to start thinking about going to people in the ways that you have been trained as a student to go to books and research articles.  The good news is that you still have a database: you have LinkedIn.

Maybe you want to start by plugging in Linguistics + X  into the Advanced Search bar on LinkedIn.  What industries are the linguists that you find working in?

I try to spend an hour a week on LinkedIn.  When you are jobsearching, this might be one hour a day.  Here are some LinkedIn basics, but in a nutshell, what you are looking for: people you know IRL who you can connect with, people you would like to know and who you know who might be able to connect you, organizations of interest to follow, groups that you might want to join etc. etc. etc.  Big questions to ask: do you return with the keywords that you would want to be found with?  Who does? Why?

  1. Informational Interviews

Plan to set up as many informational interviews as possible.    A good rule of thumb if you are in heavily into jobsearch mode is to plan to have at least two informational interviews a week.  People are busy, so know that to actually have two interviews a week might mean that you reach out to dozens of people, so you have to have patience, but you should rest assured that the hardest part is getting started.  When you talk to someone as part of an informational interview, one of your questions should be “what are the names of two other people that I should be reaching out to?”

  1. Respond to a job ad

Find a job ad that speaks to you (perhaps you found it by plugging in some keywords to LinkedIn that led you to a person of interest, which then led you to an organization of interest, which now helped you to identify a job of interest) and start choosing what aspects of your experience you might highlight about yourself in applying for it.   Look at the “tasks, duties, and responsibilities” that they are asking for to then figure out how these map on to the “skills, abilities and interests” that you actually posses.  Some of these may have been cultivated by your background in linguistics, and some might belong to other interests and experiences that you have accumulated along the way.  Either way, your training in linguistics has equipped you for the task of translating this experience into language that your addressee understands.

What you can count on

Something you can absolutely count on being asked to explain will be “what’s linguistics?” so you may as well spend some time developing your definition, and preparing pocket examples to have at the ready.  For inspiration, you may wish to look at career profiles of linguists who have done interesting things with their degrees.

10 things 

You may also wish to purchase my short, and I hope motivating, video start-up lecture: 10 things you can do this week to develop your career.  Jumpstarting your search is only the first step in much a longer journey, so you may as well equip yourself with as many tools as possible that you might need along the way.

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