WaLK series

The WaLK signs

As a thought exercise this week on my writing retreat, I have been putting these two career images into conversation with one another: Dick Bolles’ seven petals from What Color is Your Parachute? and Karen Newhouse’s venn diagrams from Beyond the Ivory Tower:

<Yeah, it’s a career guide mash-up!!>

As I see them shake out, I am left with seven work interrogatives – questions that any jobseeker should be asking herself:

  • the WHY of the work: The problem that you seek to solve
  • the HOW of the work: Your approach
  • The WHAT of the work: The transferrable skills you bring
  • The WHO: The people with whom you want to work
  • The WHO: The people for whom you want to work
  • The WHERE: The places where you want to work
  • The WHEN: Work-life balance you seek – which ultimately comes down to the value of the work (given that time is money:) salary, benefits, lifestyle implications

I see these as your “WaLK signs” – figuring these out will help you as a jobseeker to navigate and chart your course.


For me these are now my blog prompts for the next 7 weeks – my challenge being to develop activities that will help you as a career linguist use them to inform your next steps.

Here’s to what’s next!

WaLK series

The return of the WaLK series

Walk signI am delighted to announce the re-launching of the WaLK (What a Linguist Knows) series here on Career Linguist – as a series of weekly posts (on Tuesdays) that will get you taking small, but very practical steps to navigate your career.

Playing with the metaphor of the career as journey, the idea here with WaLK is to take some steps – to navigate forward.  Of all of the possible paths that you could take, on which will you make some progress today?  If we take the career as journey metaphor seriously, the work of the jobseeker is to WaLK – to put one step in front of the other.  And while this does not mean that it is only your work – there is much that has been built and many fellow traveling and tools to guide your steps – this work of navigating is yours to do ultimately, and this attitude can help shape your thinking as you go about asking for help from career linguists, from colleagues, from professors, from career counselors, etc. – communicating even as you ask for support that you understand and take responsibility for your journey.

When it comes to career, you may already have a very clear sense of your destination, you may only have the fuzziest of ideas of the general direction in which you are going to travel, or you may have no ideas whatsoever. Still, the process is the same, you need to put one foot in front of the other.

And the idea of a WaLK also brings with it other very helpful ways of thinking: we know for example that to take a walk in any direction means not taking that same walk in any of the other possible directions you could have taken (at least not now). Being where you are is simply an irreducible necessity, and thus your focus can only be on choosing the next step (what one thing can you do today, this week, this month, this year). Also, the action of taking a step belies a great deal of work that might otherwise be invisible: the traveling and planning and gathering together of tools and equipment that you have been doing for many years.  You have already come a long way – and you have many tools to travel forth from here.  You can navigate as you go based on more career education and exploration, using orienting tools in the form of maps from those who have traveled these roads before, by continuing to take steps every day, and to navigate with signposts like the following:

The WaLK signs:

  • The problem that you seek to solve (the why of the work)
  • Your approach (the how of the work)
  • The transferable skills you bring (the what of the wwalk iconork)
  • The people (with whom you want to work)
  • The people (for whom you want to work)
  • The places (where you want to work)
  • The value (salary, benefits, lifestyle implications of the work), including the WHEN!

These ideas will kick the series off, starting next Tuesday.  For the next seven weeks, I will explore each of the above 7 ideas in turn. Posts will begin next Tuesday August 16th and new ones will appear weekly on Tuesdays, so watch this space (and here’s to what’s next!)

Want to skip ahead and read about a specific WaLK sign? Click link to navigate to the WHO (and Part I: for whom; Part II: with whom), WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW of work!!

You can also read the career path interview with folklorist and ethnographer Tom Carrol, written using the work interrogatives as a frame 🙂

Career Exploration, LinkedIn, WaLK series

Using LinkedIn to “pick one”

When you are just beginning a job search, it is at times very useful to just pick something.  As we have been discussing, there are many ways of conceptualizing work – many “ways in” to think about the world of work, so let’s think about how we might use this site to help pick one place to start: one industry, one organization, or one person.  Remember: you are just using this as a place to start – a place to ask yourself: “if that, then what?”


LinkedIn will be your research tool. Because it contains more information than any other source about the details of the working lives of the world’s professionals, you can think of it as your own annotated database of work.


Pick by Industry


Pick one industry from the list that speaks to you – for example: Photography.  Then ask yourself “if I were going to pursue opportunities in Photography, where might I see opportunities for someone with my skills and training?”  How do they think about communication?  Who is thinking about language?  Perhaps you can find a place to apply an interest in semiotics.  Use “Advanced People search” to search among your network.  Who are the people who you know who are working in this sector?


Pick by Organization  

Do you have a dream organization?  One that you have thought it might be fun to work for?  Find them on LinkedIn (and while you are on their page, be sure to “follow” them).  Take a look at their “About Us” do you see anything there that speaks to you?  Do thy happen to be hiring or recruiting at the moment?  Scroll down through their recent updates.  Do you see any “hooks” – i.e. an event that you might attend?  A resource that you might share?  Now scroll down the right hand column.  Are you connected to the organization in any way? What other organizations did people search?  Do you see any organizations that you might be interested in following up with?


Pick by job

Use some of your favorite keywords in the general search bar, selecting “job” in the drop down and see what returns.  When you find ones that you like, be sure to save them so that the “Jobs You May Be Interested In” (JYMBI) search algorithm becomes smarter and smarter in finding jobs for you.  Now take a careful look at this job ad.  Which of the tasks/duties/responsibilities speak to you in particular?  How do these map on to your skills / interests / abilities? Imagine that you were to apply for this job – what relevant information would you want this hiring committee to know about you.  Get that information into your profile!

About Linguistics, WaLK series

“I’m a linguist” “you’re a what now?”

Following up on the conversations that have emerged from my “What’s Linguistics?” post…

If there is one thing that I know to be true of the job search, it is that each of us can and must be constantly challenging ourselves to practice articulating what it is that we mean when we say that we are linguists.

And as it turns out, this conviction of mine is actually tied up within my understanding of what kind of a linguist I am.  I am trained as an interactional sociolinguist, although in most cases, I won’t use the term “interactional sociolinguist” because term can often cut conversation off right at the pass.  If my goal is to foster contexts for conversational interaction, because my training and my experiences have taught me to value the power of these contexts, I will look to find a way to use language in such a way that it brings my interlocutor along with me to be able to see what it is that I do.


So, here is the latest version of my elevator pitch (something that you might be able to say over the course of an elevator ride), to help someone see what you mean when you say that you are a linguist.  Picture this in response to “I’m a linguist” and the response: “you’re a what?”

Well, I see my job as being that of a “interaction champion”  Because I am uniquely invested in their power, I seek and protect and defend and foster  conversational interaction.  I am always looking for conversations which could be happening but aren’t or where they aren’t proceeding as smoothly as they might do where I can bring the tools that I possess by virtue of my skills and training as a linguist.  When I find one such, I work to first identify the barriers to communication and understanding then create and promote smooth contexts for interaction.

Now, as you all know, I am a linguist who is interested in Careers.  What this means first and foremost is that I believe that as linguists, we need to be having more conversations about career – open conversations that explore broadly and invite curiosity – that in so doing, we learn from one another and we learn more about ourselves and what we have to offer.

  • We need to have these conversations because the world of work by and large does not know what we have to offer, and we by and large don’t know what we have to offer the world of work.
  • Career conversations themselves are the means by which we learn about what we offer the world of work.  These interactions teach us what we might be doing and they afford us opporutnities to practice talking about ourselves and to ask and receive feedback on whether (and how) it is coming across.
  • We must therefore actively work to remove the barriers to having career conversations.
    • Many of these barriers are structural: the contexts simply don’t exist for having the conversations that we need to be having, many of the voices which need to be included feel silenced, etc.
    • But I also see barriers that arise out of lack of awareness and understanding about what conversations could be happening but aren’t (or what to do about that), and it is here where I can that I might make a difference!
  • My perspective also means that I see interaction as the way in to career.  Careers come about as the result of a series of interactions.  If you want to get yourself started working on your career, start thinking about what interactions you could be having,  but aren’t (yet).



When we pay attention to the texts and interactions that comprise the job search, we pay better attention to the people we talk to and how, and the language that we use when we talk to them.  And this increased attention of course must include attention to what conversations we could be having but aren’t, and removing the barriers as we become aware of them. In bringing our attention to our language in these contexts, we can be career linguists for ourselves: bring our heightened awareness of language and all of our critical analytical skills to the meaning which we construct about our skills and abilities to ensure that the language that we use to talk about ourselves in jobseeking interactions is the very best that it can be.

After all: we are language experts, there is no reason why our resumes and cover letters shouldn’t be the very best ones out there!!!

Ultimately, when more of us are using our skills and training to solve the problems that we feel called upon to solve, well, more of us are solving the problems that we feel called upon to solve, and isn’t that  why we all chose linguistics in the first place?

So I start here, by asking you:

What problems do you feel called to solve?  How are you uniquely equipped to solve them?   What do your skills bring to the conversation, what do they enable you to DO? Who benefits?  What are the implications?

With whom can you be sharing this information RIGHT NOW? What interaction can you create THIS WEEK to start using an interaction to help you begin to figure all of this out?

….and here’s to what comes next!!

Storytelling, WaLK series

Story finding

As a job seeker, having a pocket chock full of stories is probably the very best thing that you can do to be really ready to seize the opportunity presented by all of the conversational interactions that you are about to be engaging in!

So how do you find all of these stories?

I shared some thoughts recently in a blog post for Better Said Than Done

Three ideas from this post as they apply to the job search – pay attention to the stories that you:

HEAR (and tell) – when you listen to stories that your organization of interest is telling, what strikes you?  When you catch yourself telling stories, what do they tend to be about?  Can you observe anything about what meanings (about you, about your field, about the world of work) these seem to be conveying?

SEE – spend some time looking at your organization of interest’s website, their LinkedIn page, Twitter feed, blog, etc.  What stories are the visuals telling?  What meanings are these conveying?  How do they strike you?

WRITE – find yourself a job ad, and sit down with a pen and paper (or computer – however it is that you most enjoy doing some free-writing), and set a timer to do a session of free-associative writing.  Try 15 minutes to start.  Respond to the keywords, make lists of experiences and skills (and people, and ideas etc.) that these inspire.  Don’t judge the writing, just follow ideas where they lead.  This is my you have set the timer so that you won’t totally lose track of time.  When you are done, take a look at what you have written.  Likely there are things there that you have not thought about in a while.  Are any of these things to pay attention to?

Click here to read the full post.

Share them with us(@careerlinguist), and here’s to what’s next!