Tools for structuring career curiosity

question-words_ruth_googleI have been becoming aware of the need to find a new way of talking about the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of work.  We refer to these as the Work Interrogatives in conversations here on Career Linguist, but now as I am in the process of working through how it is that I want to talk about these in my next book project, I have realized a few problems with “work interrogatives” as a frame:

We really want to be approaching career with curiosity, with openness, and not seeking to interrogate.

Also, I am finding that these question words pair together in interesting ways, and that rather than considering them each individually, I enjoy thinking about some of the interactions, for example: Where and When.

Nowadays, employees have more control over these domains than ever before, and further, these words serve as useful tools/reminders: where and when surface as essential tools for making the space (temporally and spatially) to think about career, and thus I would call attention to their role as career navigation tools.

So, I think that I want to instead think about these question words as tools for structuring curiosity, but I’m curious: does this way of thinking serve to stimulate momentum in your own career navigation?

Let’s discuss!!!

And send me your thoughts!!!


Linguists’ HH in the Bay Area (Mountain View)

A professional get-together for linguists based in the Bay Area.
Sunday Feb 17th from 2-4pm

Maison Alyze
212 Castro Street
Mountain View – CA 94041
Phone: 650 960 1212 


Whether you’re currently using your linguistics training in an academic or professional setting, or want to learn more about how you might do that, this group is for those who want to connect with other local linguists!

Feel free to share with any linguist friends, very much looking forward to meeting up!

In a spirit of generosity, curiosity, and with the understanding that
our networks are our greatest professional assets, come on out to mix and mingle with other Bay area Career Linguists

Career Activities at the LSA meetings in NYC this week

Linguistic Society of AmericaCalling attention to just two of the wonderful events taking place at the Linguistics Society of America meeting!!  For more information, check out the LSA Facebook page and Twitter feed, the Annual Meeting page, the online schedule and .pdf of the Annual Meeting Handbook.

Friday January 4, 3:30-5 pm in Liberty 3
“Linguists in the Workplace”
     Samantha Beaver (Memra Language Services)
     Ruth Brillman (Spotify)
     Deborah Walker (Acrolinx)
     Jessica White-Sustaita (HomeAway)
This panel features linguists from an array of professions beyond the professoriate (ie., “Career Linguists”), as well as representatives from the companies who hire them. Our career linguists will tell all about their journeys from PhD to the workplace, what motivated them to make the shift to the private sector, and the advantages (and sometimes disadvantages) of working outside of academia. To give a fuller picture of what life is like for career linguists, we will also hear from those who hire linguists to better understand what make a linguist a great candidate for numerous professional roles. Panelists hail from a variety of professional sectors, including language engineering, user experience research, nonprofit/program development, and diversity technology, to name a few. An audience Q&A will follow our panel discussion. Hosted by the LSA special interest group Linguists Beyond Academia, “Linguists in the Workplace” is for anyone interested in better understanding the array of options open to linguists as they navigate their careers post-PhD.


Linguistics Beyond Academia Career Mixer
When: Saturday, January 5, 3:30 – 5:00 PM
Where: Liberty 3

The Linguistics Career Mixer is an annual event that brings linguists who have found professional expression of their skills and training in a variety of fields — from research and consulting to writing and education — together with people who are currently trying to learn about their next steps professionally. The idea is to create a context for having exploratory conversations about career paths. Linguists who have found employment in a range of contexts will be on hand to talk about their work as researchers,consultants, writers, editors, trainers, managers, and language and communication specialists in government, education, business and non-profit sectors (among others). Representatives from 20+ organizations will be in attendance.  Sponsored by the LSA’s Linguistics Beyond Academia Special Interest Group (SIG).

Three women at the foundation of improv

One of my intentions for 2019 is to apply story finding to shine a light on the often invisible work done by women, in this case the origins of improvisational theater.

Viola Spolin book

I wrote this post to call attention to the foundational work done by Viola Spolin as a way to announce my latest workshop, but more on that soon – this story begins with Viola Spolin.  Her son, Paul Sills, is widely celebrated as the founder of improv because in 1955 he created the Compass Theater, and then later Second City in Chicago – but Spolin was responsible for many of the improv games and the foundational philosophies and practices that shape improvisational theater as we know it (as reflected in her 1963 book Improvisation for the Theater).

However, in the process of finding Viola Spolin’s story, I actually found the story of three women: Viola Spolin, her mentor Neva Boyd, both of whom were in fact supported by Jane Addams, since Viola Spolin first worked with Neva Boyd at Hull House, one of the settlement houses founded by Jane Addams.

So, here’s their story.

Hull House was the first social settlement house in Chicago, and it served as a place where immigrants would gather to learn, to eat, to debate, and to acquire the tools necessary to put down roots in their new country. Later, in the 1920’s, when the demographics of the neighborhood changed, in addition to the Italian, Irish, German, Greek, Bohemian, and Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants, participants in the clubs, activities, and programming of Hull House included more African Americans and immigrants from Mexico. At Hull House, as part of the progressive education movement, Neva Boyd focused on non-competitive play as a democratizing force. An early theorist of the educational and social benefits of play, her book Handbook for Recreational Games documents many of the exercises she developed as part of the work she did, which included training social workers in group work.

For Boyd, games not only helped children learn cognitive like language and communication skills, but also critical social and emotional skills like cooperation: “Play involves social values, as does no other behavior. The spirit of play develops social adaptability, ethics, mental and emotional control, and imagination.” (

Viola Spolin in turn, applied these societal benefits of play to cultivating her own practice of play as a teaching system, first for the WPA Recreational Project in Chicago, working with children and recent immigrants in low-income neighborhoods and ultimately bringing the benefit of theatrical play to drama therapy programs, mental health facilities and with prisoners, as well as community groups seeking creative engagement in the midst of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement such as the North Side Cooperative Ministry, Parents School, and Women for Peace.

Such it is that in this playful spirit, in the aim of reaching across divisions of culture and language, and as Spolin put it: as part of “the necessity to help people become more creative as a real justification for living,” my collaborator Criscillia Benford and I will be  offering our first creative expression of 2019: Embracing the Awkward – Finding Fun on First Dates and More on January 5th right here in Oakland, CA. And there are still spots left!!

This play-filled workshop brings together my decades of experience in improv, Criscillia’s meditation and neuroscience pratice, and both of our research expertise in social interaction. It has been designed to give you the time and space to practice having conversations with new people. We’ll use improv activities, infused with research-based insights into human communication, to help you connect to the moment –– no matter how awkward! Expect a mix of games, activities, and scenes to help you get more comfortable being yourself while connecting with others. No improv or performance experience required. Just bring a willingness to have fun, be curious, and try try again. You don’t even need to be single!

Together we will co-create and maintain a space where curiosity, lightheartedness, and listening are celebrated. You will leave with a better understanding of how navigating conversations with agreement and acknowledgement can lead to more more fulfilling connections.

Hope to see you there! Sign up here:

job posting: Elevate (San Francisco)

An exciting job opportunity in content development at an app start-up in San Francisco and the person tasked with hiring is an historical linguist! In her words: “we’d love great (linguist) applicants!”

Location: San Francisco, CA

Department: Content Development

Type: Full Time

Min. Experience: Entry Level

Elevate is a game-based educational app that has more than 20 million downloads and was the recipient of Apple’s App of the Year award. We’re now tackling a new mindfulness app, and our Content Team is in need of a widely capable individual to assist in growing and organizing our content library for both products.



  • Write, edit, fact check, and review content
  • Transcribe audio recordings
  • Summarize scholarly research in a user-friendly way
  • Create, organize, and review spreadsheets containing content and data
  • Develop surveys to solicit user feedback, and then review results and compile action items for product improvement
  • Collaborate with the Design Team to ensure cross-departmental accuracy
  • Assist with content-related customer support and marketing needs



  • BA in a writing/communications-heavy field (e.g., English, linguistics, communications, journalism)
  • 1–2 years of experience in writing and editing
  • Highly organized and detail-oriented
  • Proactive and independent
  • Proven ability to prioritize tasks and work under deadlines
  • Experience with writing, copyediting, and reviewing content
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills



  • Experience with copywriting
  • Interest or experience in meditation and mindfulness
  • Knowledge and familiarity with Excel and/or Google Sheets
  • Knowledge and familiarity with Dropbox



  • Delicious healthy chef-cooked meals
  • Equity
  • Medical, Dental, and Vision insurance
  • 401k plan

Top pages and posts from 2018

It’s that time of year again!! With 2018 drawing to a close, as is our tradition here at Career Linguist, we are taking some time to “look back to look forward,” making some time and space to reflect on this past year and think about what should come next. Without further ado, here are the five most viewed pages and posts in 2018!!

Parachute 2018

And here they are:

#5  My book review of the 2018 edition of What Color is

Your Parachute

I read this book annually and not only does it keep getting better and better, but I appreciate and get new things out of the read every time. Can’t wait for 2019!!

#4 The dream job vs. what would you do if you could do anything? a post exploring how to listen interpretively to things that you have always talked about doing, or have been thinking about doing, or have been dreaming about doing, or are told by others that you should be doing.

#3  the Career Paths where we hear about all the exciting things that linguists are out there doing with their degrees. Sectors profiled in the “Profiles in Linguistics” series: Corporate Social Responsibility, Healthcare Communications, Library Science, Knowledge ManagementNaming, Non-Profit Communications, Program Evaluation, Publishing, Social Media Marketing,Tech, User Experience Research, Training and Facilitation and many more!

If you would like to recommend someone (including yourself) for a future profile, please contact Career Linguist.

#2 My explainer animation, designed by my super talented designer Segun Adesina. This distills down what I do and why (my process and approach) in just three minutes – so pleased to see that thousands of you have looked at it – please be in touch with questions and feedback!

…….and the top page/post from 2018 <drumroll please!!!>

#1 For the third year running – 50 organizations  is the most viewed page!!! This resource features organizations who have advertised for and/or have hired linguists and language/communication experts. How can we make best use of this resource, continuing to make it as valuable as it can possibly be for you? How are you using the information contained therein?  Have you found a job using this list as a resource?  Would love to hear your story! What other organizations belong on this list?

What else was new this year:

2018 saw the launch of the Mighty Network a community for career linguists to encourage and learn from one another; to support career development; and to stay inspired about the field of study that connects us!  We’re about supporting and creating opportunities to bring linguistics to work.

On the platform, mainly you will find LOTS OF ACTIVITIES: weekly Working sessions (where we come together to get stuff done!!!), biweekly Check-ins (making space for connection, discovery, and opportunity), and Themed discussions including book clubs, guest speakers, workshops, and other interactive sessions. 2019 will see more focused attention on building out the discussions and resource-sharing components of the site.

Also, Bringing Linguistics to Work is now available as an audiobook!  Get your copy here:

Get it for FREE on Audible:


jobs: Learning for Action (Bay Area)

Learning for Action, a strategy, evaluation, and research firm in San Francisco, CA is currently conducting a search for two positions: Senior Research Associate and Associate Consultant/Consultant. This is a rare opportunity to work with and learn from a high-performing group of people committed to social justice. The ideal candidates will contribute to the diversity of LFA, thrive on enhancing the effectiveness of social justice organizations, and support the advancement of our rising consulting firm.

Those interested in applying should submit their application via the online forms linked below. In the cover letter field, please indicate how you learned about this position. We will only review applications submitted through this online form. We apologize that we are unable to field emails or calls about this opportunity during the application process. The deadline to apply is 11:59 pm on December 31, 2018.

6th annual careers mixer at LSA in NYC in Jan


For the 6th consecutive year, there will be a number of events broadening connectionsat the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting (being held in New York City from Jan 3- 7, 2019) focusing on careers (including a panel, a Mixer, mentoring office hours and more), hosted by the Linguistics Beyond Academia Special Interest Group (LBA SIG).

Check out the meeting schedule here

Want to get an idea of what to expect? Read the write-up from last year’s Mixer.




job posting: Sociolx – St. Catherine University (St. Paul, MN)

The English Department at St. Catherine University invites applications for a full-time, tenure track Assistant Professor in Sociolinguistics. Salary commensurate with experience.

Responsibilities include teaching three courses each semester for majors and non majors at introductory through advanced levels, with opportunities to teach in summer, in our January term, and in study abroad programs. In addition to teaching, faculty are expected to advise and mentor students; contribute to department and university service; and be engaged in scholarship and publication, including possible collaborative research with undergraduates.

Required qualifications: A scholar in language studies with a doctorate (in hand or expected by August 2019) in linguistics or in English or a related field with an emphasis in sociolinguistics. Experience working with diverse undergraduate students and a research agenda that includes attention to race, gender, critical discourse analysis, and intersectional differences in language use are essential. As English is affiliated with the International Languages Department, work in multiple languages will be helpful.

The successful candidate will also bring secondary experience in any of the following areas: composition and rhetoric, business and professional writing, cultural and media studies, medical humanities, or Asian languages and literatures.

Though most language studies courses are offered in the on-campus baccalaureate women’s college, English faculty also teach in the College for Adults in online and hybrid formats.

This scholar will be joining an innovative and collaborative faculty of English, French, and Spanish professors holding interdisciplinary and team-teaching commitments and sharing requirements with ASL, Education, Honors, Women’s Studies, Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity, and the Core Curriculum. The English major emphasizes equally requirements in literature, writing, and language studies.

St. Catherine University seeks creative, adaptable faculty who enjoy working in a university climate that promotes cultural diversity and multicultural understanding. Candidates of color are encouraged to apply. Consistent with the university’s commitment to women, diversity and social justice, preference will be given to candidates who manifest these themes in their teaching, research and service.

To apply: Please go to the St. Catherine University Employment Site at to electronically submit your application. Applicants may also visit the University Human Resources office, located in Derham Hall Room 8, to submit an electronic application. Attach a cover letter, CV, and a statement of teaching interests. Candidates selected for interview will need to provide three references. Official transcripts and background check will be required for employment. For information, contact Cecilia Konchar Farr, or 651-690-6559. Review of applications will begin on December 10th and will continue until the position is filled; however, priority will be given to complete applications received by December 31, 2018.

St. Catherine University
2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105
EEO/AA/Drug Free Workplace Employer; Tobacco-Free Campuses

Our university is a proud member of the Upper Midwest HERC and is committed to recruiting and retaining outstanding and diverse faculty and staff and assisting dual career couples. For more information and to find other higher education jobs in the Upper Midwest region, visit the HERC website.

BLx2W audiobook giveaway(s)

Congratulations to yesterday’s 20181116_211524BLx2W raffle winner from the American Anthropological Association’s Careers Expo!

Nancy, I will be in touch today to give you  information about how to access your copy  of Bringing Linguistics to Work.

Thanks everyone for participating in all of the wonderful conversations about career yesterday – keep ’em up!!

Yesterday’s event reminded me how much fun a raffle can be, so I’m going to go ahead and run a virtual giveaway here on Career Linguist to celebrate the release of the audiobook of Bringing Linguistics to Work: A Story Listening, Story Finding and Storytelling Approach to Career (just like I did last year to celebrate the release the paper version!)Screenshot 2018-03-23 16.47.12

Enter here to win between Nov 17th and Nov 27th!  I will do a drawing on Nov 28th and then announce the winners here on Career

And in the meantime, help me spread the word about the story approach to career!!!




Wanna get your own copy?

Be sure to use this link so that they know you were sent by me!