Career Paths for linguists

Professional Applications of Ethnography

Many of us linguists who do ethnographic work are inspired by the possibility of finding organizations who value our skills and training enough to hire us to do it. If you are one such, Rita Denny and Patricia Sunderland’s new edited volume might just be the book you have been waiting for!!!

As the first major reference work on anthropology in business, The Handbook of Anthropology in Business features more than 60 authors working in universities and corporate settings.

From the publisher (Left Coast Press):The Handbook offers broad coverage of theory and practice and demonstrates the vibrant tensions and innovations that emerge at the intersections of anthropology and business and between corporate worlds and the lives of individual scholar-practitioners.”

I have just bought my copy of Anthropology in Business and can’t wait to dig into this as my end-of-summer beach read!!

Anthropology in Business cover

A few years ago, I had the very great pleasure of meeting Patricia Sunderland at EPIC, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry conference. She generously shared her experience and insight into the Consumer Research world, which I now share with readers of this blog:

Basically, there are companies, branding and advertising agencies who want to create new products or new branding or communication strategies for existing ones. They may use ethnography to bring a target audience to life: e.g. how do we market to Moms of two year olds?

In the 1990s ethnography was seen as the new method, the “magic bullet” and it got forefronted as one of the major types of analysis being done. This research was seen as having business implications for products as varied as beer, frozen foods, GM, Advertising Agencies, and JC Penney.

Recently, there have been a few shifts including the economic recession which has led to ethnography coming to be seen as potentially too expensive and time-consuming, but also with the proliferation of social media, the new “buzzword” is: digital methodologies.

To collect consumer insights, consumer researchers can turn to Twitter and blogs, and can interview research participants using iPhones, and text. Diaries, especially digital diaries have come to be favored techniques for gaining insight into the customer experience, and now more than ever before, this world needs analysts who can handle huge amounts of language data.

Keywords for students to look for in jobs descriptions / postings:

  • Research Analyst
  • Research Manager
  • Market Research
  • Discourse Analysis – because all of these new technologies generate TEXT, which needs analysis!

For those of you interested in learning more, she highlighted these resources:

And speaking as Career Linguist now, I can also put in a plug for Patricia and Rita’s last book: Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research. For many years, back when I was teaching the ethnography of communication, I used their book and can recommend wholeheartedly their vision for blending theory and practice. My students found the activities and practical suggestions to be not only inspiring but applicable. The insights shared by these gifted analysts of culture can inform all work, all of us stand to benefit from the awareness of thinking and work that has come before.

Professional self-presentation, Resume

The changing resume as explored with the SPEAKING grid

In thinking through the changes that are happening to resumes (and the contexts in which this document is typically encountered), Hymes’ SPEAKING grid mnemonic provides a means for capturing and organizing some of the more salient developments.

S – setting
P – participants
E – ends
A – acts
K – key
I – instrumentalities
N – norms
G – genre

Major changes have been witnessed at the levels of Participants and considerations at the level of Instrumentalities, specifically that while the vast majority of resumes used to be mailed, now they are often shared electronically, often by a mutual acquaintance via e-mail. Not only does it now become crucial to think about how a resume is experienced via a screen (including choices including use of white space, amount of text, placement, number and ordering of bullets, as well as layout generally will all be experienced differently on a screen than in printed form), formatting may get altered through dissemination or uploading to a resume or job bank.

Use of Keywords reflects another shift in use of resumes influenced by technology, which is that the first “person” who reads your resume nowadays may in fact be a computer, who has been programmed to search for and calculate the use of particular words. Years ago, with technological limitations, it used to be understood that applicant tracking systems would only search the first 100 words of a resume. This led to resume writers cramming in as many keywords at the very beginning as possible. Nowadays, such technological limitations no longer apply, and resume creators spread keywords throughout the document. This has changed the formatting of the summary or overview section, which now rather than giving a “career objective” or “keywords” list at the top of a resume as used to be found. As it is now used, this section serves as way to help actively “frame” experience for those who read it, especially for those candidates who do not want to have their experience be read strictly chronologically. Another option that a resume creator has in this regard is moving from a strictly chronological format to one that is more functional – or hybrid.

Practices are shifting so radically in fact with technology, that some employers do not even want to see a resume nowadays. They may impact Acts in that a job advertisement now may request simply that you forward a link to your LinkedIn profile rather than resume and cover letter. This change in fact may be so transformative that years down the road there might not even be such a thing as a resume any more. To think about this development in terms of Norms and the focus of this chapter, that of the shift in deictic center, would be to recognize that when the message cannot be targeted to the specific audiences that has come to be the central practice of creating a resume. Norms of length may shift as well as LinkedIn profiles tend to be a great deal longer than any one resume, which may impact Key.

In fact, the collection of activities surrounding asking for a job may shift so much that the Genre itself may even become a thing of the past. However, regardless of the changes that have been observed, and will not doubt continue to be observed at these levels the Ends of a resume, at least for the person creating it is likely to endure. However, remember that your ultimate Ends here are very different from those of your potential employer. You want a job. They want to be sure not make a hiring mistake. Use your resume to reassure them.

Again, we return to the idea that a resume is a conversational interaction. Shifting your deictic center means anticipating these questions in the mind of your reader.