Monday, July 22, 2013

The Ph.D. and the Nonacademic Job Search: A Spectacular Albatross?

In my ongoing post-academic (inter-academic?) transition, one of the very practical questions that keeps coming up is - how do I present my Ph.D.?  On business cards, on Linkedin, etc  . . . I'd be a pretty hopeless 'strategic communicator' if I didn't realize that referring to myself as "Dr. David Z. Morris" made me instantly seem like an asinine boor.  But what about "David Z. Morris, Ph.D.," or just "David Z. Morris," with the Ph.D. tucked on the back of the card, the third or fourth line of the resume, etc?

You can find different takes on this.  The authors of "What Are You Going To Do With That?" (which I strongly recommend) are predictably upbeat, considering their audience of almost entirely MA and Ph.D. holders.  They emphasize the skills and accomplishments indicated by the Ph.D.  Penelope Trunk, on the other hand, is brutal, saying that if it's not directly related to your field, you should Leave Grad School Off Your Resume.

In my case, my graduate degree could hardly be more relevant to the field I'm pursuing work in - my Ph.D. is in Communication Studies, and my work is focused on media technology and culture.  I've taught both business communication and strategic communication for nonprofits, which believe me, is far more educational than simply taking those courses - plus, now I have some actual experience applying what I learned/taught.  So I don't feel much conflict about listing the Ph.D., and even highlighting it.

But still, there are moments when it's overkill - I'm applying for some entry-level positions along with more senior positions,  and in those cases I provide a little caveat as part of my cover letter.  What do you think, though?  Should I just be leaving this off?  But no, no, there would be insurmountable, inexplicable gaps in my timeline.  Nothing to be done but acknowledge that I'm a huge nerd who did something impractical with his 20s.

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